My sister has been staying with us for the past few weeks. It’s awesome. She does the dishes, helps put the boys to bed, watches them when we need to go out for a bit, and in return we feed her, give her a place to sleep, and let her use our bathroom. I’m tempted to recruit another of my sisters to take her place when she moves to her new apartment. Abby is two years younger than me and at such a different place than I was when I was her age. Sort of. I was also living in New York City and following my dream to be a writer at 24. But I was also married and I had a baby. So although our reasons for being in New York are the same, our experiences of the city are vastly different. While she is getting asked for her number by random males every time she goes out the door, I mostly get ignored while people ask my children their names, ages, and how they are doing, no matter how obvious it is that they do not yet speak. While she can spend 30 minutes drying and straightening her hair to go hangout in the city, I spend 30 minutes trying to get my 3-year-old to get dressed, use the restroom, and put his shoes on so we can go grocery shopping.
The juxtaposition of our lives makes me acutely aware of the things I could not have imagined being so engrossed in when I was young, single, and childless. Like pre-school. While I thought lots and lots about my own education back in the day, I assumed it was easier for kids: you send them to the neighborhood school when they are 5 years old. And now I find myself in New York City where navigating the school system is as difficult and complex as applying to colleges. Applications to pre-kindergarten programs are months away and it consumes a ridiculous amount of my brain power. Should I send him, or shouldn’t I? Will he benefit from it, or will it hinder his development? If he goes, how long will it take me to get there? What time will we have to get out the door? Like I said, ridiculous.
There are also little things that Abby can only dream of handling. We had a laugh today about the “presents” Manchild 2 gives me. He’s got nothing else to give, so he might as well fill his diaper up with goodness and let me have it, right? And I know she’s secretly jealous that I can roast granola, make alfredo sauce, grill chicken, and listen to music in a steamy hot kitchen in the 45 minutes I have between when the boys wake up and when we’ve got to be out the door for more fun and games, but she’d never show it. She’s too focused on finding gainful employment, learning the screenwriter’s art, and dressing fashionably. Why would I ever want to do that when I can spend 50% of my day thinking about food: what we are going to eat, when we are going to eat it, how long it will take me to make, when I should get started on the cooking, and then actually making it.
Some others: I never thought I’d go to three different shoe stores to find the perfect pair that will be too small for the boy in 6 months. I never thought I’d let my child wear his clothes backward. I never thought I’d laugh about getting my neck getting shredded by tiny fingernails whenever Manchild 2 is feeling a little too much attention from strangers. I never thought I’d chew my food a bit, spit it out, and put it in somebody else’s mouth.