My happy place is shamefully cliche, but perhaps simply because it's so universally divine. Resting peacefully on a comfy beach chair...white sand...waves crashing...breezy sunshine...Oprah-blessed book in one hand; fruity, umbrella-topped cocktail in the other. My family's with me, building sandcastles, riding the waves and playing backgammon.
The best part: we're contentedly "still." Not still in the physical sense, but more of a relaxing, peaceful stillness, where our minds are able to join our bodies on this vacation.
BRRRRRRING (that's the sound of a one-button, analog alarm clock - circa 1986 - jolting me awake)! This fantasy is as unrealistic as time travel. Or you reaching me on a land line. You see, I'm Mommy on the Run. And Mommy on the Run is never still.
In the scene above, mine's the family disturbing the peace. A child is throwing sand, or screaming in terror, or wandering haphazardly, knocking over your sunblock and water bottle without even realizing it. Someone is yelling. Someone is apologizing to a stranger. All adults are counting down the minutes until this "vacation" is over.
If my kids were toddlers, beach-goers would smile knowingly and say nostalgically, "enjoy it. They grow up so fast." However, these kids are long past the terrible/adorable twos, and (while they still are exceptionally cute), universal sentiment is more like, "I hope they're not staying on our floor."
Mommy on the Run doesn't care. She's more concerned with making sure nobody drowns, drinks from a moldy, half-buried Mountain Dew can, or swipes a shovel from your baby. She's got the reflexes, speed and alertness of an Olympic athlete (though sadly not the body to match). You see, long after most kids are Ferber-ized allowing their parents to sleep again, she's still more exhausted than you can possibly comprehend, but her kids keep growing bigger, stronger and faster. So she focuses every working neuron on real-time, all-the-time crisis prevention and management.
At gatherings, while others' children are able to play unsupervised in the basement, Mommy on the Run is the sole adult chasing ping-pong balls. She hears that drop-off parties are a great time to run errands. Not for her. She lingers, in strangers' homes, awkwardly offering to hand out forks because "drop-off" is not an option. At the pool, while most moms are gabbing and sunning with gal pals, Mommy on the Run is begrudgingly in the water or, if she's lucky, running up and down the poolside in a sarong shouting with great hope: "Great job keeping your bathing suit on!"
At a holiday lunch, Mommy on the Run is even more vigilant. Her "crazy eyes" are (probably) not medically induced, but a sign that she's scanning the environment for potential destruction, meltdowns and escapes. She genuinely might want to talk to you, but it's likely she'll disappear mid-sentence, having to save a family heirloom from crashing to the ground or a guest's modesty from her daughter's compulsion to have everything buttoned just so.
Mommy on the Run is prone to sudden, unexpected outbursts, ranging from random warnings to guests ("Hold on to that water cup!" "Guard your salad!") to leaping to her feet to block an exit. Inevitably, you'll think she's nuts when she screams across two rooms, "Don't even think about it!" (You see, she and her child simultaneously spotted someone nearby with an irresistibly, rip-offable bandage.) Another parent - probably the PTA president - will say with a slightly judgmental tone: "It's okay. She hasn't even done anything wrong." Oh, but she will. She will.
On a Saturday afternoon "relaxing" at home, Mommy on the Run is always at the ready, playing autism whac-a-mole with expertise, but failing to complete one load of dishes (tellingly, this is another fantasy of hers). The minute-after-minute demands of her resident Tasmanian Devil are all-consuming ... and more important.
Mommy on the Run is a master of observation, mind-reading and focus - but only when it comes to her child. As an adult conversationalist or party guest, she sucks. She will not and can not be still.
Once upon a time, I was a skilled networker, able to discuss Wall Street Journal insights with Fortune 500 CEOs. These days, I'm Mommy on the Run, leaving you with no other choice - as you must have figured out based on my diminished number of party invitations - but to clear a path and guard your china.
***By the way, if this post seems scattered or disjointed, please be aware that I popped up