I made the decision yesterday, in a moment of weakness, to take my children on a road trip today to see their grandparents.  My children actually travel pretty well – thank God for DVD players – so the 2 1/2 hour trip there and 2 1/2 hours back was not the source of my apprehension.  Nor did I fear that they would actually be a problem when I got there.  I did have my Mom and Dad to help wrangle them in, after all.

My fear of landing in the next AA meeting lay with my ability to actually remove them for the premises when the time came.

Oma and Opa’s house is fun.  Their 2 and 5 year old cousins are there to play with them from the second they arrive to the second they are dragged, kicking and screaming, from the house.  And their Opa is the best playmate they could ever have imagined.  He is at all 5 grand children’s beck and call and really seems to enjoy that position.  Plus Oma cooks them well rounded, yummy meals and that is just icing on the cake. 

I like going too because, for the few hours we are there, I actually have help.  Yes, I usually have one child or another on my lap most of the time, and I am usually the one down on the floor picking up toys for my Mom, but at least there are other adults to help me control them.  Someone else to distract them and entertain them.  Someone else to correct them and someone they will actually listen to. 

I still have to stay on them like a drill Sargent on a cadet, but because I have an audience, I feel I choose my words more carefully and don’t fear my kids are speed dialing CPS behind my back and saying “Did you hear what she just said to me?”  Plus, my parent’s don’t have CPS on speed dial like at my house, so hitting 1 just takes them to AARP. 

It is really not a bad day.  Until we leave, but we’ll get to that later.

My other discernment when going to my parent’s house is my sister.  Not that she is a bad person, not by any means at all.  But she is a constant reminder of what my kids and I don’t have.  You see, she was smart.  She moved less than two minutes from my parent’s house when she started having kids.  So she has constant babysitters and an unwavering network of support.  Her sons love their grandparents and literally go visit them every single day.  In fact, if I hear of a day that they are not there, I am shocked.

So, today, for instance, I show up and her boys are there.  It’s fantastic because they immediately engage my children in the fabulous, time consuming, entertaining game known as trains.  I unload my stuff, while holding a still shy and clinging Megan, and head in to see if I have managed to teach them any manners at all in my crazy, chaotic home. 

I hear that my sister will be there later as she is out running errands.  I stop for a second because I didn’t know that you were allowed to run errands without at least one of your children!  Don’t they take your Mommy badge away if you do that?  Then I remember I am in a different world.  One I can not relate too nor really understand.

The morning ticks away with little conflict and I try to revel in the fact that my dad, and not I, is the sole source of entertainment.  I drink in my small taste of freedom and know that even though I will pay for it later, the bill will be easier to swallow because I got to sit down. 

My sister shows up along with my cousin’s wife and they go get comfy in the living room.  My sister pulls out her knitting and they launch into an adult conversation about law school.  There is no mention of kids, the stress of raising them, or a complaint about finding time for themselves.  In fact, except for a quick hello, I don’t think my sister’s kids even cared that she was there.  My parent’s house is their second home and they are happy there. 

I sat, attempting to listen to the conversation, wondering if anyone would notice if I dozed off and added an hour nap to my two hours of sleep the night before.  I can barely keep up with their conversation as I am literally amazed at the fact that she is just sitting there knitting, as if her children were gone!  I soon have a one year old pulling as hard as she can on my shirt begging to be nursed and in the background I kept hearing “Mommy!  Watch this!” over and over until I turn, see Sarah ride by on the tricycle and have to offer sufficient praise until she comes by again.  But, at least Katie is busy and that is something.

As the day progresses, I am entranced with the complete calmness her day seems to have.  There are no threats to hang her boys upside down by their toenails, no sweat beading up on her forehead from wrestling her children off one another and no vein popping in her neck from the sheer stress of repeating herself 87 times an hour to “leave your sister alone!”  Now, I am sure when she is at home with them, she has these moments, but I know, for several hours a day, her kids are at my parents and that is a luxury I am fully and admittedly jealous of! 

After lunch, we take the kids out in the scorching, pavement melting Texas heat so they can ride their bikes.  I think it is hot, but I don’t think it is all that hot.  Mind you, we are outside 5 times a day riding bikes, drawing on the driveway and terrorizing the neighbors dogs so, to me, this is no big deal.  But to my parents, it is really, really hot so the bike riding session is short and sweet. 

As we are navigating the kids back to their house, I notice that my sister is loading up her 2 year old to go home.  I am told he is tired and needs to get a nap.  But – and this is amazing to me – her 5 year old is staying!  Now, I know that this probably because my kids are there and he wants more playtime.  I can respect that.  What gets me is that I didn’t know that you could leave places and leave some of your children behind!   Unless it is school…  or the asylum.  I am genuinely impressed with this phenomenon and am awe – struck at the same time. 

We head in and play for another hour or so and it is time to pay the piper.  Time to scratch my nails down a chalk board in order to prep my nerves for the ceremonial “I don’t want to leave” temper tantrums that are about to be bestowed on me.  Thus ruining the fact that I got to pee alone – WITH the door closed!

Pausing for a standing ovation.

Tempering the ring of the cracked freedom bell and causing my back to spasm with the anticipated struggle it will have getting a 30 pound, wiggling child into her car seat, I again promise to start wearing ear plugs as the fight with Katie begins.  By the grace of the good Lord above, Megan and Sarah went willingly to their seats.  But Katie, my tired. worn out, over stimulated 4 year old, is angry, frustrated, and mean. 

I finally do get her in the seat, wave good bye to my parents and nephew and drive off. 

As I get closer to my house and the whining about not wanting to go home begins in the back seat, I feel the weight that was lifted slightly settle itself back to its proper place on my shoulders. 

I walk in the house, leaving a temper tantrum throwing Katie in her car seat to entertain the neighbors, upset that we are home and not at Oma and Opa’s, a whining Sarah upset that I did not stop at one of the 75 McDonald’s we saw on the way home, and Megan, who has decided she wants to stretch her legs by running in the grass, and feel the sheer thickness of overwhelmingness slap me in the face. 

The house is still a mess, the laundry still unfolded, and the frustrations still the same.  No magic fairy came to my rescue even though I left the front door unlocked for easy entrance. 

I wipe a tear away, straighten my shoulders and prepare to enter back into full on, unassisted, constant, unrelenting Mommy duty.  I understand my sister’s need to use the tools God gave her and I admire my parents for allowing her to. 

Because there is something to be said for the taste of freedom for a stay at home mom.  Even if it is bittersweet.