Every day, around 5 p.m., I fall into a black hole.
It’s not a hole filled with sadness or despair. It’s not a “petit 5 à 7” either—the time of the day French supposedly visit their mistress (note that in Canada, a “5 à 7” is the happy hour, during which sex is entirely unplanned and completely optional, yet another cultural difference).
It’s a where-did-time-go hole.
So, one minute, I’m saving the world, adding commas and hyphenating compound adjectives, and next thing you know, I’m trying to remember whether the daycare centre’s door opens after typing *1234 or *4321. Then I’m surveying a room full of pre-schoolers, trying to remember which one mine is. Hey, don’t judge, mother instinct has limits. After a long day, the radar is off. They are all the same age and they are all playing with trucks on the carpet, alright?
Mommy meets Mark, mother is matched with kid. Yeah, that’s the deal, you have to go home with the same kid you dropped off in the morning. That’s too bad though, a few little girls look very proper and quiet, some days I wouldn’t mind trading a moody and overexcited Mark for a couple of hours.
Eight hours earlier, Mark and I were both fresh-faced and bright-eyed. Well, him, mostly. I was half asleep. Now I’m sweaty, my hair is a mess and if I have been wearing sandals, my feet are dirty. Mark wears a different pair of pants (I pee my pants mommy!) and he smells of pesto (lunch) and sunscreen. He must have played outside because he has sand in his eyebrows. Sticky sunscreen and sand, the dreaded mix—it feels like I’m picking up a cupcake with sprinkles.
We gather Mark’s shoes, lunchbox, water bottle and dirty clothes and walk to the car. Well, Feng and I walk. Mark screams because he wants to be carried.
“So… ahem… what do we do?”
None of us really wants to do anything, it’s the end of the day, after all. Yet, bedtime is still a distant perspective and I’d rather Mark run outside than in the living room.
“I go movie!”
“I go museum!”
“Nope.” (unless it’s Thursday, it’s free after 5 p.m.)
Sure, why not. Easiest and closest option.
A seven-minute drive later, Mark spots it.
“I go play. I go play! I GO PLAY! WATER! WATER!”
Fuck. The splash pad is on.
I sound like a killjoy, I know. Look, I love water and I believe in free-range parenting, making messes, having fun and all.
But guess who cleans up the mess?
This is pretty much what I told Feng last time. So Feng decided to speak to Mark:
“You can play with water. Just don’t get wet.”
The look on Mark’s face was priceless. Yeah, that wasn’t going to work.
So splash pad it is. Mark is barefoot, he already took off his shoes in the car for reasons only known to himself.
Water is fun.
The walk home won’t be as cool. Mark will be soaked, cranky and full of sand.
I strip him, leave the dirty clothes at the door, carry him upstairs for a quick rinse, dry him, put on clean clothes, do a load of laundry, bring the lunchbox to the kitchen, clean it, prepare another lunchbox for the next day while Feng and Mark eat dinner, then I do the dishes and clean the kitchen, put the clothes in the dryer, give Mark a bath and then it’s the whole frustrating and time-consuming bedtime routine.
Then, then I climbed out of the hole. Several hours have gone by. “Me time”? Not quite. I have work to finish, I need a shower and I haven’t eaten yet.
Oh fuck, the laundry is still in the dryer and I forgot to check the mail.
Tomorrow is another day.