Last Saturday I got mad. I don’t get mad very often. I’d been building up to this particular tantrum for the past few months. Jack has been busy. Jack’s always busy. Since the first of the year, Jack has been busier than normal. In addition to his more-than full-time job as a magazine editor, Jack took on too many extracurricular activities.
First, Jack took a screenwriting class in February and March. Every Monday evening, when Angela had pitching clinic from 5:30 to 6:30 for her softball team, Jack went to class. His class ran from 6 to 9. The first pitching clinic, I sent Rebecca with Angela. “You’ll need a catcher,” I told Angela. “I don’t know how to catch. Rebecca does. Besides, I’ll be watching Lucy and Johnny and Ben.” Angela went. Rebecca went. They didn’t like going without a parent. “Everyone else had a mom or dad with them,” Angela said.
Over the next few weeks, Jack missed a couple of classes to take Angela to pitching clinic. She still didn’t go to as many as she should have.
When screenwriting class finished, Jack turned his attention to the yearbook. Two years ago, I signed Jack up to be the yearbook advisor at the small Catholic academy where our kids go to school. Jack is a talented editor and designer. In March and April, he scheduled yearbook meetings after school and on weekends. I tried to be a good, supportive spouse. After all, I was the one who got him into the yearbook-advisor position in the first place.
One Saturday as Jack loaded up his car to head off to an all-morning yearbook meeting, he said, “I’ll meet you at Johnny’s T-ball game. I promise things will slow down as soon as I get the yearbook done.”
After Jack got the yearbook sent off to the printer, he was appointed to the executive fundraising committee at school. Last year, the school purchased some land in San Marcos. They’re trying to build a permanent facility so they can move out of the commercial space they occupy now. Because of Jack’s expertise, he was named head of the publicity committee. During April, Jack spent long hours attending meetings and designing fund-raising brochures. He also got roped into playing in a band with some friends at church. Between fund-raising meetings, he started going to band rehearsals.
Finally, three weeks ago, Jack signed up to take a two-week photography course at North County Camera. He’s been interested in photography for a long time. In the past year or so, he’s begun taking family portraits for friends. Half the Christmas cards we received last year contained pictures Jack had taken.
Last week, Jack had a class or a meeting or a rehearsal every night except Thursday. I tried not to complain. Every night, I made dinner and got the kids fed and cleaned up the kitchen and did the whole bath and bedtime routine by myself. Some nights, I was still awake when Jack got home. Other nights I wasn’t.
Saturday morning, Jack slept in. I got up with the kids at 6:30 and went downstairs to make breakfast. I planned to take Angela and Lucy to Target when it opened at 8:00. Angela needed a birthday present for a party she was going to that afternoon. Lucy needed craft materials for a class project. Jack was scheduled to spend most of the day taking pictures at a first Holy Communion. He had to leave the house a little after 9:00. Sunday he would be away all day at photography class and band rehearsal.
I stood at the kitchen counter and asked the kids, “What do you want for breakfast?”
No one answered. I asked again. The kids stared at the TV. Somewhere in my gut, my frustration at spending another long weekend by myself with the kids exploded like a depth charge.
WHAT DO YOU WANT FOR BREAKFAST?” I bellowed.
“Sourdough toast,” Johnny answered.
“DOES EVERYONE WANT SOURDOUGH TOAST?”
“Okay, Mom,” Rebecca and Angela and Lucy and Ben muttered.
As I slammed open the cupboard where I keep the bread, I heard Jack get out of bed. I heard the stairs creak as I got plates out of another cupboard and threw them down on the counter.
“Can I do that for you?” Jack asked. He reached for the butter knife and glanced at the sourdough bread in the toaster.
“NO,” I told him.
“I’m happy to help,” he said.
“No,” I said and started to cry. “That’s not your job. Your job is to go off and have fun and pursue your hobbies and take pictures and play in a band. My job is to stay at home and feed the kids junk food and let them watch too much TV and play on the computer too much so you can be mad at me for that.” I dissolved into sobs.
Jack held me for a moment. He took the bread from the toaster and slathered it with butter. He carried the plates into the family room.
While the kids ate, Jack told me, “I’m really sorry. I didn’t know everything would pile up like this. I promise things will be better next week.”
When I took Angela and Lucy to Target, I felt so guilty for yelling that I bought Jack a new shirt. He wore it for the rest of the day.