The Playroom: Back to school

Author: Maraya Steadman '89, '90MBA

Maraya Steadman

Late this the summer, while on a family trip to the mountains, I walked into the room where my children were sleeping and sat down. I watched them as they lay there, limbs askew, sticking out from under the lodge-themed blankets. I listened to them breathe, their bodies lean, healthy and strong, tanned from the summer sun. I thought about how happy they were, how happy I was to just sit there in the middle of the floor staring at them.

I then went into my own room, crawled into bed and cried myself to sleep. In seven years my daughter will no longer share a room with her siblings on vacations, no longer share our daily lives. She will leave. They will all leave. Although I would like to think they will come back from time to time, they will always leave again.

And I try to remember that, because now that summer is ending I am so tired of listening to the fighting and the wailing and the tears which rise up in cacophony of torment and anger over television remotes, iPads, dolls, Barbies, Legos, the furry Blackhawks blanket, assorted plastic weaponry and personal real estate.

Summer is so over for me. We have hiked it and biked it, been to parks and been to camps and been camping; we’ve gone to the lake and the pool; we have sprayed it down with bug spray and covered it in sunscreen. I’m out of tricks, and I’m letting everyone watch too much television. I am worn down. I’ve reached a place of “I don’t care if you drink Coke or watch television or eat cheezy puffs while standing on your head in the front room, just stop fighting.”

“Get out of my room, then you stay out of my room, I never go in your room, yes you do, no I don’t, you’re an idiot, I’m telling Mom, don’t you dare, tattle, scream, yank, push, slam, crash, ew, yuck, splash, spill, it’s not my fault, don’t touch my stuff, you did too, no I didn’t, shut up, no you shut up, don’t tell me what to do, you’re not the boss of me, that’s mine, no it’s not, yes it is, no it’s not, give it to me, why don’t you make me, don’t look at me, you started it, I can do what I want, it’s my turn, no it’s not, yes it is, no it’s not, this is so not fair, I never get a turn, that’s mine, you took it, stay out, everyone stay out of my room, no one in my room, I hate him, what, apparently, no I didn’t, yes you did, I’m writing this because she’s annoying and luckily doesn’t know how to read.”

It’s a twirling tornado of sibling torment and annoyance that just rises up in this giant funnel cloud wiping out my patience and my sanity and creating a desperate need for me to be able to sit down and look through a Pottery Barn catalog without someone yelling “Mom! Mom! Mom!”

Once while surfing channels I heard a famous actor on an interview show answer the question, “What is your favorite word?” He paused, took a deep breath and then he exhaled and spoke in breathy adoration, “Father.”

All I could think was “Oh please, how many nannies do you have? Because if I hear the word ‘Mom’ one more time in the next five minutes I’m going to lock myself in the bathroom with a plastic weapon and a bag of Oreos.” Then I’ll tape a sign on the door, “I’m writing this because you are all annoying me and luckily, you know how to read, go away, be quiet, stop fighting.”

I am desperate for my children to go back to school. I am desperate for them to get back to routines and for them to get out of the house so I can get something done, desperate for quiet and some solitude. So I try to bring myself back to that moment sitting on the floor of their bedroom in the mountains, because every year, when my three children leave for that first day of school, as I wave them good-bye, I don’t want them to go away. And every year, I sit down in the quiet empty house and cry. I miss them.

Maraya Steadman, who lives in a Chicago suburb, is a stay-at-home mother of three children. Her website is Email her at