I hear a crash from two rooms away and cringe internally, dropping the towels I'm haphazardly folding to determine who or what has been damaged by the flying box of dominoes. The screaming starts before I hit the doorway and when I round the corner, both kids are crying, but I have no idea what happened. I confiscate the offending domino pieces, which makes everyone wail louder. I roll my head back against the wall, eyes closed in silent prayer....is it bedtime yet? And where is daddy? And why is dinner not even started at 5:15pm?
It's been a full day of seemingly minor disasters. No one wanted to do preschool. They both wanted the last squeeze pack of yogurt. He was apparently playing with the dog in the blue hat while it sat three feet away from him, so clearly she could not be allowed to touch it. Fuss, fuss, fuss. Whine, whine, whine. Endless carrying on about things that - while extremely essential to a toddler - are excruciatingly unimportant in the mind of a frazzled mama.
Day after day of stay-at-home mom life starts to wear on you after awhile. Often, by 9am, I am certain that my patience is up for the day (or the week) and I long for a do-over - or better yet, a quiet, dark room where it's 9am and I'm still blissfully asleep. I can't remember the last time I had anything even close to a full night's rest.
I take a deep breath and calm everyone down from the domino debacle with sippy cups of milk that will spoil their dinner, but I don't mind, really - it's the end of the month and money is tight (so groceries are scarce) and I haven't started making anything to eat yet anyway. The leading options are mac and cheese or spaghetti and I don't really want to think about wiping all that sauce off little faces and hands. The kids wander off to play and I pull a carton of eggs out of the fridge, hoping no one will notice or care that we just had breakfast food for dinner last night...and two nights before that.
I manage to get the eggs on the stove without any eager assistants noticing that I am cracking shells (a favorite task of theirs, which makes dinner prep take four times as long) and sink to the floor, head buried in my hands. I wonder where the day has gone, how the sink is still overflowing, and how I haven't managed to change the pee-covered sheets in the ten hours I've been awake in this house today. The kids need a bath, but I haven't cleaned the tub since last time, when someone squeezed mold out of a bath toy. I forgot to look for the missing library book again and my card will be blocked from excessive fines if it doesn't turn up in the next two days. The moments in a single day can be so painfully long, yet the hours whip by and leave me whirling like a leaf in the autumn air.
I hear the little feet approaching and breathe deeply, readying myself with a little bit more patience, one more perhaps slightly-less-than-eager smile. When I look up, she's six inches from my face, wearing a tutu and a puzzled expression. She takes my cheeks in her chubby hands, squeezes my face and giggles, then positions herself as close to me as she can manage and sighs, "I wuff you, mama."
A quick snuggle and she's on her way, dancing off to her next imaginative adventure or to tousle with her brother. A tear finds it's way to my eyelid and slowly trails down the place where her hand just left my cheek. The words are nothing to her...just a moment in her little day, but they are so much more than that to me.
She loves me. It doesn't matter that she wouldn't eat lunch and fought taking a nap for two hours straight and dragged an entire roll of toilet paper through every room in the house. She loves me even when I lose my patience and give up on preschool and put a towel over the pee sheets so we can sleep without doing more laundry. In spite of my rash behavior, regardless of how many times I sighed "no" at her today...to her, I'm simply mommy - and a person worthy of her trust and admiration. I'm enough in her eyes, and I can see plainly how that makes her feel secure as she toddles away.
I find the will to stand and cook the scrambled eggs, mix up some pancakes, and put a real, genuine smile on my face when daddy walks in the door. They'll test me again - probably at bedtime, but maybe even before that. And I'll do my best to respond with more patience and more love...because they deserve it. Somehow, knowing that they will be waiting with open arms and sticky syrup fingers even if I do screw up, makes this whole parenting job a little more doable.