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What The Rare Independence Day Means For Parents

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I've never really cared much about Independence Day -- not because I'm not incredibly grateful to all the people who fought for my freedom -- but because here, in Texas, Independence Day falls right smack dab in the middle of a time when the air outside boils up to a thousand degrees before the sun even comes up, and we're all just about done with summer, except we have about six more months of it.

I have a kid who has a birthday four days after Independence Day, and that was a delightful pregnancy, let me tell you. I begged my husband to let us move somewhere cooler that year. Like maybe Antarctica. But, obviously, I couldn't travel to another continent when I was eight months pregnant, so, instead, I lounged indoors, where the air conditioner rattled to keep up, and poured my sweat all over the couch, hoping the sauna would somehow induce labor. It didn't.

As we were nearing this day, which is about the time when I start planning for my son's birthday party, I thought about what it would be like to have a Parents' Independence Day. I considered what freedom would mean to parents.

Husband and I get a little taste of this every now and then, when our parents take the kids for a weekend. And here's what I've noticed about what freedom from children looks like:

Getting in the car, starting it and accomplishing rubber to road within a minute.

As it is, it when Husband and I announce to the kids that it's time to leave, it generally takes us another half an hour (if we're lucky) to get out the door, because someone will misplace the shoes he had on two seconds ago, someone will decide he needs to drop a load (and it's always the one who takes twenty minutes to finish and ten more minutes to wipe -- with half the toilet paper roll), someone will slip on a banana peel his brother threw down on the driveway (because it's biodegradable!) and face plant into the hood of the car -- a damage hit that will need a giant Band-Aid across his face to staunch the bleeding (which really isn't bad. He thinks it's worse than it is) -- someone will play musical chairs with all the empty seats in the van instead of just getting in his own, and someone else will realize he forgot to put on underwear.

Going to bed whenever you want.

I didn't appreciate this enough before I was a parent. I just went to bed and didn't think about the fact that there could be someone waiting just outside the door, breathing underneath the crack (because I locked said door), trying to let me know that his brother stole his blanket and he doesn't want any of the four others that are already on his bed. And no amount of ignoring him will make him go away. He's like the worst imaginary friend, because he's not imaginary.

Sleeping in on the weekends.

Even though, when my boys are in school, they rarely get out of bed even when I wake them up at 6:30, during the summer and on weekends, they're sure to be up by 5:45 at the latest. I just try to pretend I don't hear the noise of feet. But anxiety usually pulls me from bed, whether I like it or not, because I know what happens when my boys are unaccompanied for any amount of time. Someone will try to fly off the top of the van with a kite strapped to him (even though he saw his brother get mangled yesterday for the same thing) or challenge his brother to a duel with steak knives or pour himself a giant bowl of oats with milk and leave it for the flies.

A perfectly tidy house.

I don't know if my house was ever perfectly tidy, honestly. I have a Husband, after all. And also a me. I've been known to put a book down somewhere and lose it in the stacks that follow me everywhere.

Eating in peace, while it's still hot.

It never fails. I bring out some leftovers from a date night with Husband, and the kids are immediately circling me like scavengers. "Can I have a bite?" they'll say.

"No," I'll say.

"Why not?" they'll say, their faces falling into their saddest pout ever.

"Because it's mine," I'll say.

"You're mean," they'll say.

"That's right. I am," I'll say, because I'll do whatever it takes to eat my ziti al forno in peace. I deserve this.

Cooking for two.

I don't even remember what this looks like. That's probably why, when Husband and I send the kids off for a quiet weekend, we mostly eat out. Because how do you cook for two when you're used to cooking for a small army? And, perhaps even more importantly, how do you enjoy a salad without someone complaining about it for you?

Silence.

I love silence. I love sitting in a room and hearing nothing but my own thoughts. It doesn't happen often, because someone at my house is always talking. Usually at least four at a time. I get to the end of a day with my boys, and there are so many words stuffed up in my head that I feel like I might explode. Just the other day, I told the 9-year-old that I was on word overload and just needed a few minutes of quiet, and he said, "Well, you haven't exploded yet" and kept right on talking about the next stop motion movie he was going to make -- which is super cool, but words. So many words.

I know these freedoms seem really nice on the outside, but, truthfully, by the time a weekend without my boys ends, I'm ready to get them all back, because there's something about silence and easy road trips and eating in peace that feels a little eerie now. I'm glad for the madness that kids bring to my life, because it's not the freedom that matters so much as the living. And my boys show me how to live every moment of every day -- by "accidentally" throwing dodge balls at my face and sneaking bites of my date-night leftovers when I get up to pour myself a drink (it's just water, I promise) and gathering the wildflowers in the front yard, which they'll try to put in my hair, dirty roots and all.

My boys have shown me how to play, how to dream, how to love. They have freed me in a million ways.

So my Independence Day? It happened when I had kids.

A version of this essay first appeared on Crash Test Parents. Follow Rachel on Twitter and Facebook.