This is normal but that won’t stop me.

First of all, I’m going to acknowledge that I totally know that this is a part of life, a part of the specific life I deliberately signed up for, even. I know that. I fully know that. This is absolutely a post of straight bitching about a situation other people would consider themselves lucky to be in, with no redeeming humor or point of any kind. But that isn’t going to stop me bitching about it for even one second so here I go, no more preamble.

Penelope started pre-k a few weeks ago. I wasn’t too sunrise, sunset about the whole thing because the whole set up of the program she goes to so clearly indicates that it is pre kindergarten. She is not yet in kindergarten. She’s playing with other kids all day long and learning some basic social skills and generally getting the idea of the structure of going to school, but it’s three hours a day. It’s so clearly not actually school that I didn’t get very angsty about my baby growing up or anything like that. Though I also don’t think I will when she actually does go to kindergarten because that’s not really the kind of thing that gets me about my kid growing up. I do get where those sunrise, sunset people are coming from, though.

Anyway, here’s the standard “first day” shot so you can know it really happened and sunrise, sunset about Garlic Bread yourself, if that’s your style. I’m fine with that.

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Like I said, she goes to school for three hours a day. Three hours, right in the middle of the day. We had our choice of a couple programs in our little town, which was nice. One was four days a week, 8am to 3pm. That just seemed like a little too much for my particular kid. It’s a decent program that a lot of parents around here like, but I just didn’t see Penny as ready to do such a long day almost every day. She had been going to an in home program one day a week for a full day for the whole summer, but four days… eh. I don’t know, you know your own kid, right? It just wasn’t the right one. So we decided on the 3 hour a day program. Our choices were 8am to 11am, or 11:30 to 2:30pm. We went back and forth a bit, who cares, but eventually we ended up doing the second session. So every day, I have to bring her out to school at 11:30.

Okay, first, you know we moved to this base in New Mexico. The town the base is “in” is actually about 15-20 minutes away. The base is just… by itself. In the middle of the desert. Which is fine, really, because if you’ve been on a military base, you know that you can kind of just stay there, without leaving, for long stretches of time. We’ve got a grocery store and a general-type store, a few quick service restaurants, a gas station, playgrounds, a pool, a library. Just like a tiny town of its own. Before Penny started pre-k, we didn’t go to the town all that often. Maybe once a week? There’s not much in the town, either. It’s just a small place also in the middle of nowhere, but it’s got basic needs covered. I don’t know, I’m trying not to talk badly about it because I’ve been here a year now and it’s been fine, but just infer something from my tone. It’s… fine.

So now she’s in school and I’ve got to come out here every day. We’ve only got the one car, so it’s a bit juggle-y right now. Phil goes to the gym every morning while Penny and I are still in bed, because he has to and we prefer to sleep. He comes home to shower, and on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, I take Penny to the same in-home care that she went to over the summer. She stays there those mornings so I can work. By the time I come home, Phil is usually dressed and ready to go, so I drive him out to work. He works in the bomb dump which is the most remote point on base, for reasons I’m sure you can imagine. That’s about a 20 minute round trip, and then I come home and work for awhile. Around 11, I go and get Penelope and take her to school in town. This is the same on Tuesdays and Thursdays, except that she hangs out with me at home in the morning and I take Phil to work or swap the car with him at his lunch time, depending on how his schedule is working that day.

Once I’ve taken her out to school, it’s 11:30, and I can either drive all the way back to the base and leave the house again to get her at 2, or I can hang out in town. Most days, I choose to sit at a coffee shop. I have some stuff I’m studying, or I have conference calls, and whatever, I kill the few hours until I have to go pick her up again. Sometimes I do go back home, but it just seems like a lot of gas and a lot of miles to put on the car to go back to the house to sit for a couple of hours and then come back out to town. It’s not like it’s a hard drive – there’s no traffic here and it’s just a straight shot. It just feels obnoxious to go back and forth twice a day. So I hang out by myself for three hours in relative peace and quiet, doing whatever I want to do. (I know.)

I pick Penny back up at 2:30 and then… it varies. Sometimes we run an errand. Sometimes we go get frozen yogurt. Sometimes we go right home. Regardless, we kill some time. If we go straight home, we’re there by about 2:50, 3pm, and we can sit there until 3:50, when it’s time to go get Phil. If we don’t go right home, I have to figure out some activity that’s going to take long enough to eat up the time til we can pick Phil up at work. Sometimes I work more after we get home, and sometimes I don’t.

So what’s the point of giving you this entire boring run down of my entire boring life? It’s that Penny starting school has been my first introduction to a major factor of life with kids. I knew that as she got older, she was going to get involved in activities and I’d have to spend time at practices and in waiting rooms and adjusting my schedule around her schedule as she became more and more busy with her own interests, but what I didn’t really ever think about was how much time I was going to spend in the motherfucking car.

A lot of it is a factor of where we live, how far we are from town, and the options available for her schooling. And also the fact that we have only one car. But still. Still. I spend so much goddamn time in the car. When the weekend ends, I’m not dreading the start of the week because I work during the week, which I do. I’m dreading getting back in the stupid car. And buckling her in an out of her car seat, oh my god. I will skip going to the grocery store six days in a row even if we’re out of every single one of the six foods she eats just to avoid buckling her in and out of her car seat one more time. Holy shit. It’s soul crushing.

So where am I going with all of this? Nowhere. I’m lucky, I know. I have a kid, I have a car. She gets to go to school and I get to sit by myself, undisturbed except for standard coffee shop creepers, almost every single day. I’m not going to layer in a whole bunch of garbage about how this situation is especially hard for me because of my personal situation right now, I don’t even need to add that to feel like bitching about this perfectly normal situation. Just. Holy shit. You guys. So much time in the car. I’m so sick of it, and it’s barely even started. This is just the pre-start. All the driving, all the awkward blocks of time I have to fill with errands I don’t actually have or just standing around being talked to by strangers in places I don’t want to be. It’s just the very start. You don’t even have to “just wait” me, because I know. I am staring down the many future years of trying to find a place to stick my useless self while I wait for my kid to be done doing whatever important thing she’s doing. I see it all and holy shit. I just wanted to say it.

17 thoughts on “This is normal but that won’t stop me.

  1. H

    I hear you. What’s strange for me is that back in my day, kids relied so much on school buses. Like – if there wasn’t a bus to bring you home after an activity, well, then you couldn’t do that activity. I don’t know why, but parents simply didn’t drive their kids like parents do today. It seems odd because it isn’t like cars didn’t exist and they had to take horse and buggy.

  2. LeighTX

    Yes, to all of it. So much driving, so much waiting. My older daughter just started driving and it is AWESOME, I can just say “go pick your sister up!” and she’s happy to do it but she’ll be going to college next year and we’ll have to take back the driving and waiting duties for daughter #2 and I’m already not looking forward to it. Ugh.

  3. Rayne of Terror

    Yes. It sucks. I try really hard to keep our activities here in tiny town for this very reason. I’ve even looked for houses on the side of tiny town where the school, sports complex, and my work are so I don’t have to drive the 6-8 minutes back and forth and back and forth each and every day. But of course my boys are getting into more sports in big town 15 miles away where the rock gym, the ice rink, and the cool library that does mine craft tournaments are.

  4. Melissa

    I work an hour away from home – I know, that’s on me – and obviously my kid goes to school by my house. And then schools always seem to schedule things for 3-5 pm. It drove me crazy for years. I remember one time my son had a doctor’s appointment at the hospital by my office first thing in the morning. So I drove an hour to take him to the appt, an hour to take him to school, an hour to go to work and then an hour home. Worst day.

    Sorry – made it about me! Anyway, he drives now so the anxiety about him in a vehicle is almost worth no longer having to drive him all over central Indiana.

  5. Maggie

    I seriously failed to appreciate this aspect of parenting until Oldest got old enough to start playing on a more serious sports team that had practices someplace he could not walk to 3x per week plus weekend games, also, of course, not a walkable locations. Three years of carpooling and we all spent too damned much time in the car. This year for a variety of reasons, some of which involved my son having his heart broken by asshole coaches, he has switched to doing his sport through his school and although I was sad about the asshole coach situation, I was SO DAMNED GLAD not to have to figure out a way to get him to and from every practice all week long. Of course Youngest has just now reached the age at which she does a sport twice a week that is not in a place we can walk to and I feel like draining my retirement fund to hire a driver rather than figure out the driving again.

    TL;DR kids involve way more driving than I ever realized and I’m over it.

  6. Swistle

    And I hear it. And empathize.

    When the kids were littler, I found it well worth it to buy music for the car. WELL WORTH IT. Anything to break the monotony of the driving.

    The summer I still think of as The Worst Summer of Parenting involved so much driving, I was seriously incredulous. Like, HONESTLY? This is how I signed up to spend my time on this planet?

  7. LisaB

    Military mom life is not for the faint of heart. One year when Mark was deployed (and even when he was home, usually, come to think of it) I got in my car at 4:45 and drove for TWO HOURS between the three small cities in our county hauling my two to different activities. This is why they got cars when they turned 16.

  8. Monika

    Honestly, where is the fun in motherhood if you can’t bitch about it? The exciting part is that your bitches are different than my bitches, and variety is the spice of life!

  9. Jess

    Look, I LOVE driving. BUT! My commute can be soul crushing. And then driving my kids to and fro? Ugh. I feel you on the car seat thing. I have a 4 year old and 14 year old and the constant in and out of the car seat drives me bat shit. Especially when she wants to do it herself. Sure, mommy will just stand here and get rained on/snowed on/sweat to death. I swore I’d never buy my kid a car…but I’m seriously reconsidering!

  10. nonsoccermom

    Ughhhh I completely agree. It’s one of those things you just flat don’t think about when it comes to having kids (or at least I didn’t). Soccer practice, track meets, school events, study sessions, blah. We also only have one car, though we live in the city with access to decent public transit, so that helps. However, I work in a different city, about a 2-hour one way commute (via train/bus/light rail). And so that puts the onus on my husband to do a lot of the kid shuttling and I know it sucks for him. I don’t think I really have much of a point here other than YES, this is such an unexpectedly crappy part of parenting and GAH, I’m glad my kids are just about old enough to start taking public transportation by themselves because that will make things a lot easier.

  11. BKC

    THE CARSEAT, uggghhhhh. My kiddo got to self tush-wiping and self-buckling age before I had another child. Needless to say, it is amazing and she is an only child.

    Maybe take a tablet to stream K-dramas as a treat while you wait in the car? Books on tape saved my sanity during my hour-long commute for a few years, but I didn’t play them with the kiddo in the car. So I second Swistle’s suggestion of music. Spotify rules.

  12. Jess

    Our new school/childcare arrangement requires me to drive to two different schools, which are in opposite directions from our house, every morning before I start work, and honestly, as I’ve been doing this, I’ve had all these unbidden thoughts about how part-time work is REALLY the way to go, because damn. So much driving. GUH. And it’s only going to get WORSE because we haven’t even hit the full-on ACTIVITIES life phase just yet. BLEH.

    Coffee shop creepers. KIDNEYS.

  13. Natalie

    I am seriously considering just keeping this one kiddo a single for some of these reasons. I honestly don’t know how people do multiple kids with multiple activities. My friend has a 9yo, 7yo, and 1yo, and that seems like a total nightmare (as far as activities and shuttling go, not in general). The two oldest have been sleeping in the next day’s clothes for years – their own idea! It cracks me up.

  14. Laurie

    I have no kids, but living in SoCal and having a commute means spending many hours in the car…the only thing that keeps me from losing my mind is podcasts.The time goes more quickly, and sometimes you get a good laugh or two…let me know if you want a few recommendations.

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