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.
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.