One of the things that has happened since Matt and I separated is that I have become highly protective of my alone-time. I even occasionally find myself avoiding social activities on the days he has the kids, because being social cuts into my precious quiet time.
This was recently brought home to me. MarsCon is this weekend, and I was thrilled to be asked to attend as a guest this year. I'll be participating in several panels and events, and I'm very much looking forward to it. Of course, it happened to fall on a weekend that I was scheduled to have the kids -- and that just wouldn't do, not when all my panels and events are a) not kid-friendly, and b) fairly late at night. So I asked Matt to swap weekends with me, and he readily agreed.
(This is one benefit of remaining on good terms with one's ex -- they're much more likely to be agreeable to these things. Other benefits include them checking Neil Gaiman's brand-new kids' book out from the library, but letting you take it home to share it with your kids first. Alex loved the story, simple though it was, and demanded I read it to him twice in a row.)
At any rate, the swap resulted in us each having the kids for a solid week, instead of the usual two or three day bits. I picked the kids up from school last Wednesday, the 9th, and had them right up until I dropped Penny off at school yesterday morning.
Whew. I am wiped out.
They weren't even bad (or at least, not more than usual). They were just... exhausting. Alex likes to wake up at 5 or 5:30 in the morning. And while he didn't always come straight in to my room to wake me up, he doesn't really grasp (or care) that sitting in his room and singing made-up songs while he plays with his toy trucks is not exactly conducive to my rest. Especially once he's gone to the bathroom and then left the light on to shine across the hall and directly on my face.
I usually tuck Penny into bed at around 8:45, and then I have to go up and check her blood sugars at around 10. That hour-and-a-bit isn't really enough time to work on anything mentally intensive, like writing or editing, so that work piles up.
There's the mess. Even when I'm doing my best to keep it in control, they just... it doesn't occur to them, when it's time to clean up, that it makes sense to take the extra four seconds to put the toys back in the correct box so they can find it later; they just dump them in whatever box happens to be closest. So of course, they have trouble finding things. And this is all my fault, of course, because I made them clean up. It's apparently impossible for either of them to re-use a dish or cup that they'd used before. (I remember my own mother complaining about this when I was young. Now I understand. I'm sorry, Mom.) I'm beginning to think Penny has an entire warehouse full of threadbare socks so she can leave them all over the house without ever running out. Alex, on the other hand, is fairly scrupulous about putting his clothes in the laundry -- but is apparently allergic to wearing anything twice. He changes his pajamas nearly daily, and I'm pretty sure he goes through at least two shirts and four pairs of underwear a day.
And the bickering, OH MY GOD. Penny whines that Alex never leaves her alone, but when she gets right up in his face and coos like he's still four months old and he tells her he wants to be left alone, I'm the Worst Parent Ever for telling her to respect his wishes. Alex's brain runs considerably ahead of his mouth, so he often uses the wrong word for something -- and then he and Penny have to have argue about what he actually said until I go crazy and tell them both to knock it off. There were a couple of mornings, on the drive up to Alex's daycare, that
I came close to telling them both they weren't allowed to talk at all
for the rest of the trip. Day. Year.
I love my kids, so very much. I love reading with them, I love talking to them about what they're learning in school and what their friends are doing. I love it when they snuggle with me, I love it when they want to help me cook dinner. Sometimes they're so effortlessly generous and thoughtful that it brings tears to my eyes; sometimes they're so funny that my sides ache from laughing.
But after a while it's hard to remember all that fantastic stuff and I get mired in the mess and the bickering and whining and never-ending work. I need my breaks. I slept until the alarm went off this morning, and that felt like luxury.