It starts before I even get up. Earlier these days, as the days get longer. Damn, I really must remember to buy thicker curtains for the kids’ rooms. Sometimes they don’t even really want much. They’re pretty content, they just want to check if I’m awake. Yes, I am awake. You just woke me up, kid.
And then, as soon as my feet hit the floor, the day is in full swing. Breakfast, packing bags for school, breaking up fights, adjudicating what they wear. No, you can’t wear that t-shirt. You’ve wore it yesterday, and it’s got half of your dinner down the front of it. Sometimes it seems like parenting is a crazy blend of rushing to get things done, and waiting. Can I get the floor swept before my kid wakes up from a nap? Can I get the washing hung out before it’s time to leave for school pickup? Come on, hurry up! We’re going to be late! And then, the waiting game while you wait for the bell to ring, wait for them to put on their shoes, wait for them to finish a particularly long poo.
It seems like an essential prerequisite for being a parent is a lack of selfishness. Kids demand so much of your time, attention, and basically everything else that you have (the last bite of my dinner? Sure kiddo, here you go). It seems like every minute of my time is spent catering to someone else’s needs. Wiping noses. Cooking meals. Giving cuddles and fixing up owies. (And that’s just my partner.) Putting things away. All day long, it seems, putting things away. Does no one else in this house care that ALL OF OUR BELONGINGS are on the lounge room floor? Nope? Just me.
Then comes the whirlwind of baths, dinner, dishes, stories, teeth, goodnight kisses, and the chorus of calling out from their bedrooms. They take it in turns, you know. One needs another drink, the other needs another hug, then the first one had a bad dream (hasn’t been asleep yet, but you know…) and the second is still hungry, despite eating TWO WHOLE ADULT SIZED BOWLS of dinner.
Then, after what seems to be an eternity, but is probably only, like, half of one, silence descends on the house. It is glorious. In that moment, I feel like I’ve put down the two large suitcases I’ve been carrying all day. I feel lighter. I can do anything I want. Read. Watch TV. Write. Wash my hair. Browse social media without having someone looking over my shoulder asking, Who’s that person? Why is their photo on your phone? Can I play Candy Crush? I could even go to bed early, but I won’t. I love this time of the day too much.
Please don’t misunderstand, I love them dearly. I honestly do. I love the questions, especially the ones that strain my brain to answer. How do we talk? How do birds fly? What would happen if we had no bones? What is God? How big is space? I love the jokes about farts and poo and bums. I love their endless wonder and enthusiasm about learning something new. How do you know that? They ask me. I know everything, I say, and they laugh. Noooo you don’t. I even love them when they’re whining and bickering and they’ve lost their shoes for the 17th time today, and they’re crying about something ridiculous. Yes I know you wanted the pink cup and now you have the blue one, but honestly, that’s no reason to howl like the world is ending.
And so I stay up too late. I can’t help it, the night time hours belong to me, and they are glorious. I could even have a bath! Start a craft project! Have a conversation with my partner without 143 interruptions. Take up knitting…. It is those few hours where no one is demanding anything of me, and I can breathe freely. To think, before I had children, every day was like this. Well, of course there was still work, family, partners, everything else, but I didn’t appreciate the glorious freedom of choosing how I spent my time. These days, it seems, I can only choose when the children are in bed. I can, in these few short hours, be whoever I want to be. Writer. Painter. Lazy socialite, painting my nails while chatting to my friend on the phone. Diva, demanding a glass of wine or cup of tea. In the morning, I’ll be a mother again. In the morning, I’ll love them and kiss them and feed them and they will make demands of me like the tiny despots that they are. In the morning, I won’t even mind. This is the life that I chose, and I love it, most of the time. But these few, precious night time hours? I drink them in like water. They are mine, and mine alone.