Act I, Scene I:
Our kitchen. Backpacks, papers, folders, and lunch boxes are everywhere. We’ve been home from school for approximately 26 minutes.
“Mommy, I’m done, can you please sign my homework?” Abby asks. “I wanna play outside.”
“Yeah, just a sec, I’m helping Izzy.” Before I can even look she’s out the door and I refuse to chase her. On the flip side, Izzy’s ADD meds don’t seem to be working. She can’t stay in her chair. She’s standing next to it drumming her pencil, humming under her breath, and alternately shoveling bites of pumpkin bread into her mouth, stringing crumbs all over her papers, the table, and the floor. I grit my teeth, take a deep breath
again, and plead, “Focus, Izzy, focus. Sit in your seat.”
I sound like a broken record. I say this twenty-two times every afternoon. At least.
I’m so tired. And I really have to pee.
Piper starts whining “eeeeeeeeessse,” and points to a box on the counter. I know what she wants — Goldfish — and I know I should give her something healthier. But she’s hungry and I can’t deal with both her and Izzy at once. Piper’s speech delays make everything a guessing game. I hear her therapist’s warnings in my head: “Don’t anticipate her needs! Make her sign or try to say the words!” However, this becomes frustrating for us both, and can quickly escalate into her
and me crying. Meanwhile, Izzy’s doodling all over her homework sheets, and this irritates the shit out of me. “What are you doing?” I screech. “Do your math and stop scribbling!” I yank the remnants of her snack away.
Piper whimpers and stands on tiptoe to try and reach the crackers. She’s increased the volume on “EEEEEEEEEEEESSSSSE!” I want to growl, “Use your words,” but I don’t because it’s pointless. Because Piper doesn’t have many words. And I’m frustrated.
I relent. Goldfish it is. I toss her in her seat with a bowl, praying for crunching sounds and silence.
The elementary school teachers have said there should be roughly 10 minutes of homework per grade level each day. Since the girls are in second grade, that means 20 minutes every day. Abby is almost always done in that amount of time, but Izzy and I are still at the table.
I’m trying to explain carrying the one to the tens column in addition. Izzy’s having trouble paying attention during class, so homework becomes time for me to re-teach her the concepts she’s “missed” during the school day. And then help her through the homework afterwards.
So I explain carrying (again). And clean up the baby’s snack mess, as well as the pumpkin bread crumbs strewn everywhere. The dog catches my eye and heads to the front door, a signal that he needs to potty. Of course he poops. And because my kids (& their friends) are always playing in the yard, I’m diligent about scooping it promptly. By the time I come back inside, the baby is standing up in her booster seat at the table, two seconds away from a trip to the ER.
After Izzy finally seems to “get it,” I hose down the baby at the kitchen sink. Then I remember the laundry and head upstairs. I take the dry load out and begin sorting it. I put the wet load in the dryer and start it, then toss a new load into the washer. I’ve never understood how people delegate laundry to certain days of the week. I do laundry every.single.day. I can’t stand dirty clothes hanging over my head.
I add the dry things to the twins’ growing pile of clean clothes on the chair in the hallway. The same stack I’ve been nagging them to put away for three or four days.
No one listens to me. And when they do, it’s met with grumbling, complaining, and asking, “When will Daddy be home?” Or calling Daddy on his cell phone to ask him that exact question. Daddy gets to be the fun parent.
I still have to pee. But kids need me in the kitchen. Will wait.
I head back downstairs as Izzy’s finishing her spelling. The clock says 5:05. Basically 90 minutes on homework. She asks to play outside and I let her, because days are shorter in winter and she’s been at the table for so long. I realize I’ve forgotten to empty their lunch boxes. I pull out part of a turkey sandwich, an empty juice box, and cheese stick wrappers. Someone put her half-eaten yogurt tube back in her lunch box. Nice. I wash and wipe out the inside of that and then empty the dishwasher. I haven’t even thought about dinner.
All I can think about?? Is going to bed. And peeing.
Instead, I throw the baby in the tub. When the warm water hits my hand, I know for certain I’ve waited too long. Urine leaks into my underwear just as I’m yanking everything down to sit on the toilet right by the tub. Great, just fucking GREAT. Wet panties and yoga pants go into the washer and I grab clean ones, then run back to Piper’s tub.
The bath turns into a very wet wrestling match. When that’s done, she’s ready for dinner. Don’t get me started on The Things Piper Won’t Eat: meat, cheese, eggs, chicken nuggets, pizza, pasta, peanut butter. Aside from her other delays she may have some sensory issues and flat out refuses most foods. Everything is a battle. It’s all my fault.
Once she’s back in her seat, I give her things I know she’ll eat. Crackers, apple slices, raisins, and yogurt. But being a two-year-old means she likes to use her fingers instead of utensils.
Then the twins come in from outside, smelling like horses. After we do corrections on their homework, I order them upstairs into the shower where wicked fighting and water wasting ensue. I go up and down the stairs no less than three times (because I shouldn’t really leave the baby alone in her booster at the table, should I?) before they’re even close to finishing.
My nerves are shot.
I’m yelling. I’m threatening. I pour a glass of wine. I smell my armpits, not sure when I last showered. And pissing myself didn’t help.
And suddenly it’s all there, in my face. Overwhelming.
and then my husband walks in from work. all three children run to him gleefully, squealing, “DADDY!” abandoning bad moods and tantrums.
I swallow hard and stifle the sob rising in my throat. I shake my head because… well, because there are no words. How do you sum up all these feelings from the last few hours and make it into a pretty package when it doesn’t feel that way?