I woke Evan at 8:20 this morning. He was groggy and unhappy that I had interruped his sleep. I felt terrible, but Julia had to be at preschool in 40 minutes and I was cutting things as close as I could already. I yanked a shirt over his head before I'd even lifted him out of his crib and helped him into his pants, socks and shoes while he was still sitting on the potty.
He wasn't really ready to eat when we got downstairs, but time was a'ticking. I'd just received a call from a friend who needed me to take her daughter to school, which would require an extra, unexpected detour. We really had to walk out the door, but he was only half done with his frozen waffle. "You can carry it with you and eat it in the car," I promised him as I helped him into his coat.
After preschool drop off, we stopped at Drug Fair to pick up a couple of things that we needed. I let him walk instead of putting him in a shopping cart so that the errand would be more fun for him, and at first it was. But then he got a little too enthusiastic in the hair care aisle and had to be scooped up into my arms and whisked away from all of the pretty bottles and jars. He left the store sulking.
We headed home to balance out his morning meal with some apple slices, which he munched on while I made a bunch of phone calls that I needed to take care of. As soon as we both were done, we were back out the door again and on our way to Lord & Taylor's big spring sale. I hated to force Evan to sit through yet another errand, but I had a 15% off coupon that was about to expire and a long list of things we all still needed for spring. I couldn't justify missing the savings. I promised him that we'd get through the trip as fast as we could.
I knew that it would be impossible to get any real shopping done with Evan perusing the racks, so I guiltily pulled the stroller out of the trunk and sweet talked him into climbing in and sitting nicely. I was right that things would go much faster that way, and I zipped through my shopping pretty quickly. But when Evan's 2 trips to the bathroom and the long sale lines at the registers got added into the equation, this was still no quick trip. By the time we got back out to the car, I was startled to discover that we had only 20 minutes before we had to pick Julia up at school.
By now, Evan was grouchy and annoyed about being contained in his car seat. But it was raining and we didn't have time to get home and back before we had to be at school, which left us without any real viable options for getting him out of his seat. So I killed time with a quick driving tour of some neighborhoods I like to drool over while trying to keep Evan engaged with songs and discussions. He wanted none of it.
Evan perked up as soon as he saw Julia, but his delight was short-lived; Julia had a play date scheduled for right after school. We drove her to her friend's house and waved goodbye again. By now, Evan had pretty much given up on our morning (not that I could blame him). He munched on a piece of challah in the backseat and refused to let me engage him in conversation.
We came home for lunch and a little bit of play time. Finally, Evan had my undivided attention, and he was thrilled. We played with his cars and put together some puzzles and had a grand time laughing together for about 45 minutes. But before I knew it, it was 1:30 and I had to call an end to play time so that Evan could get a nap. "We'll do something fun when you get up," I promised him. But I knew full well that by then, Julia would be home competing for my attention too, and he'd probably end up getting a small piece of me at best.
I have always said that I stay at home with my children because I believe that I can give them the best possible start. This time with me, I've always maintained, will be invaluable to them, and it's well worth putting my career on hold to give Julia and Evan the gift of my time and attention in their formative years. But on days like today, I have to wonder how true that really is. If Evan had been in daycare today, he would have played with friends, built a tower with blocks, maybe even painted a picture. A teacher would have read him a book and he would have interacted with his peers during his snack. He certainly wouldn't have been confined to a stroller or car seat for the better part of the morning, and play time would have been the entire focus of his day, rather than a 45 minute activity guiltily tacked onto a morning of boring errands. He would have missed me, yes, and I would have missed him. But would he have been missing out? Rather the opposite, I suspect, and I'm not quite sure how that makes me feel about what I'm doing here at home.