But smooth sailing rarely lasts for long when your ship is captained by a 4- and a 2-year-old. Look away for a second, and there’s no telling where you’ll end up. Tempests descend fast and without warning.
Take the other evening. “Bedtime,” when you’ve got small children, can feel like the final miles of the marathon you clearly didn’t train enough for. There’s milk drinking. But the milk needs to be warm. But then it’s too hot. And actually, by, “milk,” Elle meant, “chocolate milk.” Which is not advised at bedtime. Which is unacceptable to the 4-year-old running the bedtime show this evening.
There’s book reading. But the book that must be read this evening is located up three flights of stairs. And there is no substitute for this particular book. Yet after completing the arduous climb, the aforementioned book cannot be located up these three flights of stairs. Oh, wait. The book has been here on the bottom floor all along.
There’s pajamas that must be put on. One never knew a discerning pajama wearer could find so many things amiss with so many pairs of pajamas. These are too tight around the neck. Those aren’t fuzzy enough. These here we simply don’t feel like wearing this evening. Once acceptable pajamas have been located, they then must be donned. Which requires catching two small children and coaxing them out of their clothes. Then, coaxing them into their pajamas. But these two small children prefer running around shrieking in their underwear.
Then arrives my personal favorite stretch of the bedtime marathon: Tooth-brushing. There is never enough room on a stepstool for two sisters, regardless of how big the stool or how small the sisters. There is shoving and pushing and whining. When dominion of the stepstool has been divided equally between the warring parties to their mutual, albeit grudging acceptance, both parties realize that dominion atop the stool leads to teeth being brushed, in which case neither actually wants the stool, after all.
May I interject here that this description of our nightly bedtime marathon is what we parents of small children call “smooth sailing.” Nothing, yet, has gone awry.
Until I leave my two small children in the bathroom for a period of time equivalent to the amount of time it takes for a mother to shove a load of wet towels into the dryer…not very long. Mothers have perfected the art of shoving wet towels into a dryer in as little time as is humanly possible.
Yet this evening, I’m not fast enough. I return to the bathroom, where Elle is requesting I help her remove the comb that is stuck like a Mohawk to the front of her hair. It really is stuck – as in 5,000 individual hairs are twirled around each of its 50 teeth.
“How did you do this?” I ask, more curious than annoyed, since I cannot fathom how a comb can become so stuck in a child’s hair, especially in such a short amount of unsupervised time.
She shrugs, undaunted. I get to work unwinding 5,000 individual hairs from each tooth of the comb – my first mistake. In submersing myself in this task, I’ve left my other child to her own devices. It is the mother’s cardinal rule: You must only keep one eye on what you’re doing! The other eye must remain forever watchful. Never mind that I’m standing less than two feet away from Emme, in a bathroom barely the size of a walk-in closet. My attention is elsewhere; namely, saving my 4-year-old’s bangs from the snip-snip-snip of the kitchen scissors (the longer I work to unwind her hair from the comb, the more promising this quick solution seems).
And while my attention is elsewhere, my 2-year-old has dumped an entire bottle of shampoo on the bathroom floor.
There’s no rest for the weary, and the laundry never ends.