“AM AFRAID OF KIDS TONIGHT.” my husband types from downstairs via IM (P.S. get with it Ralph – I am all tweet, all the time!). It’s true: the children’s recent nocturnal activities of playing so rough and laughing so hard they hover on the verge of vomiting is a bit alarming to watch. I blame myself: on the days I don’t take the kids out for a lengthy walk, run, or bike during the day apparently their energies are thwarted and must emerge in crazy-play before they can sleep.
This morning the children slept in while I started on breakfast. It’s a race to have something prepared before Nels wakes – often in a foul mood. Sure enough, I see him out of the corner of my eye as he topples into the kitchen, his blonde hair mussed: “You haven’t made me something to eat!” he accuses me immediately. But I have a plan: his sister joins us and the two of them wash their hands then help me finish fresh oven-baked scones, sliced strawberries in honey, whipped cream. While I wash dishes and we wait for the scones the kids set the table; my spot with the tiniest plate imaginable. Nels pulls open the oven more than once, impatient for the baked goods. Finally the repast is ready (11 o’clock). The sounds the kids make as they eat – gulps, moans of appreciation, “This is good!” – make me laugh until tears come in my eyes. “No laughing at the table,” Nels tells me sternly, over his spoon.
At 1 AM I get a call from a realtor involved with the house owners: can they bring clients by in a few hours? This despite my requests for 24 hour notice. I think I come off as unfriendly as I tell her yes, it’s fine, but please next time, 24 hours. The truth is my kids are gamboling in the same room (another thing: I have one phone, a cheap one with a cord and everything, and can’t move from the spot I talk) as I try to get through this conversation, adjust the remaining hours in my day: now I have to clean instead of play or sew or run off into town. I hang up and do my best, The kids clean their room and help evacuate kitties from the house (I estimate 80% of my housecleaning involves bedding changes, sweeping, and dusting for cat hair).
Just before 3 I abandon house tidying (the cats have somehow made it back inside and are lolling in Roman fashion on the beds re-made just for them) and round up the kids for their weekly sewing class. Sophie’s quilt is almost done. Today she finishes the borders and backing. I wander about the store, sipping coffee, talking with the shopkeep, purchasing a couple yards of yummy flannel on sale. My son sews for one hour (out of two) and then basically trundles around the store, alternately being sweet or grabbing up large, sharp equipment and dancing away, hoping we give chase (in this way he is an awful lot like our male kitty at about 3 AM). One of the employees with grown children waits to catch my eye before smiling and saying: “This too shall pass,” she tells me, meaning Yes, I See You’re Irritated, and Yes, He’s Only Five.
At first I feel my typical low-grade irritation; I think to myself, I could care less for the sympathy (empathy?) of strangers when my children are misbehaving – or rather, behaving inconveniently. But of course, this is exactly what I need: support. This woman means well, and what’s more, she’s correct. This will pass. The child is growing up, he is not grown. I think I am often running at a low grade defensiveness and anger toward the so very many rude strangers – and friends and family! – who have delivered so many unhelpful (and often, head-up-the-arse) comments with regards to children and their public personas.
In fact, as I walk my son next door to pick up some popcorn my discussion with him is tempered with my own good-mama presence: This too shall pass. I tell him look, I pay every week for him to sew, and I’d like him to sew. He says – this, my contrary son who will dig in his heels if he senses any kind of power struggle – “Okay”. He says Okay because I am speaking to him without anger – I am making a request, I am open to hearing his thoughts. We are walking together to get him some popcorn, because that’s what he’s patiently waited for and I promised him. I vow next week to make sure to feed him properly and – even if I have to clean or whatever! – make sure to give him lots of one-on-one attention before taking him off to class. And that’s all there is to it. For today’s challenge, anyway.
Tonight as the kids run and frolic I reply to my husband – come read to the kids. Setting them up reading and then you can sneak away and they will spend a quiet hour at least. Sophie is reading a book on astronomy; Nels alongside her Where The Wild Things Are, one of his favorites. I remind myself: must make a Max costume for my boy. It will suit him.