The second week of school is coming to a close, which means that we're slowly getting accustomed to our new family schedule.
On the home front, I'm seventy percent certain that I'd answer correctly if you quizzed me on what days my two older daughters have library and what days they need to wear sneakers for gym class. (Okay. Maybe sixty-five percent.) I'm settling into the routine of emptying backpacks, signing permission forms, and checking the lunch menu to determine which days the girls will pack lunch and which days they'll buy.
I'm learning what days my husband can return home for dinner (Thursdays are looking good!) and what evenings he needs to stay on campus past the girls' bedtime (all but Thursday, Saturday, and Sunday).
On the work front, I've learned my students' names, set up my course websites, prepared my grade spreadsheets, finalized the first assignment handouts, and committed my Monday-Wednesday-Friday schedule versus my Tuesday-Thursday schedule to memory. Daily, the feeling of newness, that sensation of unfamiliarity, that subtle start-of-the-semester unsettledness is lessening.
Give us one more week, and we should have the routine down cold.
But I'm not writing this post to tell you that. I'm writing this post to tell you this: my youngest daughter has begun a preschool program that runs for two and a half hours each morning. When I factor in my teaching schedule, this boils down to one key fact:
Each week this semester, I will have exactly four hours and twenty minutes to myself.
For those four hours and twenty minutes, I won't be teaching. I won't be holding office hours. I won't be responsible for childcare.
This is monumental.
I should acknowledge that my first two-hour-and-ten-minute stint of freedom yesterday morning was spent in my office preparing lecture materials and making photocopies. As the semester progresses, I imagine that the time will be allotted for grading that I'd normally tuck into the late evening hours.
But. BUT. BUT! The beauty is that, if I truly wanted or absolutely needed to, I could use the hours for anything. I could go on a run. I could take a nap. I could stroll the aisles of Target. I could eat an entire movie theatre sized box of Dots while staring out the window.
Frankly, I'm dizzy with the possibilities.
I recall reading The Unlikely Missionary, a beautiful novel written by my friend Elizabeth Brady. In one of the scenes, a character reflects on the fullness of her days before her children had grown up. I had cried after I read the passage.
At that point, I had a newborn and two very young children underfoot. Every moment of my day felt crowded. I rushed home as soon as I finished teaching in the morning, never even bothering to stop at the restroom, so Joel could pass me the on-duty parent baton and start his work on campus. I pumped late at night so the baby would have milk when I was gone. I frequently saved my two-year-old from imminent disaster because she was determined to climb everything -- everything! -- that could be climbed (and some things that could not.) I grappled with my five-year-old whose strong will clashed with my own.
There sometimes weren't moments to shower in peace, much less to think.
But here I am, several years later, and I have moments to myself. Four hours and twenty minutes of moments each week, in fact.
Dear friends, if your days are so filled to the brim that they drip over the edge, splashing and puddling at your feet, take heart. The road eventually opens up. Your moments, even if they are just a few, will come again.
Image compliments of cpj79 (Flicker.com)