Last week’s newspaper column, just for you. Yes. You.
Don’t be fooled by how still they are. This is a picture. That’s how they work.
For the last seven days I have refereed no less than one million fights on less than four hours of sleep per night. My middle child has been sneaking into my bed late at night with her knobby knees and pointy elbows and I am tired. I am supposed to be editing and revising my manuscript and 90 percent of the words I wrote this week were on Facebook or Twitter in the form of SOS messages to other mothers. I also Googled, “Date calculator” to find out exactly how many days until school starts back. (Thirty-two at the time I’m writing this.)
Since the kids have been out of school I haven’t been getting a lot of work done. I decided on Thursday that I would go to bed as soon as the girls did. I set my alarm to get up two hours before the kids normally wake up so I could write uninterrupted.
The following morning, my five-year-old, Emma, came tip-toeing into my bedroom promptly one hour before my alarm went off. She climbed into the bed, on top of me and said, “Hey Momma.” I tried to get up and leave her in the bed with my husband but she followed me to my desk with crayons and a notepad and roughly 800 questions about what I was doing on my “pooter.” After 30 minutes I gave up and watched cartoons with her while I drank my coffee.
I was exhausted by lunch on Friday but as I put all three children in their beds I promised if they would let me rest for an hour that we could go swimming. I was willing to do anything to exhaust them and ensure a good night’s sleep for the whole family. I popped a few ibuprofen for a headache and laid down on my bed. I could hear Aubrey and Emma scuttling around in the kitchen and giggling in their bedroom but I was too exhausted to move.
The house was a disaster when I finally gave up and got out of the bed. I found a step stool stacked on top of a barstool in the pantry and every cabinet door was standing wide open. We had to get out of the house. I had been awake for entirely too long and my kids needed to burn off some energy.
I got all three girls into swimsuits, loaded two pool bags into the car, including snacks and drinks and changed into my bathing suit. I got all everyone into the car, buckled into seat belts and we drove to the pool. We unloaded the car and slowly made our way across the parking lot, through the rec center building and to the pool.
These details are important because we stayed at the pool about one-third of the time it took us to get there.
I watched my kids while they swam for an entire 15 minutes before all hell broke loose. Aubrey and Emma were racing across the baby pool. Emma cheated by putting her feet down and walking in the pool while Aubrey swam. Aubrey was still winning so Emma started playing dirty. She grabbed Aubrey’s bathing suit and pulled. Emma pinched and grabbed at her sister, trying to get ahead. It took less than 10 seconds for Aubrey to fight back. Aubrey turned and jumped on Emma’s back, forcing Emma underwater.
I was pulling them apart exactly one second later.
“Get. Out. Of. The. Pool.”
“BUT MOMMA…” They chanted.
“NOW.” I growled. You don’t want to mess with me when I’m tired or hungry.
I was so mad I didn’t even pick up our stuff or put on my cover-up. I took their naughty butts straight to the car, turned on the AC and went back for our things alone.
The short ride home was a monologue dedicated to water safety, respecting each other, obedience and ended with, “And when we get home you will eat dinner and go straight to bed!”
I stuck to my guns and as I tucked Emma into bed I covered her little face with kisses and said, “How about you stay in your bed tonight? All night long and don’t wake up until the sun is up, okay?”
“But Momma, I really want to sleep with you.” Her voice cracked.
“Why do you like sleeping with me so much? You’ve got a great bed right here by Aubrey’s.”
Her chin quivered and proving that children love discipline she said, “Because you are so nice to me and I just love you.” She was so sincere, I almost felt bad after I tucked her into her own bed then promptly collapsed on my own.