Did I ever mention that we took Junior out of preschool before Diddly was born? My maternity leave started in December and I wanted him home with me and his new brother.
Taking Junior out was a welcome relief. He never really took to preschool; drop-offs continued to be a disaster, even after five months. And holy hell, the price tag for three days a week could have provided food for a small continent.
Besides all that, Junior was going through a phase where he wouldn't go to the bathroom without first removing his pants. When I picked Junior up at school, his pants were always on backwards. Always. When I asked the teacher about it, she said he wanted them that way, and who was she to stand in the way of his personal expression?
Personal expression my ass. The truth was she didn't want to help him put his damn pants on. I know that because Junior told me as much.
For what we were paying, his pants should have been washed and pressed and on correctly.
Since he's been home with me, Junior and I have spent a lot of time together (obviously). I've loved it. I really have. Having said that, caring for two small children has been incredibly challenging and look, I'm no saint. Sometimes I lose my patience. Sometimes I raise my voice. Sometimes I just can't say "Please stand still so I can brush your teeth" one more time in a nice, soothing voice because honestly? I'm going to lose my shit if I have to say it again.
So, there's the first part of the equation: Lots of time together (A) + Mrs. Mullet isn't a saint (B).
Now for C.
As a general rule, Chuck and I try not to bicker in front of Junior. But it happens. One minute you're slicing into your baked potato and the next you're exchanging words over whose turn it is to drag the 25-pound cat to the vet.
Because I'm a weirdo, I often stop mid-spat and ask Chuck—jokingly—"Do you even like me?" It's a silly question, but it usually works. He'll soften and say of course. Then he'll forget what we were arguing about. Cue kissing and making up. Eating of baked potato. Voila.
I knew little ears were listening (I love that expression—it makes those nosy preschooler ears seem so sweet and benign, like something out of Goodnight Moon) but the other night, something happened that opened my eyes to how much they were absorbing.
Chuck was working a freelance job. It was the end of a long day full of meltdowns and tears. One of those days when everyone was off their game. Junior wouldn't stay in bed. I was trying to get Diddly to bed. Every time Diddly nodded off Junior would jump out of bed and race down the hall.
"Mommy! I need water."
"MOMMY! I have to tell you something! MOMMY! Where's my water?"
Diddly would start wailing.
Lather, rinse, repeat. I was shot. I kind of lost it.
Junior winced and skulked down the hall and as he did I heard it—a whisper:
"Do you even like me?"
I died a little. Right then and there. The arrow flew down the hall and pierced me in the heart. I put Diddly down, let him cry, and gave Junior a big hug. I told him I loved him.
It's moments like that (and that infamous winter hike) that render me completely and utterly humble. I realize how the commitment to my children is as expansive and demanding as the universe, and how just when I think I'm doing a decent job, life shows me I can do better. I can take deeper breaths, count to 10.
I can accept that some nights are going to be harder than others, but lowering the decibel of my own voice needs to be part of the equation.
Is that D? Yah, I guess so.