The weight of responsibility

Yesterday, Sara and the kids arrived from their long walk home from school.

“Ollie, where’s your backpack?” asked Sara.
Ollie looked around confused. “I don’t know.”
“You were wearing it when we were at school, but you’re not wearing it now.”

Ollie was just as puzzled as anybody. He’d had it, and now it was gone. Poof. Quite frankly, that’s not the sort of thing he usually has to worry about.

Now, to Ollie’s credit, he felt pretty terrible about the whole thing (and the backpack was recovered this morning…he’d taken it off by Evie’s class). But wouldn’t it be great to be a kid again? Where you could just blithely walk about 30 minutes home and never for a second wonder, “Where’s my backpack?” or “Am I carrying everything I’m supposed to have?” or “What am I going to make for dinner? How are we going to get the kids to their activities on Saturday? Are we saving enough for retirement? What about college? Are my kids safe at school? Are any of us safe? Is the world going to hell? Does that guy look like he could possibly be infected with zombie flu?

There is a weight to responsibility. Even when you’re not thinking about it, it’s there. The weight of kids, and money, and your job, and your relationship with your spouse, home ownership, friends…I could go on. As an adult, it’s such a common feeling, that you almost can’t notice it until it’s gone.

For example, lets say I’m at home, but an aunt or uncle or grandparent or whoever is playing with the kids. I’m not actively taking charge of the kids, but the weight of responsibility is still with me. I’m still thinking, “Are they hungry? Should I make a snack? When’s the last time they went to the bathroom? Is the laundry clean? Do I need to get milk from the grocery store? Does Ollie need a new winter coat? Are the kids getting enough protein? Does that guy look like he could possibly be infected with zombie flu?

I’m not even aware of all these thoughts, buzzing around in my head like gnats. But when the kids are gone for the weekend? Hallelujah, the weight is lifted! Suddenly I don’t have to worry about making sure they eat, or get somewhere on time, or have clean clothes, or a million other things. It’s like a muscle relaxes that you didn’t even know was tensed.

It’s easy to say, “Hey, you should like, not do that.” But it’s not quite as easy to do in real life. Being in charge, having to make decisions, it’s not something that you’re actively *doing*, so stopping doesn’t really make sense. (And forget going on vacation, that’s MORE stressful, if anything.)

It sure would feel magnificent to be able to set down those burdens like a backpack, even for a moment.

Life: “Were the kids housed, clothed, nourished, and loved today? Did your work project meet the deadline? Did you pick up toilet paper and fix the drain and make the car payment?”
Me, confused: “Uh…I don’t know. I’m pretty sure I had all that under control, but, uh…I don’t seem to have it anymore. To be perfectly honest, I thought someone else was taking care of that.”

::Squints at reader, reading this right now::
“Hey, does that guy look like he could possibly be infected with zombie flu?”

2 thoughts on “The weight of responsibility

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