This weekend we’re taking the boys to the circus. I’m dreading it. I hate the circus. I wasn’t going to tell anyone that, because I always thought parents were supposed to enjoy going to the circus with their kids. Even as I bought the tickets this morning, I was ashamed that I wasn’t looking forward to the outing.
I was already feeling guilty because of a conversation Bill and I had in bed last night. He had worked late, and he missed the after school assessing of the fines ($1 each for Finn and Porter for failure to make beds in the morning), the performance of pre-dinner chores, dinner, the bathing and showering of dirty bodies, two math sheets, the reading of Just Me and My Mom (with Porter) and Danny and the Dinosaur Go to Camp (with Drew) and the preparation for the 101st day of school. Drew had to take a jar of peanuts to mark the occasion; Porter had to take 101 items to school.
“So what did he take?” Bill asked.
“He took 101 hickory nuts from his collection,” I said.
“So did you help him count them out?”
I snorted. “What a ludicrous question,” I said. “What do you think I did?”
“Helped him count them out?” Bill asked doubtfully.
“No!” I shouted, swatting him on the arm. “I told him to make ten piles of ten nuts and then grab another nut and stick them all in a box. So he did. On my white carpet. His nut pile left this mossy, fungusy pile of dirt, so then I made him get the vacuum and clean it up.”
“Okay,” Bill said, exhaling slowly. “So everything’s done?”
“It’s done,” I replied. A minute passed, and I looked over at him.
“You think I should have gotten down on the floor with him and counted nuts and made it a mother-son bonding experience, don’t you?” I asked accusingly. “Well, there was no need for that, mister. I was bonded out. I had everyone clean and fed and homeworked and besides that we read Stable Where Jesus Was Born and The Giving Tree and when I was done I felt like that tree. I used to be full of energy and life, but one by one those boys are eating my apples and cutting my branches. I feel like nothing but a withered stump but they still come sit their sorry asses on me.”
Bill looked at me strangely. “I’m not familiar with The Giving Tree,” he said. “But it seems to me like maybe you’re crotchety. Do you need a back rub?”
“Yes,” I admitted. “I’m just feeling guilty about Porter. Maybe I should have paid more attention to his big nut collection, but it didn’t sound very exciting and I was just mothered out at that point.”
This morning after my date with Ticketmaster, I headed to Jazzercise, determined to dance away the guilty mother blues. I lapsed into a momentary funk when “Freeze Frame” came on (that song is an earworm that won’t leave your head all day) but then a friend came over between songs to talk to the Voice of Reason and me.
“Have you been to the circus?” she asked.
“We’re going Sunday,” I said, trying to fake smile at the thought of it.
“It was absolutely excruciating,” she said. “It was worse than working a shift at the Spring Carnival.”
“It was really that bad?” I asked, excited and astounded that someone had dared utter such blasphemy in a school gym full of sweaty moms.
“I haven’t been to the circus since I was eight,” the Voice said. “I refuse to go.”
I turned to her in disbelief. “You’re shitting me,” I said, incredulous.
“Ooh, don’t talk like that,” the Voice replied. “But no, I make my husband or the grandparents take my kids. It does me in.”
Suddenly, I felt a whole lot better. I had no idea other mothers shared my hatred of clowns, my inability to be impressed by a lion jumping on a block and my irrational fear of families of sparkly acrobats performing unsafe maneuvers high in the air.
There’s no hope for me this year. I’ve already bought the tickets and the boys have been saving their money for weeks to buy tacky souvenirs. But after I leave that circus, I’m never going back.