By Gaslight by Steven Price

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Son of a bitch, he muttered.

No, really, it’s great. School holidays–a time of joy, laughter, reconnection, and soulful bargaining for just five more minutes of YouTube.

School holidays present a special challenge to those among us who are introverts. Namely, me. I thrive on alone time. Quiet time. Hours that I speak to no one except maybe the dog. When school is in session, I make do with the back and forth commute from school to my office. It’s that 40 minutes of bliss that gets me through the hours when I have to be available. My office, too, is usually a haven. We work hard there, and no one ever asks me to make them a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.

So you can imagine my state of mind now, Thursday, after five days without those 40 minutes of aloneness. It’s wearing a bit thin. I’m wearing a bit thin.

(Here’s how I can tell. I woke up M and asked, “Are you going to work today?” thinking that if he didn’t go, I’d go. I’d risk life and limb in the expected snowstorm for a few hours of an empty room. Yes, he said. He’s going. That’s fine. He got up to take a shower, I retreated to my spot at the kitchen table at which I’ve been desperately trying to keep up a work week, and now I can hear him practicing scales on his guitar and I swear, if he were standing before me I might perform physical violence on his form because he has the opportunity to LEAVE THE HOUSE and he isn’t. doing. it. See? It’s a sickness.)

All of this isn’t to say I do not adore my husband and children and adore spending time with them and love them to the littlest bits of their souls and want to live forever so we can eat at the same dinner table every single night for as long as time exists. No. All that is true. But I also want to, for the love of all things holy, be alone for a few hours.

It feels like a craving. You know when you are just dying for those spicy dumplings that the Coop serves on Tuesdays and it’s only Saturday? That’s what it feels like. Or you know when you’ve been up for 26 hours and your head is one big yawn and you think maybe your hungry, or thirsty, or want to watch TV, but really you are just very, very tired? That’s what it feels like.

It feels like if I don’t get some alone time, I’m going to start picking ridiculous fights.

And, yes, I know, I need to just make it happen. Demand what is rightfully mine. Take those hours and shout at anyone who threatens to take them back, who dares interrupt with a small voice asking if I want to watch Dr. Who with him. This is the solution to the problem that I just can’t seem to act upon.

Because as much of an introvert as I seem to be, I am first a mom who parents best by being all in. By saying yes far more than no, by being consistently available out of the belief that someday, my kids are going to need to come to me with a gigantic problem that needs all of our resources, and if they have been rebuked in the past, they won’t even attempt to approach and that gigantic problem will swallow them whole.

I know, it’s crazy. Insisting on alone time does not necessarily mean my kids will die of drug overdoses or find themselves teenage fathers or go to prison for life because they accidentally ran someone over. But in my head it’s all connected. If I’m at home, I’m fair game. And if I’m away from home, they can call. The only release from the contract is me knowing they are with someone else they trust, whether it’s school, their dad, grandparents, friends.

Huh. It helps to simply remember this.

I can handle the lack of alone time if it means my kids can count on my support during their own hard hours.

Okay. I feel better. Thanks for listening.

 

4 thoughts on “By Gaslight by Steven Price

  1. You nailed it, Andi! It is very hard being the introvert in a big family – I grew up that way. I lived for Boy Scout weekend campouts when Greg and Gavin would be gone.

  2. This is tremendous. And as an introvert caught in the same bind right now (just one boy shy of your tally, but add one stomach virus to the mix) and it really helped to read your vivid evocation of what this feels like. It feels NOT NORMAL to have to barricade oneself in the bathroom for alone time. May the new year come and our beloved equilibrium return. Xoxo

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