Mother as starfish

Today I felt like a starfish on the rack. Pulled in all directions from each limb to the point at which bloody rips started to show.

I changed a little one’s PJs near midnight last night and then took him down to the basement to sleep. We laughed over silly things until I averred that seriously, bedtime was long ago.

I felt a gentle tug on my foot at 4 am. The other one had woken up and wanted me. “Please go back to bed, honey. It’s 4 am.” Later, we had to drag him from his cocoon to get to camp on time.

There were so many tears and so much drama before 9 am. Everyone up but unrested, tired and acting it. I thought to myself, “And I imagined ‘boys’ meant I sidestepped this emotionality,” before nodding back into the present and realizing it didn’t mean that at all. It simply means emotionality shows itself differently, and while it often drives me crazy, it’s no more or less valid and should be both reined in and nurtured.

Back home, I intervened in our dying dishwasher’s cleaning cycle to manually release the detergent tab. I walked Percy, urging him ever-forward on a longer path because I had to snap a picture of our neighborhood church’s sign. It makes me happy and proud and hopeful.

There was so much laundry and so many dishes and the unread email list vastly outnumbered the reads. There were messages to return, a birthday cake recipe to print, a lunch to shower and ready for, a meeting to attend. I was alerted by Facebook's notification flag so many times I went dark, fleeing from all social media except for the blissfully quiet Instagram which is just a whole bunch of pretty on scroll.

And the fruit flies. Oh, the fruit flies. It is peak season for their annual migration into our fruit-filled kitchen. I hate their gnattiness and while I pride myself on being a hell of a fruit fly assassin, their numbers are too great this year, and I’m swarmed.

My meeting ran three minutes late, and I found Oliver outside on the camp steps –mere feet from where I was and where the camp heads should have told him I sat- looking heartbroken and terrified: was I ever going to arrive? His lip was trembling, and I ran to him, scooped him up and asked what I could do. Flummoxed, which made it all worse, he said he didn’t know. Cupcakes? Fro-yo? The bookstore? “I just don’t know, Mama.” Oh, my heart.

I took him to Fancy Cakes and purchased a fancy cupcake which he devoured gleefully. He eyed the case again, and guilt-ridden and wild with love, I bought a second cupcake. 75% of the way through, “Mama, I don’t feel so good.” Dumb mom.

Home to read stories and drink fizzy water, and the laundry. So much of it. Pokemon and tears over a poor Energy Card decision. I think, can’t you just listen to me read to you or play with blocks? Why aren’t kids just kids anymore? Or was it always this way.

Back out to pick Jack up at his big-kid camp at a local university. Come to find Days of Our Lives was on the cafeteria TV and he saw a sex scene. He’s not yet nine. I was upset but stayed calm and asked, “Well, honey, do you have any questions? Do you feel OK?” I emailed the director asking her –telling her- to make sure the damn TV is OFF or at least on age-appropriate programming. I tell her, “My son has never seen this before, but now he has.” Via Days of Our fucking Lives. #NOTreallife

More overtired tears shed over the ban on dessert after dinner because the cupcakes and the fresh jelly donut I bought yesterday just for Jack and wrapped carefully and packed in his lunch box just so. “You are SO unfair, Mom!” is thrown in my face, and I think to myself, “fuck this spoiled attitude!” while also thinking, “What a tired little boy he is. I’m glad I’m here for him.” while also thinking, “Hell, it’d be nice to not be here right now.”

I ask for the Energy Cards back because “y’all cannot talk to me or each other in the manner that you are” and then get major attitude from one about bath time while the other, always thrilled to get naked, undresses but then just wants us to observe his bottom.

I think they get clean, I brush their teeth, tuck one in, listen as the one who refused to finish dinner (which of course I’ve put away) tells me that he is now starving and wants it back. The dog, cat, washing machine, phone. They are ALL talking. And look at me, still in a dress and swingy necklace from lunch. Who am I kidding? Was that even today?

The little one says he might “fwhoa up and can I please have a Tums?” “What a good idea, darling, and how about some fizzy water too.”

The big one says, “Mom, can we do the puzzle together because I love to do things with you,” and I say, “Sure honey, you are always so good at finding the confusing pieces.”

And I’m so glad I’m here although I often want to be there, and isn’t that just the thing about parenthood.

 Looks like a hug

Looks like a hug

Finally, they are in bed. I think for good. My starfish arms have freed and are retracting themselves, some good cheese, a watermelon and spicy watercress salad and a bourbon shrub eased the rest. Tom called, “I’m going to be late.” And I said, “Baby, that is A-OK.”