First of all, Lena, our nickname for Elena is pronounced "Layna." Lili, short for Eliza is pronounced "Lie lie." I dubbed Elena Lena Loo pretty early on but can't take the credit for my Eliza. That nickname was given to her by her very first babysitter.
The girls spent the day with their father while I continued my search for our new home. I made it home early enough to have dinner with them and then after their father left, I took them to the local fair. As soon as they saw the lights, their eyes lit up but unfortunately it didn't start out as our best night. Due to their age/heigh difference there wasn't many ride choices for both girls. I've crossed over to the no spinning rides ever side so my poor little Lena Loo simply wasn't tall enough to ride the first ride with her sister. Instead, she was stuck on the side of the fence with me, watching her sister ride with some random kid.
She's been sick off and on all week with various bouts of fatigue and stomach issues. Today, all I could think about when I was away from them is how much I couldn't wait to get back. It was especially hard to leave her because she hasn't been well. I picked her up as she cried and discouraged her from putting her thumb in her mouth by asking her to hug Mama. She looked at the ride, her face so sad and there was nothing I could do to make her feel better. I love Elena so much but she gets far more comfort from sucking her thumb than she does from me. This does make me sad; at eight I can still make Eliza feel better. But it also makes me love the mystery that's her and appreciate when she does want me all the more. I don't really know how Elena feels about me.
Eliza came off the ride complaining the guy put her in a car that didn't spin and agreed to go on the dizzy dinosaurs with Elena. Elena happily waved from her big spinning purple reptile (or is it a bird), the fair finally more than a haze of bright lights for her. Afterwards, I directed the girls to the swing ride and Elena happily followed her sister in line only to get shot down for again not making the height requirement. Since the seats weren't big enough for me, again Elena was stuck on the sidelines, crying as her sister flew up into the air. Again, my arms around her offered little comfort. We found a fun house that the three of us could walk through but the upstairs was closed off so we made the most of the mirror maze. We tried for the kiddie roller coaster but the guy shook his head when we got to the line saying it was closed. The fireworks started and we watched them for a while but they seemed pretty lackluster. We ended the night at the carousel where the ride operator, a tooth gapped man drunker than most frat boys, told us we would be the last ride. As we swirled around and the calliope played, I saw the look of pure happiness cross Elena's face.
Sometimes I wait my whole life for that look.
We headed to the car while the fireworks still blasted, the big finale happening right as I started the car.
"Don't go, yet," Eliza said from the backseat. "I want to watch."
I opened the moonroof and we watched the big finish, firework after firework blaze across the night sky, ending with series of star-shaped white bursts. The traffic wasn't even that bad getting out and the girls were happy in the backseat. I didn't hear about the rides Elena missed, only about the crescent moon in the sky and milk Elena wanted when she got home.
Life is a series of moments and that was a good one. I put in an application for an apartment that I don't want but if we get approved, I'll take. I simply want the search to be over and to get the girls registered in school. They're going to get stuck on a wait list as it is because this is how things work in New York. I wish I could feel happy about the move to New York but I'm not and I don't know that I'm going to be. Tonight I researched paralegal, montessori instructor, any kind of job that would keep me from making this move.
And tonight C, now unhappy that his princesses would have to live in Queens, offered to take the girls so I could "pursue my career." I don't know what's going on with him and if he really wants them or he really wants to scare me from making the move to New York but I told him that I thought the girls belonged with me. He presented his arguments. My hours are terrible and with him they could live in a nicer apartment near a nicer school. While I'll have to hire babysitters to take them to school and put them to bed, he can take them to school and get home before they go to bed. I've known C for a long time and I've never known him to be home from work early each night but he claims he's ready to scale back. I want what's best for my kids and it's tearing me up because I wonder if he is best.
But then I realize this is C world and while my job is far from ideal, even if I'm at work I'm the primary caregiver. I'm in constant contact with the sitters, I speak to the girls each night and I offer school and homework input. In C's world, he gets up in the morning, plops a couple of frozen waffles in the toaster and makes eggs, even though the girls don't eat eggs, tells the girls to get dressed, brush their teeth and then walks them happily to school. He comes home to a running dishwasher, the girls bathed and fed, their homework done and sends the babysitter/housekeeper home for the night so he can watch TV or read stories to the girls.
In my world, I'll come home after a long day at work and sift through the girl's backpacks. Before the sitter leaves, I'll ask her about the day, what the girls talked about and if they seemed happy. I'll arrange snacks and lunches for the following school day. I'll leave notes for the sitter if necessary and kiss their sleeping faces. Some days, I should be able to take them to school. And some nights, I might be home just before they go to bed. If this job doesn't get cancelled and doesn't end when it's supposed to, five and a half months after it starts, I'll ask to alternate (job share) so I can be home more. I will take off the first day of school and possibly Halloween and if anyone complains about that, I'll remind them I'm a department of one and I must do this sometimes. This isn't a career I even care about anymore, I'm doing it because I have to and I'm hoping that by moving to New York, I will cut down the time the girls and I spend apart.
Because being the primary caregiver's about more than just how often I'm home. It's about the the day to day stuff, it's about the look of pure happiness, about the fact that the three of us have something together. That's not to say they don't have it with their father too but he is not the person I am. And just because he works shorter hours doesn't mean he ever will be.