Why this isn't really much of a column

October 03,2008
Professor Mom
Aliki McElreath( )

Aliki is a writer and college English teacher. She lives in North Carolina with her husband, two children (ages seven and ten), a dog, a cat, a rabbit, and too many fish.

Do you ever have those afternoons (or days, poor you) when everything starts out headed one way and then things take a sharp detour in another direction? You start out in a good mood, with reasonable expectations about the day, and then, little by little, they erode--and often for no good reason.

Or how about those afternoons with the kids when you just can't finish a sentence, let alone a single thought? When you know that if you just had even 30 minutes to yourself to finish something, you'd feel oh-so-better, and you'd be able to stop feeling so grouchy about everything?

Or those days when you wish you could stay out all day somewhere with the kids instead of coming home, because you know the dishwasher is still full, the laundry hasn't been done, and the house is end-of-the-week dirty?

And the kids roam through the house, creating messes in every room they go into, even the guest room, which they never ever play in until one of those days, when they decide, strangely, to turn it into a nightclub (???)?

My yesterday was like that. And even though I had big plans for the afternoon with the kids, karma was working against us. They were out of sorts, I was out of sorts, and we were all out of sorts together, which didn't lead to any kind of good afternoon. And while I had big plans for some crafty things, and maybe some cookie baking, I found myself instead locked in about 45 solid minutes of back and forth with L. about what he wanted to do, then knee-deep in summer-long grass, then in cold creek water, as L. finally wore me down, and led the way to fulfilling his latest obsession: following our backyard creek all the way to the storm drains that go under the road.

Which is how I found myself in a storm drain at 4:00 p.m. yesterday, ankle-deep in water. Parenthood can sure lead you into some strange places.

Because it was one of those days, the time I was going to spend writing this column had to be spent cleaning up muddy storm-drain footprint tracks on the floor, picking prickly-pear cactus thorns out of my ankle, unloading the dishwasher, doing the laundry, and wondering what happened to an entire afternooon.

Then I remembered: I spent it with the kids. My kids.

And I think I had a pretty good time.