Today he was away and we had a really great day. My mom came over and we went to the first farmer’s market of summer and had a truly terrific time. Henry and Arden’s experience of the market compared to last summer was palpably improved; rather than passively observing and tentatively interacting with the vendors and food, they were excitingly pointing and talking about every sight, particularly the waterfront.
When we got home, I threw together a healthy, if unstructured, meal, and then it all started to be exactly what you would imagine pre-bedtime would be for three children under age three.
I made a dozen trips from the table to the sink to carry dishes, wipe mouths, wipe the floor, wipe the hands, remove the food, stack the plates. Hunter cried until I let him out of his seat and then speed-crawled to the slide to do his newfound head-first dives. Henry asked to go outside in his bare feet, with Arden immediately following. Two minutes later I was on my hands and knees wiping grape skins off the floor when Arden barreled past, announcing her need for the toilet.
A minute later Henry called from the backyard, “Arrrrrrrdennnnnn! Arden!”
“I’m wiping right now!” she hollered back, in a classic unselfconscious toddler overshare.
I was too amused by the cute exchange to actually process the information, and by the time I did, I heard splashing. One should never hear splashing coming from the bathroom of a toddler.
I darted into the room to find she had not only peed, as I had assumed, and was attempting to handle the situation on her own. There was no mess, there was no issue, but she had put paper after paper into the toilet and was now holding one high and moving it around as if she were stirring a bowl of soup.
Then like a shot in my mind — had she closed the screen door? Was Hunter crawling toward it AS I was wiping her?
I raced to the back door to close it and glanced in the living room to see he was still contentedly playing by the slide.
After handling Arden’s situation, I got all the kids outside and we were having a happy time running around and getting our final ya-ya’s out until last call for bedtime…wherein Henry promptly tripped on the pavement and scraped an elbow. Minor! I promise it was very minor, but as I hugged him to comfort him, the pain made him angry enough to bite me across my collarbone so hard I actually screamed.
Moments like this are when I want to call human resources and say that these work conditions are unacceptable.
We made it inside and up the stairs to their bedrooms. I changed the twins into pajamas, Hunter cried from exhaustion, and I took him into his room to get him ready for bed. I told the twins it was time for quiet and to stay in their room while I changed Hunter.
One minute later I step into the hallway to see Henry dragging the last of their rug from their room.
Before I could go with my first instinct of rage, I looked up and saw them dancing around in the altered space, a space they changed, a space they made their own on a whim. I walked Hunter inside and he broke into a little chortle, tears still sitting on his cheeks. He smiled ear to ear and then sucked his thumb as he watched his siblings cavort around the room.
I herded the clan into the bathroom for tooth brushing, and then sent the twins back to their room while I lay Hunter down for the night. I stood rocking him, singing to him while he sucked his thumb with his head on my chest.
“All creatures of our God and King, lift up your voice and with us sing. Oh praise Him, hallelujah…”
The sound of the twins’ laughter from their room next door was so joyful, so abundantly glad, I realized they are
lifting up their voices. I so often try to quiet them, to stifle that joy in the name of order and my own sanity, and as I rocked Hunter and listened to them I was overwhelmed with the knowledge of their happiness, of their limitless love for one another and their lives. Despite my failings, despite my frustrations and selfishness, this remains. They remain, just as they are. Pealing melodies of belly laughs down the hall.
I laid Hunter down and went back into the twins’ room. Normally I’d curtail the fun and usher them to bed, but I just leaned on the doorframe and watched, taking the best video my flippant memory could muster, brand-ironing the image on my heart of Henry chasing Arden, of Arden being chased, of them catching each other, tumbling down to the ground in a heap of happiness.