The moment I stepped into the kitchen at the ungodly hour of 6:30 this morning, I knew it was going to be a bad day. I’d had the children from 6am to 6pm for the past three days. My mother visited last night and decided to lighten the load somewhat by taking Matthew overnight, so he was not here.
Matthew is rarely a problem, though. Maggie is generally the problem. All the time. Some days, I wonder why we didn’t name her Shiva or Medusa or The Kraken. I’ve even considered legally changing it.
She’s always had a bit of an issue in the listening department, which I blame on her thick head, but, luckily for me, once she hit two, the problem amplified. The word ‘no’ falls on completely deaf ears nine times out of ten. Where my sons will flinch and back away, she forges ahead with the heartiness of a viking.
She’s been climbing over the child gates since she was about fourteen months old. She’s since graduated to opening the gate, leaving the family room, and closing it behind her. There is no man-made device that can contain her.
It goes without saying that when Maggie’s home, I’m stressed. My limit of whole days I can spend alone with the kids is usually three. On average, it takes me three days to become a frightening combination of homicidal and suicidal. And most of my family knows this.
When Maggie started hurdle practice, at 6:48am, I knew I was in trouble – physically, mentally, and emotionally.
As I attempted to prepare breakfast and found none of the babies’ cups or trays washed, lying dirty, smelling like chow mein noodles, in the dishwasher, I realized today was going to be rough.
Now, before you go emailing Supernanny, we generally have the rest of the house under some semblance of control. We have two Time Out spots in the kitchen, and a special Naughty Spot for Maggie. Each child gets a Time Out in length appropriate to his or her age, and we do a lot of praising desirable behaviors and ignoring negative ones. That said, my sons are so good. They caught on quickly: Don’t piss Mommy off, a lesson one should learn early on. Matthew tests, but, with some prodding, eventually heeds our directives.
Maggie – dear, sweet, wretched Maggie – never got the memo. So much so that I question whether there’s some sort of disconnect occurring in her synapses. Professionals tell me how bright and normal and personable she is, though. So, I stand alone, much as The Cheese stands alone. I am the cheese.
My mother, I suspect, volunteered yesterday to host Matthew out of fear of having to take Maggie instead. Maggie runs everyone ragged – ragged, threadbare, and searching for an illicit substance to ingest. Most can only take her in small doses.
“But she’s so cute…” strangers say.
I spent the greater part of today relocating her, returning her from whence she came, and removing her from dangerous circumstances, to the detriment of cooking, cleaning, and showering. By naptime, I was more than ready to go to commercial break. When I put them down at eleven, I thought it would take the obligatory fifteen minutes to settle down until I would be able to bathe, and, perhaps, think. I was wrong.
After a two-and-a-half hour battle, Michael emerged with barely an hour’s nap and Maggie had not slept for one single, solitary second.
After the nap from hell (during which I showered anyway, because I had to), I called my mother, tried to reason with her.
“Can I trade with you? I’ll take Matthew and you take Maggie? I’ll drop her off and pick him up,” I pleaded.
“Don’t do that to me,” she said.
After a few choice words, some of which may have been said out loud, I resigned myself to the fact that I would be stuck, for the third set of twelve hours, once again.
I texted my husband, warning that this had become one of the more difficult days in recent memory, that I hadn’t even begun to think about dinner, and I suggested strongly that he leave work on time.
Several more hours dragged by, and I noticed it was five o’clock. I called my husband. His shift ended at four. No answer. That’s the tell he’s still at work. He called me back a minute later, when, with a heavy sigh, I purged all my emotions from the day.
“Well, I just have to transfer this lady…” he said, sheepishly.
“What?! You haven’t left work yet?! Are you kidding me?! I told you hours ago I was having one of the worst days I’ve had with these kids, and you’re still at work?? Fine! Have a nice day,” I spat and hung up.
He texted about five minutes later to tell me he was leaving.
I put dinner together for the kids and myself, and brought them to the table. We had Chinese takeout the night before, and about half of the kids’ lo mein was left over. I chopped the noodles into manageable bits and filled their bowls.
About five minutes into dinner, the twins started grabbing and squeezing handfuls of noodles, in a manner not so different from the Play-Doh hair salon. Good, I thought to myself, yuk it up. Daddy’s on his way.
They ate, or some permutation thereof, until I heard the garage door opening.
“Daddy!” yelled the twins.
He walked in, keys in hand. I rose from my chair slowly and said, “I’m going to sit outside, right there, by myself,” pointing to the front of the house, “and then I’m going in there to write something. Have fun.” And I walked away. Maggie had a shred of cabbage hanging from her ear, Michael had julienned carrot sitting pristinely atop his head, and the floor – well, I should have taken a picture of the floor.
I caught a few minutes of sanity outside before returning to the house, into the office, but not before stopping in the kitchen for two dark chocolate Dove Promises.
“After they go to bed, I have some paperwork to finish,” my husband began.
“I don’t care,” I said, as I walked away.
About five minutes later, he moseyed on into the office to regale me with an always-hilarious anecdote from work.
“Want to hear about why…” he started, dish towel in his hand.
“No,” I said, looking down at the keyboard.
And he started his story.
“I said no. Didn’t you hear me? I don’t want to hear it.”
“Yeah, but, this is funny,” he continued.
“No,” I repeated. “I don’t want to hear your story.”
I wasn’t mad at him. I was just mad. Like a kettle about to whistle. Like a pressure cooker over a high flame. I needed away. From everyone.
Disheartened, he walked out.
I unwrapped one of my Doves, and looked down at the inside of the wrapper.
‘Take a moment for yourself’, it whispered.
Why, thank you, Dove. Don’t mind if I do.
Think I’ll take a few.