Should I have told the cop who pulled me over tonight that, really, I had no time to listen to him explain that someone has apparently stolen the vehicle-registration sticker off of my license plate? Thank goodness it turned out that I hadn’t forgotten to pay my vehicle-registration fee. But I just didn’t have time for license-plate-sticker questions anyway, not on a Wednesday evening. I had to get home to Sophie.
I was already running late because my students just wouldn’t stop asking questions. Why did I ever think it was a good idea to inspire them?
I didn’t get home tonight until 8:10 pm. Anyone who’s not a single-parent to an early-sleeping baby may not understand the significance of that last sentence, or my guilt.
It wouldn’t have been a problem, back in the days when I signed up to teach my Wednesday-evening class, confident that Ben could put Sophie to bed on Wednesdays. But now Ben has gone to Europe. I hired Raquel to pick Sophie up from daycare on Wednesdays, feed her, play with her, bathe her, and put her to bed. Last Wednesday, Sophie resisted that final step of going to sleep, but that was fine because I had let my class leave early, so I got home at 7:45 pm, in time to kiss her and hug her, read her one last good-night book and get her to bed. She’s normally asleep by 7:30 pm, but a few minutes later isn’t a big deal.
Tonight, at 8:10, after waiting many additional nerve-wracking minutes for me, Sophie was shaking with the effort to hold in her tears. Raquel’s seven-year-old daughter was valiantly squeaking Sophie’s squeaky-dolphin puppet, trying to help Sophie forget that she was scared and felt abandoned by both her parents now. Poor little girl almost melted into a puddle of relief when she saw me. For more than half-an-hour, she just wouldn’t stop hugging me.
She needed me to feed her another dinner (of which she ate three bites), then read her not one but three goodnight books (Good Night Moon has been supplemented by Good Night Gorilla, and also the truly lovely En Los Piernas de Mama), then sing to her, then get her some milk, and only then tuck her in. Even with that gentle treatment and 30-minute hugging, there were still some body-shaking sobs that Sophie just couldn’t hold in anymore.
And, I guess, poor me. Working momhood doesn’t work with single momhood, not when my job requires me to work until 7pm and my work is 70 miles from home. I guess I should be happy that I got home at 8:10, even with a traffic-stop.
The semester is over in just three more weeks. Then I can get home earlier to Sophie. By then there will be lots of new things to feel guilty about, but for now, this is it: that a stolen license-plate-sticker infraction can cause me to be extra-late on a night that’s already too late, and can cause my poor baby to feel so profoundly abandoned.