Erik Quinn: The Heart of a Family: Routine

Tuesday, October 02, 2007


I am a creature of habit. I adapt to change and eventually grow to appreciate it, but I generally find comfort in the familiar. Routines are comforting to me, especially when I feel like I can't control much of anything else these days.

While my new schedule is definitely stressful at times, I am learning to appreciate the time I spend away from my son almost as much as the time I am with him. Today the pieces seemed to begin falling into place. I hit the Gap and the party store on the way home from school. Lately I have found myself feeling anxious and lost without things scheduled every minute while Erik is at daycare or at class and sometimes find myself wandering around feeling disoriented with a soapy rag in one hand, stray toys crammed in my armpit, 14 recipes in the other hand, and the phone nestled between my ear and my shoulder forming a lifeline to work as I attempt to do a thousand things at once to eliminate any free time. I tend to feel slightly demented and, for some odd reason, guilty. I am slowly learning to stop cramming my time full and relax just a little more, although it still feels very strange. I don't have oodles of free time and if I don't enjoy it, it's gone very quickly. I have come to the realization that having time to think scares the crap out of me. That is my lightbulb moment for the week. Now I am coming to understand my manic behavior better and am trying to take a deep breath. Sometimes I think Xanax sounds delightful. However, don't worry. I won't be going all Valley of the Dolls on you anytime soon.

Today I was relieved to see our morning began very routinely. I even felt rested. Erik awakened at the crack of dawn, which is becoming habit now. He is fond of lying on his bedroom floor and placing his pouty lips in the space between the bottom of the door and the floor. The acoustics in this house with such an open floor plan are quite bizarre to begin with, but if he speaks loudly from this awkward angle, his voice seems to boom from another dimension out of nowhere, no matter which room you happen to be in. For example, I will be lying in bed and hear a deep voice announce, "HI BUDDY!" Now that I'm used to it, I don't flinch (much) anymore, but it was quite unnerving at first. I then pad to his door in my bathrobe and let him out. No, he's not locked in his room, but he seems to think there is a magical magnetic field keeping the door shut. Who am I to tell him otherwise?

I fed him breakfast, got him dressed, did some kickboxing, and took a shower. On the way to school, we passed the same buses with the same drivers, saw the same people on their way to work, and watched the same workers in fluorescent clothing confidently guiding us through the same annoying construction zone obstacle courses. We saw Jeff, as usual, in front of the school with his school bus. He held the door open for us, and we stepped into the hall. Erik and I made our way to his classroom, past the same screaming boy being carried out like a stick of firewood by the knowingly nodding teacher and into the loosely-controlled, tightly supervised, now very familiar chaos. I removed Erik's jacket (he corrected me twice and called it a "coat") and hung it on the hook in his cubby halfway under the power of his arm with some assistance from mine. He knew what to do and again attempted the task. It's becoming routine now. It was then that he smiled, said, "Trucks!" and was off to play next to Abby, who seemed to be recreating a scene from the 1970s gas crisis with an impressive line of toy vehicles.

And that was it. I turned and left, largely unnoticed by child or adult. No drama whatsoever. I didn't even feel (very) guilty.

As my schedule falls into place, I am relaxing. I have discovered the sweet spot on my love seat from which I have a good view of the road from our back windows and through the bay window in the master bathroom if I open the two sets of double doors between me and the view wide. I also can see a two thin slices of what is going on in front of the house through the side light windows and a thick film of greasy toddler fingerprints on on each side of the front door. A week ago, I perched on the armrest of the couch in the event I missed the bus driving by. Now that I know I will see the giant wall of yellowness coming, I can plant myself and eat my lunch in front of one of my favorite shows (usually How Clean is Your House?) while I take a break and relax.

Today the bus came rumbling down the road, right on time. I still love watching it bring Erik home. I especially enjoy it because I know Erik is inside, craning his neck to watch passing vehicles, naming the make and model if he can. I stood to watch it turn in and drive toward the house. I walked outside to meet it. As I stepped inside to inhale that new car smell, I instantly found myself patting my thigh to the beat of an oldies song pumping through the speakers on the bus as Jeff unbuckled Erik from his seatbelt. Jeff then told me that he let Erik sit in the driver's seat and "drive the bus" as the other kids were loaded today. He then demonstrated this by plucking Erik up and positioning him at the controls again, asking Erik if he wanted to honk the horn. Erik tentatively reached out and pressed the horn a couple times. After he was accustomed to the sound, a smile spread over his face. My favorite kind of smile. The kind of smile during which the points of his incisors show and his face lights up. God, I love that. A laugh then bubbled up from deep in his chest, and he honked that horn so many times that I wondered if the neighbors (a) thought there was some sort of awkward funny business between myself and the Santa-like driver going on inside the bus, (b) thought we were in distress, or (c) were pointing shotguns in our direction to snipe us out and cease the ruckus. Jeff let Erik continue this for a good five minutes until I finally put a stop to it. We disembarked the vehicle and said our goodbyes. As we turned to walk away, Jeff looked down at his clipboard and gave me a puzzled look.

He said, "I thought Erik was afraid of noise."

"Well," I speculated, "I guess the bus calms him down in that area. I'm actually amazed."

As we walked very slowly backwards up the driveway, as we now routinely do, and watched Jeff drive away, he waved and turned on the red and yellow flashing lights for Erik.

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Blogger Heather said...

Isn't it so awesome how everyone is just 'taken' by our kids. Caleb's former bus driver had a love of train's connection with Caleb and just totally loves him. He even gave us a gift of tickets to the train museum, a train ride, and the model train display. People just LOVE them. our kids are so cool. I am so glad that you are able to relax, and RELAX... It does a body (and mind) good.

6:22 AM  
Blogger LZ Blogger said...

Nance ~ Very sweet and heart warming story here. Once again written with the pen of "an artist with words"! Thanks for the BEAUTIFUL picture you've painted! ~ jb///

6:33 AM  
Blogger camille said...

I think your bus driver is an angel. Seriously. What a lovely lovely person. I can only wish Connor has the same type of driver next year. Here's to hoping!!

Keep relaxing, it's great for you. Sometimes I think our worried bodies are in a constant state of stress. That's bad!! We have to learn to calm down. Enjoy your time at home alone. That's my favvvv. It almost never happens and when it does, I bask in the glory of the quiet and aloneness. But when Connor-rama comes back home I squeeze him to death like he's been gone for months. (Actual time, approx 30 min!)

7:13 AM  
Blogger Tara said...

Love this post. The last line about the bus driver turning on the flashing lights for Erik gave me goosebumps - actually almost made me cry. What a great man.

9:31 AM  
Blogger Julie said...

Oh I love your bus driver. He reminds me of my 1st grade bus driver , Art. He was so kind to me and I used to get so mad at the other kids because they would say "Art, Art, left a fart and blew the whole darn bus apart." I know it is funny but I was a sensitive kid. I agree with Camille we all need to learn to relax. I feel like having Noah has aged me 20 years.

9:37 AM  
Blogger Michelle said...

The first time I put Kayla on the bus I thought she would freak out. It was something she never experienced, it was a full-size bus, I was putting her on it and not staying with her. I wondered what she must have thought as the bus pulled away without me, if she was frightened (she had been crying when I dropped her off at preschool.) She looked apprehensive on the bus. When the driver dropped her off I asked how she did and if she cried - nope! She did fine. She loves the bus and is so excited to see it!

3:11 PM  
Blogger Laura said...

What a fabulous man that bus driver is!

I remember when Michaela went to first grade, it was the first time in 10 years I was alone without the kids for any extended time. I had a hard time getting used to it. I still have to fill most of my days with somethings to do, if I have too much time, my mind starts going on over-drive.
My girlfriends & I adopted Wednesdays as "Girls Day". This is our third year, since our girls went off to 1st grade. We spend the whole day together chatting & just hanging out, I highly recommend it!

3:44 PM  
Blogger Kerry said...

I read this early this morning and just remembered I hadn't posted yet ~ my vice lately is Clean House andI'm getting sucked in more and more each day ;)

I echo all the good thoughts about the bus driver - he seems to really know his kids. How great for you that you know someone is looking out for Erik :)

8:38 PM  
Blogger Rosemarie said...

Gettin' in the groove!

10:41 PM  
Blogger Katie said...

Thank you Nancy, i have had one of those days and reading your "story" has relaxed me. - i hate that word "story", it somehow lessons the deep impact your words always have on me-
Jeff sounds like a lovely man and i am so glad he and Eric have made a good connection.
thanks again Nance,

3:44 AM  

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