The last hour in the day waiting for my husband to come home makes me feel like an exhausted prophet awaiting the Rapture. All I can do is decry downward fall of my home. Helpless to stop the destruction or the wailing. In this metaphor, my kids are both the antichrist and the godless masses.
Let me explain. Like most women in America, my work and home situation is complicated. I work and write from home, but I don’t have set hours. Only deadlines. So, I often end up working at night, naptime, when I give up and put on “Horton the Elephant,” and in the two days a week I have childcare. The rest of my time is spent with my children. And I am outnumbered. There are two, mostly mobile, human beings who believe it is their mission in life to destroy my home and sanity and in the process, destroy themselves. I don’t know why I’m using the plural pronoun. It’s just the baby who believes that. My three-year-old just follows him around the house hang-wringing and wailing that “Bubby is making a big mess and ruining fings again!”
I do my best. We plan activities. Go to parks, the library and museums. We glue macaroni to things. But by 4pm, I’ve run out of ideas. I’m scraping the bottom of an empty barrel and I need to start dinner. Because my family somehow believes that it is their god-given right to have dinner right at 5:30 and no later. I tried explaining to the baby that people in Europe eat as late as 7pm, but he just screamed and started chewing on the table leg.
But, I’m loathe to turn on the TV. By which I mean, turn it on “again”, because let’s be honest, TV is my crutch in the morning, there are no TV atheists in foxholes. And I seem to unreasonably expect my kids to play with their manifold toys for an hour, while I thaw the chicken and lie on the floor and weep. I grew up without television and recall spending hours playing in the sticks and mud with my brothers and sisters until my mom rang the giant, Texas shaped, rebar bell, summoning us for dinner. But my kids, surrounded by a wealth of toys and crafts, can only manage to play a game called, “Scream for the toy that the other one is holding.” The game ends when I come in and take that toy away. There are no winners.
I thought I had more time. The baby is only 15-monhts old, after all, I thought I had a few more years until I began screaming things like, “Stop touching each other!” But the baby loves to tackle his sister, who loves to wail that her “brudder” is touching her again. And I have to emerge from the kitchen, spatula in hand and say, “Then get up and walk away! You can walk! He can’t!”
Last week, as I exited the living room to prepare dinner, I didn’t hear the usual screams and wails that signaled the ritual evening apocalypse. I cooked, untrusting of the happy sounds I heard from the playroom. Finally, convinced they had kidnapped the neighbor’s cat and were enslaving it, I peeked in on them. For two seconds, I saw my daughter rolling a ball to the baby and him laughing and tossing it back. It was magic. Then, they saw me and the baby screamed. The three-year-old cried. I should have known, the end was nigh. Come home quickly, dear husband!
This article original appeared in my Gazette column, which is not online, because OLD MEDIA. RIGHT?
Please don’t fire me.