Thursday, July 21, 2011

9 to 5

I've mentioned before that I try to keep my kids on a schedule.  I don't think anyone would dispute that structure and routine are best for a child's well being.  Knowing the parameters of their day and life in general give them enough stability to focus on fun and learning.

Okay, I'm full of it.

I do think all of that stuff I said up there is true, but I'm no parent of the year, and Lord knows I mess up a lot.  On days when I have other children to watch, we are all dressed and ready by 7:15am in an effort to perpetuate the image that I have it all together.  If either of those moms were to show up at 7:15am on any other day, they would likely find me snoring in bed, Cael rifling through tax documents and eating dog food, and Graham jabbering happily in his crib with a lot of junk in the trunk.  And I'm not referring to an ample behind, although he does have that.

Regardless of the day, however, certain things stay the same.  Once both boys are out of bed and all sharp objects are accounted for, we eat breakfast.  My kids are HUGE breakfast eaters; a trend that began back when Cael was introduced to solid foods.  He would gorge himself on bananas, apples or whatever the "purée du jour" happened to be, and would fast for the duration of the day.  Graham would follow the same pattern if I didn't limit their early-morning intake.  Four packs of oatmeal for two picky children is overkill in my book.

Once their stomachs are at capacity, I begin the daunting task of wiping all syrup/jelly/cheese from all accessible crevices.  On a particularly stick and/or greasy day, they may take a "morning bath".  The novelty of a bath during daytime has become one of their greatest treats, forcing me to wonder why they are so easy to please with some things and so alarmingly high-maintenance with others.  There's no way they picked that up from me.  I'm anything but high-maintenance.  Ahem.  Excuse me.

Down the stairs they bound to play with their toys; Cael listing the hundreds of things he's going to do when he gets his still-sticky paws on his loot.

"I'm gonna make a train downstairs, Mommy!"

"I'm gonna play with that music puzzle!"

"I get to drive the car first, Graham!"

But when their little feet hit the bottom step, it is two short steps to the couch where they sit and blink at me, willing me to turn the TV on so that they can watch whatever show they're into at that moment.  The battle has begun, and until lunch the whiny requests continue to well up like labor pains.

"Can we watch something now?" 

"Is it time for my show?"

I try to distract them with toys I've stashed away in the closet or with promises of reading as many books as they want, and sometimes it works, but often not.  I do let them watch some television, because let's face it-- I would probably have been institutionalized by now if I didn't get a few minutes of peace everyday, but I still want them to be able to entertain themselves and not forget how to pretend.

At noon we tromp upstairs and, for an hour or so, debate the merits of eating peas vs. suckers alongside our chicken.  While his argument is completely incoherant, I have to give Cael points for tenacity.  Unfortunately, I also have to take points away for, you guessed it-- tenacity.  As I (once again) pick chunks of corn out of their ears and hair and and waistbands, the tension is mounting.  The boys know that naptime is coming, but don't want to mention it for fear of it being confirmed.  I'm afraid to utter the words and unleash the onslaught of whining and complaints that will make the process take even longer.  So there we are; staring and pacing one another as if we were in a duel in a really cheesy Western film.  Sadly, for Cael, his gun is firing blanks while my gun is firing seniority and Mommy awesomeness, just in general.

While they nap, I am free to do all of the things I'm so frequently instructing them NOT to do, like zone out on the couch or drink from an open glass outside of the kitchen.  And it is glorious.  I should be on the treadmill, and God willing I will get myself back on it soon, but until that time I am enjoying my 35 minutes of peace.  That's about how long Cael has been sleeping for the last few weeks; a medical marvel in my opinion as he is clearly using more energy throughout the day than he is able to regenerate in 35 minutes of sleep.  Sometimes I think he has Red Bulls stashed under his mattress, or perhaps he had developed a nasty speed habit, picked up from the other kids in the church nursery.

One positive of his brief rest is that, when he emerges from his room, he is allowed to watch an episode of "Thomas the Train", and he always wants to snuggle while he gets his train fix.  He squirms up onto my lap and puts his head back against my chest, and I can breathe in the intoxicating smell of my first baby.  And while he's still and quiet, it almost feels like he's the little baby I held just 3 short years ago.

And then he farts on me.  It's a whole different kind of intoxicating smell. 

Once both are awake, it's time to play again.  In the afternoons, I let them run loose in our fenced backyard; free to pick up sticks and dog poop at will.  On the days when the weather is uncooperative, we will color or do a craft project, sculpt some Play-Doh or simply play while I work on dinner.

I used to love to cook, and while I still do, attempting to create a meal with one child yelling at you for a snack while the other is hanging on your left leg is not a very effective culinary environment.  This, among other reasons, is why we so love to dine out, and as a result my children are well-versed in restaurant ettiquette.  They know that one is to repeatedly ask, "What's that awful smell?" at full volume while the other grunts at an incoming poop.  They know that the restaurant management really appreciates ground up food all over the floor and in inaccessible crannies of the high chair.  And lastly, they have adopted a very European attitude toward burping at the table-- shouldn't every cook view that as a compliment?

Once fed and exhausted from the day, we button them into their faded pajamas and toss them into bed.  In the interest of honesty, I must admit that I spend much of the day awaiting the calm and relief of bedtime, but once they are asleep I almost immediately miss them and long for their sticky kisses.  What is it about motherhood that can tug your heart in two directions? 

Sometimes feel like each day is a carbon copy of the last, as if I'm trapped in my own version of "Groundhog's Day", but without the witty script and A-list actors.  Rather it's just me, changing diapers and dishing out applesauce.  But I win in the end, because I get to create and see who my children will become, while Bill Murray goes on to make "Lost in Translation".  I really think I win that duel.


  1. really are a brilliant mom, Mary! The caring and attention (and let's not forget humor!) you give your kids is really amazing. They are so lucky to call you Mommy. This was a great post because it shows how even if your days have that "carbon copy" feel as you call it, there are so many opportunities in the little things (as well as in the big picture) to appreciate. This is a lesson we can all learn, not just mothers. The life of a grad student can feel especially monotonous, particularly when slowly and painfully working on one's dissertation. But as you reveal, what's most important in life is always the people within it and when we spend a bit more time focused on them, some of the challenges as well as the dull times suddenly seem not to matter quite so much. Thanks for that!

  2. Thanks, Maggie! I have to admit that I think I'm far from brilliant in the parenting department, but I'm doing my best and I think that's the most these little loons can ask for! I'm glad you are/were able to take something away from all of this! So glad you're reading... thank you!


Leave your own "ism". Cael and Graham double-dog dare you.