I've been thinking a lot about the Middle - not the sleeper ABC comedy that comes on TV tonight (which, incidentally, I quite like). I've been thinking about being in the middle of life.
I just dropped Don off at the bus because he's going out with some work friends tonight. After I dropped him, I went to the grocery store to get some goddamn expensive grain-free dog food, because the dogs have to have grain-free dog food for reasons I've forgotten, only I know they were important. The grocery store was in an AT&T dead zone, so when I tried to text Laney to see if she'd started her homework, I couldn't get through. I thought about panicking that she was dead in a ditch since I go from zero to dead-in-a-ditch faster than any other human being alive (I'm thinking about adding that to my LinkedIn profile). But I decided to forestall the panic because the check-out line was pretty short and I could text her from the parking lot.
So I did.
You'll be glad to know that Laney was not dead in a ditch. She had not, however, started her homework. She's started this extra math thing at school that starts at 7:45, which means we have to get to school an hour earlier than we had been accustomed. This, in turns, means that we're trying to get Laney fully abed by 10:00 - even though, if I were a good mother, she'd be in bed with lights out by 9:30. (I know I'm a good mother... I'm using that expression ironically). But we have yet to even make 10:00 since she started this class (to be fair: she started the class two days ago) because the homework is never done until 9:15, and then there's bathing and going through her Instagram feed and hanging out with me and Pokemon Pokemon Pokemon.
So, leaving the grocery store parking lot aware that Laney had not started her homework, I knew that when I got home I was going to have to nag her about starting her homework. I HATE being a nag. I want to be that parent who is all super chill and then when the kid gets in trouble for not doing homework is all, "well, lesson learned" and then the kid does her homework from that point only without being nagged. But I'm pretty sure that parent is a damn fiction and that when we're raising children we just have to nag them to do their homework.
And so I was prepared to, sigh, nag when I got home.
The traffic was gnarly, but "Midnight Train to Georgia" came on the radio and so I sang along to that with the windows down. That was fun. I didn't even care when people looked at me like I was weird when I made the train-whistle motion during the "whoo whoo" part (I tend to sing the Pips part instead of the Gladys Knight part, which I think exposes some sort of psychological weirdness).
When I got home the dogs had wrecked the garbage because they are dogs and dogs do shit like that no matter how much goddamn expensive grain-free dog food you buy them. Also, one of them had peed on the floor, which I accept as my own fault for not letting them out before I left.
I'm still pissed at them, though. They haven't gotten any of that goddamn expensive grain-free dog food that I brought home yet.
I nagged at Laney to start her homework and since she was a little worried that I was going to fly off the handle because of the wrecked garbage she started it right away. Put that in the old win column. I did not fly off the handle, though. I just glared at the dogs, which they don't understand because, again, they are dogs.
Now I have to go [technobabble speak deleted. Replace with: do some work work]. Then it'll be time to feed the child, the dogs and the me, finish the laundry, put the house back to rights.
There is no small level of banality involved with being the mother in the middle. But, I picked this life on purpose.
And, guess what? I love it.
Later on tonight, when the homework is done and the house is put to rights and the dogs have been let out for their final ablutions of the day, Laney will come and lie in bed with me while we watch some TV (probably "The Middle") and she'll tell me about Pokemon and I'll nod like I understand, but will really just enjoy that she wants to be with me and snuggle. The dogs will snore and fart contentedly on the floor, digesting their goddamn expensive grain-free dog food. Later on, Don will come home and get into bed with me (depending on how much he has to drink, there may be some snoring and farting there too).
And then I'll have that moment where I know that everyone I love is safe and fed and taken care of and tucked away for the night.
And that, I think, is what this middle part of my life is all about. Turns out, I love taking care of people. And dogs. More people than dogs. The dogs are OK, though. If they'd just stay out of the damn garbage.