I've been out walking in the mornings again. The air is crisp, and the sun is catching greens and golds in the tree tops. The breeze brings a skitter of fallen leaves that huddle in the gutters and meet my step with a satisfying crunch. Autumn is upon us, and this year brings again the pleasure of daily strolls to and from our neighbourhood preschool.
The routine that precedes the jaunt has altered considerably since our first round of pedestrian commutes: while my son still has a slower start to his morning, his sister and I rush about, getting dressed (well, Mommy often settles for sweatpants), breakfast for her, lunch packing for me, hugs for the boy still in jammies, and my first breath of fresh air of the day: a quick march down the street and across a very busy and badly marked crosswalk to this year's school bus stop. Given the number of drivers who barrel on past our corner despite my traffic-savvy first grader's out-stretched arm, I'm very thankful that my shorter and more adventurous child stays safely inside with his father. Longer school days also mean less time for girl talk, so I hope to keep up these daily saunters one-on-one even once the city deals with my traffic safety complaint. Those few moments of focused conversation before the bus pulls up mean a lot in my getting-less-than-little's love language.
Once I've waved my goodbyes to my eldest scholar, I venture back through the rush hour text-and-drivers and breath a little deeper once I reach the other side. One down, one to go. I usually return to boy grins at the window; my newly-minted preschooler has often started eating before this point, but rarely remains at table when there's a school bus boarding to watch. There's often a pointed reminder or four that "done breakfast" means full tummy, not short attention span, but I do manage to get myself fed and (properly) dressed in the meantime.
Just an hour after school bus pick-up, I'm back out en plein air, heading in the opposite direction, with a child who'd usually rather skip ahead than stay close enough for conversation (Don't worry, Grandmas, he's very good at waiting for Mommy at every corner). He contents himself with frequent looks back to ensure I'm still following, and peppers his trot with excited observations of whatever has caught his attention: "Look, Mommy, a magpie!" "Heymommyheymommy - that garage has five doors!" "Heymommy, is that CONSTRUCTION?" Why, yes, I do see the orange cones of glory. Be still my beating heart.
It's quite the change from the near continual hand-holding and quiet humming of my previous preschooler, but it's what comes after the drop-off that differs the most. Once his jacket is hung and I've hugged him goodbye, I leave the building entirely on my own - four mornings a week, I have two hours and fifteen minutes totally devoid of child care without the excuse of an adult commitment. While I have made a point of occasionally scheduling dates with myself in my six year career as a stay-at-home mother, I've never had such regular free time. I must admit it makes me feel a little giddy.
I've heard two different definitions of the term "babymoon". For some, it is a time set aside before the birth, a special outing or vacation for the family unit as they are before everything changes once again. For others, it is a retreat into the home after the babe is born, a period for a mother to rest up and bond with her newest little one without the hassle of entertaining visitors, keeping up with the dusting and the dishes, or even leaving the house. I've done a bit of both between my first two babies, though not always very deliberately. I labeled various little events as pre-emptive babymoons after the fact, and, while I never strictly adhered to the traditional six-week stay-home that exists in the larger umbrella of Orthodox Christian practices, I didn't worry too much about housework or social life while submerged in the haze of the newborn stage.
This time around, however, I'm adding a couple interpretations of my own. I'm having a boy-moon: some focused time with my son while he's still my youngest - and, during most school hours, only - child. But that's a whole other post. I'm also including opportunities for a solo-moon: a respite for the introvert mom, little breaks from motherhood while caring for my next baby is still synonymous with caring for myself. While many a preschool period may be eaten up by errands, phone calls, and emails that are more easily accomplished when unaccompanied, I'll be reserving the odd mid-morning just for me. Be it a long walk taken at my own pace, a morning snack (or a full second breakfast) at a favourite cafe, or just coffee enjoyed hot at home without needing to stick my abandoned mug in the microwave, it's good to be alone. A time to read, perchance to write, a time to pray; I'm two weeks in with as many as twelve weeks to go - the possibilities still stretch before me. Much as I enjoy hearing the children chatter and look forward to more baby cuddles, I'm glad for this little bit of rest nestled between early morn and noon-time bustles, and thankful for the calm before the next glorious storm.