The day starts sore, tired, waking up on the couch.
I get the call at about 4am and pushing my comfort aside, I stub my way along the hallway littered with single socks, plastic bags, Halloween wrappers and a phantom cat.* (see appendix)
The mess is awful, but it is a direct result of the much celebrated migration of children into their beds. When this grand exit takes place, I typically stop doing anything responsible. If I couldn’t fit it into my day while the kids were awake, it will not get done – the absence of children means the absence of doing.
Which means I might trip over a bunch of shit at 4 in the morning as I make my way into my son’s room, where he stands at the end of his crib, either screaming or repetitively chanting the word mummay.
By the time it’s 6am, tea is made, breakfast has been eaten and there is a movie playing. The movie is to offer our neighbours a few extra hours of sleep but really I think it saves them nothing because inevitably both kids will start yelling before the sun is up.
Getting Dressed. My daughter is old enough to dress herself, but the boy is different. He’s up for a fight each and every morning and I sometimes have to resort to pinning his arms down with my knee so that I can keep him in one place long enough to put his clothes on. There is screaming, there is hitting, there is guilt and there is rage. Often when it’s at it’s worst, the awfulness of Getting Dressed bleeds into the walk to school/daycare.
If it’s not hell – if it’s quiet and unrushed – then my daycare walk consists of gibberish conversation.
Mommy is going to bring you to daycare.
Yep, we’ll go up a big hill. Do you think I can make it?
Mommy bee hee doo. Mommy doo.
Mommy, daddy fo bal par?
Sure, you and daddy can throw the ball in the park later.
Fo bal faar?
Sure, throw it far.
Sure Nate, you do. You throw it far.
Mommy fo bal farr?
I’ll throw it far. I’ll throw it father than dad.
Aw mumMAY. Bee daw?
Yeah, look at the big dog.
Mee. Mee bee daw?
No, it’s not your dog. Just say hi.
It’s stimulating stuff.
Of course, there are the days that I have to peel off my layers of clothes, that perhaps I wore because I wanted to look nice for the first time in weeks, and had 4 hours of sleep IN A ROW, and showered in the morning, and did my hair nicely, and wore a nice new scarf. And on these days, without fail, the boy has a runny nose, and because my head is full of a million things to do, I never have kleenex on me. Ever.
I look at his pathetic face dripping with mucus and feel sorry for his discomfort and then do the thing that comes without much thought. I remove my scarf and let him blow his nose with it, and then I shove it under the stroller, wondering how long it will stay there in that dirty little under basket full of forgotten and gross items. Probably a really long time. Now I’m a bit cold, a bit less fashionable but at least my boy is happy.
The drop off is usually a bag of mixed emotions. Recognizing friends, tugging on my shirt to keep me next to him. Desiring the play room and then the release of hurt as I walk away. I tighten my throat and keep my eyes forward. Every morning is hard. Even when they’re easy.
A public transit ride with strangers and it’s off to work.
A public transit ride with strangers and it’s back home.
An evaluation of everyone’s day. Daughter: how was your day? Usually the reply is unfocussed and one word. Glued to Netflix she barely answers, and I can barely muster the energy to care. Husband: how was your day? This response will depend on the day of course, and can range from a disinterested off-the-cuff answer as he busily makes dinner (which he does every night after a day of work, having picked the kids up and brought them home and then revved up the stove and tried to keep the kids at bay with food and discipline). Sometimes his answers are long and thoughtful, reflective of how his day truly was, and that in itself requires an adjustment to my homecoming. Since the boy cannot answer this question very easily, he usually responds to my entrance by running and jumping on me, which of course I love, but it means my attention is now split between him needing to be nursed and all the answers to the day I want to hear.
Getting through dinner is a war between trying to teach table manners and telling my daughter to turn up the TV. I’m severely conflicted between the hours of 5:30 and 7 – I don’t know who I am or what I stand for during those hours. But after the food is consumed, and the end is in sight, things settle down. It’s just running water for the bath. It’s just some splashes and some washing. It’s just the same book read 16 times, each time knowing he’s learning something new. It’s just hearing my husband read a cool book written by his cool friend to our daughter about a little girl trying to stop the tooth fairy. It’s just some chips, eaten secretly as our reward for surviving. It’s phones plugged in, alarms set, and we do it all over again tomorrow.
*You know the cat that dances right in front of your feet as you walk so that you’re convinced you’re about to step on it, but never do, and then you start looking for an opportunity to step on it just to teach it a lesson?