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Friday, August 03, 2007

I'm an introvert. No, that doesn't mean that I don't like people (well, I often don't, but it's not because I'm an introvert). It doesn't mean I'm socially retarded (keep your opinions to yourself, please!) It doesn't mean I'm agoraphobic (is that that fear of public places and crowds thing? Oh well, you know what I mean.) It does mean that I need to be alone on a regular basis to avoid going "bat shit crazy," as my brother in law likes to describe his...never mind.

Before Yoga the other night, I was telling the class about my need for space (huh. maybe I am socially retarded. They can't possibly have been interested. But it did come up in a natural way, when the teacher asked me to move my mat closer to the student next to me. I made a joke about being introverted.) Another mother asked, "But, HOW do you do that with three kids?" Although the class was spared the answer because it was time to start, I thought about it (in my head, not out loud) for a couple of days. My pursuit of solo down time has evolved over the last nine years. Before kids and husband, it was so easy. My whole life was solo and I saw my friends when I wanted to.

My husband is not an introvert. He's one of those assholes people who can talk in complete sentences first thing in the morning. My dad is one of those too. In fact, thanks to my introversion's clash with Dad's (I say extreme) extroversion, I got a car when I was 15 years old, a pre-owned luxury four door 1981 Dodge St.Regis. It was a fine car. My parents bought it from my Grandmother and it was in excellent condition; it was like driving a La-Z-Boy couch. Enough about the car, back to me. The summer I was 15, I worked for my Dad, answering phones in his real estate office and listening to the real secretary sing show tunes (I could have DAAAAAAAAnced all NIIIIIGHT...) In retrospect, it was probably worse for her, having to sit next to her sullen boss' 15 year old daughter all summer, but I felt pretty sorry for myself. Now that I think about it, she might have been nervously singing to avoid thinking about whether or not she should tell her boss that she had caught his sullen 15 year old daughter standing on the toilet blowing cigarette smoke out the tiny window up by the ceiling.

Anyhow...my self-pity-party began bright and early every morning, when I would come downstairs to eat breakfast and Dad would be sitting at the table with his cereal and the newspaper, just rarin' to go. He couldn't wait to make some inane remark about something in the paper or his day or my breakfast or the freaking couch. I took this as a deliberate attempt to ruin my life; that is how painful an early morning conversational assault is to me. And, by the way, Dad happens to be an intelligent, kind and interesting person who is well-liked by everyone, even me, but I don't like anyone before coffee. And after the breakfast assault, I would be forced to ride in the car with him, ALL THE WAY TO THE OFFICE, at least a ten minute torture session ride!

Apparently, what was torture for me was worse for Dad. My Dad is a guy who never complains; he seems immune to annoyance. I, however, pushed him over the edge that summer in a matter of days. He couldn't stand riding with me in the morning. He told Mom that my presence in the morning ruined his day. So, they bought me a car. They didn't tell me I was getting a car because I was such an asshole, they just bought it. This is one of the qualities I admire in my parents - they usually don't over think things. They didn't worry that buying me a car might be a reward for bad behavior. They didn't shop around (I think they asked all of the grandparents who was sick of their car.) They had a problem and they solved it. And the St. Regis was an excellent car.

Where was I? Oh yeah, down time. So this is how I get it, in spite of three loving boys and a husband (also loving, I think, but one never knows for sure, does one?) I try to anticipate opportunities and I try to create them. I can guess what time Baby J might nap, for example, and I can play with him and act goofy and happy in the morning so he skips the morning nap and takes a nice long one in the middle of the day. One down, two to go. I have a few options for the two to go: I can try to pawn them off on someone else (I think I once convinced my husband that my perfect Dad used to sometimes come home from work and take us out to lunch. Lies, all lies. But he did take us to breakfast at McDonald's every so often), I can make them play outside and threaten them with all sorts of heinous things if they come back inside, I can let them watch a movie on the computer (not optimal, since I have to hear it). The best case is pawning them off on someone else. Sometimes this is easy, sometimes not so much. This summer, I've managed to time it so Baby J takes a nap at the pool, where the big kids are easily distracted by sugary snacks (the potential fallout of the sugar is offset by the swimming), other kids and Marco Polo (or Shark or whatever the kids are playing these days.) If I don't allow them to come within ten feet of the sleeping baby, he'll sleep for a while and I can read, which is alone enough. Unless one of my friends is there, with her kids, who I can't threaten ("If you wake him up, YOU HAVE PLAY WITH HIM FOR AN HOUR AND I will EAT YOUR GAMEBOY FOR SUPPER!)

Another way to get solo time is to be willing to pay for it. According to my sister in law, it's worth taking out a second mortgage if you have a house, or getting a cash advance on a credit card if you don't, to pay for childcare. The single most best thing ever about this summer has been the discovery that our very mature and enthusiastic fourteen year old neighbor is willing to keep the kids - AT A MOMENT'S NOTICE. The moment's notice is extremely important (but, you knew that, because I put it in all caps. But maybe I also used the caps because this is my first attempt at drinkin' and bloggin' - with a bottle of Pommery Brut Royale, if you were curious.) Having The Glorious S next door has made my life almost as convenient as it was pre-family. Tout d'un coup, I can go to the gym without loading anyone into or out of the car and I can take my time there, because I don't have to pick anyone up out of the childcare room. I haven't had that luxury for nine years (Sing it, Joan Baez!). When The Glorious S has children of her own, I want to write her a letter explaining exactly how she saved my life. I may even offer to babysit her kids. Then again, maybe not, because by that age, I intend to be tooling around town in a vintage baby blue Jaguar, smoking cigarettes and wearing huge sunglasses. And these shoes,












which I bought recently. I told the saleswoman that I planned on wearing them on my outings from the nursing home and I don't think she quite got that I was serious. By the way, I did get those shoes at a massive discount while The Glorious S was keeping the boys.

For me, solo time can also happen in a crowd. Taking a Yoga or aerobics class can be just as great as being totally alone. So can shopping out of town. The downside to public alone time in a small town is that you almost always see someone you know (or someone your mom knows or someone who knows your sister or someone who dated your uncle.) As I get older (more desperate for alone time??), I've gotten better at brushing those people off when I need to. I do love, though, when I'm out of town, sitting in a coffee shop or restaurant or going shopping on my own and not knowing anyone. I think I actually breathe deeper when there isn't any threat of unwanted social recognition.

Anyhow, I keep rambling and this is going no where and Baby J is fussing and Extroverted Husband is hovering, so this is the end!

1 comment:

Jody said...

Ha! I'm one of those annoying morning talkers. In fact I wake up an hour before my husband and I'm just WAITING that hour to tell him the interesting things I have to say. Then he wants his coffee and to lie on the couch and I just don't get how someone who just lay in the bed all night has to now lie on the couch!