The hardest thing for me, since returning to work, is feeling like some days I barely see the kids. I think it’s safe to say that NONE of the three of us are morning people. Sure, Monkey used to bound into my room in the mornings and exude so much raw sunshine that I would collapse into a molten heap of morning hatred, but on our new, earlier schedule even he must be dragged out of bed most mornings.
So school mornings, we spend around an hour together. I wouldn’t call it quality time. Evenings, we have about two and a half hours. Do you know how long it takes to empty backpacks and cook dinner and eat dinner and do showers and skin care and dry hair and read a story? About two hours and thirty-three minutes.
I compensate where I can. For example, I’m really coming to appreciate my weekends with the kids. We do “movie night” or a special outing, or the ever-popular “pajama day” where we revel in our slugitude. We’re adjusting.
It comes as no surprise to anyone who knows my daughter that she is perhaps having the most trouble adjusting to recent changes. She has become (more) belligerent and quite clingy with me. Simultaneously, she’s started being quite mean to her little brother. She’s acting up in a million and one ways because that’s what she does when she doesn’t know how to express what she wants and needs. Joy.
In the meantime, I employ a babysitter one night a week so that I can attend choir practice. She comes right at bedtime so I don’t feel too guilty about going out and doing something non-essential, on my own. The kids adore her, and–most importantly–she is our neighbor, so I don’t have to figure out how to drive her home when I have sleeping children and (oh, yeah) no other adult on hand.
Tonight I put the kids to bed before the sitter arrived. As soon as the sitter knocked on the door, Chickadee came running downstairs and begged to be allowed to wave good-bye as I drove off. She promised to go right back to bed afterwards. I said okay.
She waved; I waved; I went to choir. I came home, and asked the sitter if Chickadee had held to her word and gone to bed without complaint. “Well,” she admitted, “she did ask for another story. But I reminded her of her promise and she went right up. I checked her 5 minutes later and she was sound asleep!”
I was impressed. Progress, perhaps? I bounded up the stairs with a light spring in my step. It’s been a hard week for Chickadee. I was proud of her for not giving the sitter a hard time. I would plant an extra kiss on her sleep-warm cheeks. And tell her in the morning how pleased I was that she’d been good.
My eyes struggled to adjust in Chickadee’s dark room, as I felt around on her blankets to locate her. I blinked. My eyes had adjusted… and she wasn’t in the bed. I blinked again. Checked the bed, checked next to the bed, checked the rocking chair. Checked the bathroom. Nope.
Okay, I get it. Probably she’d tiptoed down the hall and designated herself Queen For The Night in the middle of my bed. I chuckled under my breath as I headed back down the hallway. Again, I stretched out my hands over the bed as my eyes scanned the dark. Not there. Quick check of my bathroom; not there.
It was becoming a conscious effort to breathe.
Okay. The doors are locked. The sitter has been here for the two hours that I’ve been gone. She must be here somewhere.
Not in her room. Not in my room. Not in the bathrooms. Couldn’t have gotten downstairs without the sitter noticing. That leaves… one room.
I eased open the door to Monkey’s room, half expecting to find her stretched out on his floor and half expecting not to find her at all (which would be my license to Commence Freaking Out). Turned out, neither assumption came to fruition.
In the glow of the Thomas the Tank Engine nightlight, Monkey lay in his customary position at the upper left corner of his bed. He was completely uncovered, because Chickadee lay curled at the foot of his bed (with her pillow, even) in a nest of his blankets. Their knees and feet met in a heap in the middle. They were both snoring.
I was tempted to leave her there, but in the end I hefted her onto my shoulder and listened to her mutter sleep-speak in my ear while I carried her back to her room.
Tomorrow morning I will ask her what she was thinking, and she’ll shrug and maybe giggle and say “I dunno” and I’ll be left to worry and wonder. Is it because she’s not getting enough time with me? Is it because she was regretting an earlier injustice committed against her brother? Is it simply genetic?
I don’t know. I so rarely do, with her.