Single mom
here. Lance in Cincinnati completing his DMA. Me, with two little kids, having
moments. Lots of them. While they appear copious, said moments are better
qualified than quantified. As in I want to strangle you kids and throw you out
the window moments; my throat hurts from yelling moments; aw that’s so sweet and
considerate of you moments; and I love you so much you are so darn precious
An attempt to
chart out the moments yields occasional surprises. And unyielding guarantees: A
morning shower or an important phone call will invariably activate the sibling
squabbles. “Then I’m not
gonna be your friend,” and “then I’m not gonna give you any stickers” are
fierce threats from the mouths of babes. Bedtime, on the other hand, will usher
in instant camaraderie, and infinite play.
I sit in the
living room in the dark taking it all in: the talk about soon visiting Aba in
Cincinnati, the patter of little feet scampering to collect toys and stuffies
to shove into the Elmo and Dora knapsacks, Sebastian declaring the flight
safety rules and assuring his sister that she can’t fall out of the plane, only
off the moon, but that he’ll catch her, and not to worry about an astronaut
suit that’s something else altogether.
“Liliana say
crescent moon.” “But Sebastin, I don’t wanna be an ascronaut because why you
didn’t listen to my words?”
And I teeter:
between Omigod that is so freaking SWEET, and these kids freaking need to get
to sleep NOW. Lots of freakings you’ll have noticed. But that’s not how I
pronounce it when the sentiment erupts from within me.
Yup, nowadays,
meltdowns are MY territory. Don’t even try going there you three year old
terror, I’m gonna beat you to it! Sure you have an ear-splitting cry but I can
curse and bang my hand on the table. And I’m bigger. Top that. I’m also really
good, I’ve noticed, at making stupid threats that I’ll never be able to
fulfill: If you don’t behave you’re not going to Cincinnati; That’s it, I’ve
had it with you, I’m never taking you to visit your Aba again. They do now and
again yield results these paroxysms, but they make me feel like crap.
comes out of his room an hour after I’d said good-night to ask me for a piece
of paper and some crayons and I nearly lose it. I grab a piece of paper, tell
him to tell me what he wants to write and I’ll
write it (quickly!) and get straight to bed. Four categories, OK: Water. Oxygen pack. Food. And… C’mon,
yalla, hurry, I press. Um… friendship.
He has a way
of stringing me, this kid, when I’m at the end of my rope, with a little tender
wisp, that makes me crumple, and smile. Like when someone
delivers a kind word while you’re crying, and your tears gush even more
fervently. The smile through the tears breaks through the breakdown.
[The other one
has her “way”, simply, with an impish smile and a full-bodied laugh.]
When Sebastian
showed me the sticker chart he’d written out a few days earlier, I had read the
categories rather – well – categorically: cleanup, helping, set the table… put a
DVD on in Saturday. I reread the fourth item silently and my heart skipped a
beat. (So that Ima can sleep in, is the unwritten clause.) One moment, I beamed
and swelled at this token of thoughtfulness. The next moment, I guiltily
pondered the priorities I am instilling in my sweet children.
The other
night the kids wanted to watch a TV show. And I let them. “The inmates are
running the asylum”, I could hear my dad saying. But the guilt swiftly
evaporated; the warden was able to take a breather (and fold laundry!). I “let
it go” and avoided a marathon of escalating nerves. Letting them fall asleep in
front of the TV is an underrated bedtime routine. (Sure, it would have been
better if the freaking Cat in the Hat’s raucous thingamajigger adventures
settled into some mind-numbing Baby Einstein, but hey, “you get what you get,
and you don’t get upset”, as the mantra from Liliana’s daycare goes.) 
OK, I know:
this is far from a formula for a regular healthy bedtime routine. But it served
me well for a night. It allowed me to inhabit a peaceable rhythm. Perhaps the
formula worth exploring is that of figuring out when to step in, and when to
step back. I’m still trying to figure out the middle ground.
In the
mornings, things are generally less cloudy. Shafts of sunlight seep through the
windows and a smile spreads over as I stretch under the covers to the sounds of genuine amity: “Good job Liliana, you did an ‘L'”, and “Sebastin that’s a really beautiful house… which Barbie do you wanna keep?”
Moments later, little sister pronounces
“Sebastin: ‘cuddly’” and the two of them storm into my bedroom to demonstrate so that I
can snap a photo.
My darling
angels. Until the shower!
In the moments
vs. the moments, the bad ones linger and the good ones dwell. What lingers I
eventually shake off: with a deep breath, a pillow over my head, or a Bellini.
What dwells I let into my heart.
I walk into
the kids’ room after a night of moon-diving astronaut activity and notice the
accursed paper now replete with illustrations.  In the “friendship” category there is a figure with a curly
mop among the stick friends! I’m still coming out on top.