I leaned into the solid wood of the front door. It felt as though, if I pressed my forehead into the door hard enough, I would be able to melt through it and escape outside.
All I could think of was wanting to run away. Maybe not for good. No, not forever. Just long enough to decompress this tightly-wound feeling inside of me, like someone had been slowly spring-loading me, for months now. All it would take was a tiny nudge to send me careening in God-knows-which direction.
The day had started like any other. The baby woke up early and babbled away, while I dozed and did my best to ignore him for as long as possible. My three-year-old daughter woke around 7am, and we all played on the bed for a while, before getting up. I tried to keep the kids quiet, so as not to wake my teenager yet.
My husband was out of town on business. This was the last day he’d be gone, and I missed him, not just for his presence but his help, too. The time I’d been solo parenting hadn’t been unbearable, though; both my parents and my in-laws had helped enormously. I had nothing to complain about, really.
But it felt like a time bomb was ticking in my head.
I tried to start our morning routine, but every little thing made me want to bare my fangs and breathe fire. My daughter asking incessantly to watch TV, the baby trying to grab cat food to shove in his mouth, the cats getting under my feet. Things that might be merely annoying on a normal day were amplified by a thousand times or more, this morning.
I wanted to scream.
I needed to be done parenting, for just a little while. I didn’t want to follow my daughter’s trail of destruction, tidying up, making sure my son didn’t accidentally (on purpose) eat stickers or lick the markers she left the caps off of. I didn’t want to pull out the vacuum cleaner to clean up all the tiny grains of cat litter I saw scattered everywhere. I didn’t want to tell my teen, again, to put her dirty dishes in the dishwasher, or pick up her dirty laundry and put it in the clothes hamper.
I wanted to run away.
The tension in my neck and face were beginning to wear on me. I physically hurt from holding back the shouting I wanted to do. I heard myself snapping at all three kids — the baby, even? He had no idea what he was doing! — and then berated myself for it. But I wanted to keep going, to finally scream my laundry list of ways I felt wronged and let down as their parent.
The day wore on, and the need to escape grew. I had never felt it so strongly. By then, my teenager was at school and my three-nager was at preschool, so it was just me and my son.
I held him close to me, nestled on my hip, and leaned into our front door. What would it feel like, to walk away? I felt overwhelmed with guilt just entertaining the notion, but at the same time, relieved to acknowledge that the thought existed. I went to put him down for his nap.
As I returned to the door, a silence descended on the house. My arms felt light, without the weight of my son. I briefly wondered if I would float away.
I opened the front door. Felt the fresh air blowing gently on my face, and the warmth of the sun on my skin. I took a deep, long breath.
And closed the door.