After 12 straight hours alone with the kids, there are days when I find myself babbling. I start to say something to one of the kids like you know maybe you should stop screaming and you - you - you stop holding your sister by the ankles and making her scream I don't care if she asked you to do it that screaming is stripping my last nerve. Except it doesn't come out like that: it comes out like you you oughta not to do that cause you shouldn't oughta do that cause cause cause hey look at that wall. Bang bang bang. My head hurts. Ow.
It's like an out of body experience. I hear the words. I know I'm speaking but I can no longer make meaning or form coherent thoughts. This is one of those moments when you sound ridiculous and the kids know it and you know you've heard this kind of talk before - yeah, your parents used to talk like that. Their mouths would open and words would come out but they made absolutely no sense whatsoever. Those parents: ideally, they'd be around now and in your house (most likely laughing at you), but finally serving some sort of utilitarian function - like helping out with the kids. Like taking them out for ice cream or teaching them to throw lawn darts. Circumstances being what they are (parent's not dead but crazy- remember I said ideally) that is not an option for me.
So I'm learning to navigate this moment by taking a mommy time out. Oh sometimes a cocktail sure would be nice - and I've been known to load the kids in the car and drive to some kid- friendly place like Chevy's so they can have balloons and ice cream and some form of cheese or chicken and I can have a margarita with dinner. And after a reasonable time and a pitcher of water I take them home. I've been known to do that - though not too often because now that would be a problem wouldn't it? Or else I whip out the chocolate, sugar, eggs, flour, butter and vanilla and mix up a batch of brownies. Afterwards I hold the chocolate-covered spoon in my mouth like the serotonin just can't get to my brain fast enough which is absolutely true. Other times it's best to get the kiddies in the tub and playing so I can sit on the floor and regain my composure or at least my ability to turn thoughts into speech. There's also the trick of urging them into their pajamas with the promise of "hey you'll have lot's of time to read to yourselves in bed!" This never works never ever but I still throw it out there 'coz I've heard that if you repeat something long enough the information eventually takes hold. Like you have to repeat it a lot. Like zillions - no bazillions of times. Like you have to say it until the words lose all meaning and even the syllables - what are those? right? - even the syllables and speech itself, speech itself seems like about as useful as having a tail or an extra toe, and then maybe, maybe someday soon like after all those bazillion times, the kids will suddenly, inexplicably find themselves wanting to put on their jammies and get in bed with a really really good book without even pausing to demand cookies and milk. I wish they were like the dog.
You toss the ball throw the frisbee shine the flashlight and you and he can be amused for hours and he may even not eat a diaper or scarf your dinner when you aren't looking or puke on your shoes. The kids are not like the dog. But then again, they don't eat diapers - score! Here we are at the end of the day and they aren't tired oh no they maybe running on fumes but it only energizes them. It only adds to their determination to eek out the juice from this day. Sometimes all I can do is shut up and let them run it out. And this is fun, as long as no one is being bodily harmed, the house isn't being set on fire, and if - A Big If - I can take a step back and just enjoy them without being conscious of how freaking overwhelmed I feel. No lie. It's hard to manage this. But I've been working on it with varying degrees of success. Maybe it's about finding the strength or maybe it's the giving up of getting your way or just being so freaking tired that your head feels numb and you can't fight back anymore. But you take a step back and you see how alive they are and how this moment when the sun is just so and Marshall is sitting in the pasta pot and hugging Carter and Olivia is flitting across the room like a flower fairy is so very fleeting and what a gift it is, and there is a trail of toys and clothes and shoes and paper clips and books and tissue that leads from one end of the house to the other and spaghetti sauce is smeared on the table, this one moment is singular and will never, no not ever, not even in a bazillion years, this moment will not come round again.