It is a warm, wet night. It is monsoon season here in the hills of Western Massachusetts. Every day it rains heavily for a time, and the leaves and grass are heavy with moisture. When the sun comes out, the earth steams. It is so deliciously warm, and I've lived this soggy New England summer enough times to love the dampness in the air. It feels okay to me to toss my clothes in the dryer for a while after line-drying them, and to know that I must paper-clip closed the Cheerios bag or else feed them to the chickens. I feel enveloped by warmth and I am happy.
Happy now, that is, comfortably seated on my soft, luxurious couch, which is of course decorated by several different shades of magic marker and various food stains. The children are nestled in their beds, fans in the window blowing moist air into their rooms while they sleep. The night stretches long before me. Maeve and Fiona sleep all night long now, they do. I am safe until at least five a.m. every day to sleep uninterrupted. There are exceptions, of course, and now that I have written this I am certain tonight will be a doozy. But after more than three years of staggered sleep to be able to sleep six or seven hours in a row for perhaps five out of seven nights feels like heaven. So I know I will sleep tonight, and that makes me feel glad. Glad because I no longer have to fear the night.
It's the days I fear right now. One day, when we were basking in the bliss of the babies being six months old and nearly two, I said to Greg: two babies isn't what will be hard for us. Do you realize that some day we will have a two year old and a three-and-a-half year old? That will kick our ass.
And so it has.
Fiona really escaped everything but sweet, adorable, compliant kindness until recently, when her role-model and sidekick Maeve began to model the typical behavior of the emotional, invested, independent, passionate two year old. It was almost as if something clicked in Fiona's brain that said, hey! I forgot to do that! So together this little team of small girls has may just destroy my sanity.
This is how it feels at my low moments. The monsoons kept us in all day today, and so there were many moments. Maeve and Fiona are still so little and they demand such an incredible amount of my attention. Hugging, kissing, refereeing, feeding, toileting, dressing, playing, there is little that can be done independently. As I scurry around attending to their every need and desire (within reason) I see my rational, interesting, creative older children and I yearn to attend to them. I want to quietly quilt with them, or listen to an audio book with them while knitting. I want to play board games ad nauseum and do interesting messy art projects. I want to invest myself in parenting these older, interesting, reliable people who still adore me and love my company. When the girls have a moment of happy play, or seem to be resting in the afternoon, I try to engage my older children in some of this. They always seem gratefully delighted, and so am I.
Enter the destroyers! The board games are scattered, quilt pieces torn from one another, needles tugged out of sewing projects. As hard as I try, it seems they always wiggle into the midst of all my efforts to creatively parent Liam and Aoife. And in those moments, Maeve and Fiona are also adorable, smiling, giggiling, devilish and sweet. Sometimes we just laugh, and fall onto the floor all together in a big laughing heap. Sometimes it turns into a tickle party or a big game of hide-and-go-seek. But sometimes it turns into me screaming at my children and then feeling really, really awful. I am tugged in two directions all the time: between the two sets of children, the toddlers and the "big kids", and also as a mother. I want the little girls to stay little, because I can't envision my life without a baby in it, but I also feel desperate for some relief from the chaos.
Will the sun shine tomorrow? It will when those girls wake up at the ass-crack of dawn. They will wake up joyful, as they always do, delighted to see us, eager for some books and some breakfast. Then the bigger kids will come down, pleased to see the little ones, and there will be a few minutes of happy, joyful family reunion. Every day here gets off to a great start. It's just keeping that going....