Reclaiming the Night

It's a girls weekend ahead, and I thought it would be fitting to start it off with a cucumber and tomato salad.  I put it in one big bowl and gave us each forks to dig in together.  Hadz picked carefully to obtain as much of the feta that she could, while Maycee was fascinated with the pattern of tomato -  cucumber - tomato that decorated her fork.  It was an orchestrated success.

The next step was baths … then we could have { Movie Night with Popcorn }, as has become our Friday Night ritual. 

We all headed upstairs and I started the bath.  As if the water running wasn't cue enough, I directed them once I saw them goofing off, to get ready for the bath.  Their giggles and sounds of feet landing on the wood floors from bed-height caused me to believe that they weren't very concerned about their mother's request.  

I asked again. 

Still, giggles and play.

It is a strange simultaneous dichotomy of wanting to scream to get their attention, and wanting so desperately not to scream.

I also felt the dichotomy of loving to hear their laughter and wanting them to listen to me.  If only they could giggle and get ready for the bath at the same time.  

So I told them that I would wait downstairs until they were ready for bath.

It felt more like a sulking teenager than the strong mom, not screaming, that I intended for me to feel inside.  I sat on the couch, and I stewed.  I stewed and thought and wondered what I was to do.  I stirred around different thoughts of despair.  What am I supposed to do when they don't listen, when they just want to have fun, when I've said it too many times already, and when I don't want to resort to yelling.  I boiled over different punishments, different ways to really bring home the point that they need to listen.  Do I take movie night away?  Do I take Saturday Market away?  But what if I -- I -- want movie night?  What if I want flowers and fruit from Saturday Market?  Who is the punishment for?  Why isn't "I" a bigger word, a bigger letter.  Me, me, me.  Sulking on the couch with my stew of thoughts too hot to digest.


And then, when I took a second to stop listening to the mind-reel in my head, I realized there was quiet.  The giggling had subsided.  I heard the pitter patter of four feet (errr, 3 feet and a cast) shuffling to the laundry basket, to the bathroom, and I heard them getting into the tub.  

I heard the sound of Maycee's whisper, and concluded that she was organizing some kind of operation to turn the night around.

I heard the sound of the water responding to their bodies as they laid down to get their hair wet, as they scrubbed with soap (you would too, know how this sounds, with a few baths under your belt). 

And I decided to head back upstairs to see how things were going.  I suddenly felt more clear, I felt more able to handle their energy; less concerned with how or whether I would punish or lecture.

Hadley was playing with her bath toys.  Perfectly content not to have Mom bossing her around.

Maycee had already washed and rinsed her hair, sudsy residue on her crown remaining as proof that she did the best that she was able.  She welcomed me with a smile and said, 

"Mom, I am almost done washing myselfth!". 

I smiled back and offered to help her, she, at that point, had already reclaimed the night, she had me at "Mom …".

She didn't stop there, though.  She got her jammies on faster than she ever had.  I. Mean. Ever.  She brushed her own hair. 

I realized for a brief second that I stress over routines that need to be updated, like an app on my phone, to match the needs of its customers, to match the need of independence and sense of achievement necessary for their growing spirits.  

While Hadley got out of the tub and got dressed, May came into the bathroom, to show me how well she was brushing her hair.

"Hey May?"


"I was frustrated earlier when you guys didn't listen to me, but I want to say thank you for helping me, and for turning it around". 

A simple smile, or a "No problem, Mom!" would have satisfied my gratitude, would have fit her style, would have been enough.

Instead, she surprised me with her zest, and said

{ with a gasp }, 

"Oh, Mom!"

She thrust herself forward and gave me a big hug, squeezed me so hard that my eyes widened and I smiled at the wall behind her, at the strength of her emotion in that moment.

She did that thing that we all do, when something is cute, where you make a noise with your tongue on the back of your top teeth, a clicking noise that usually accompanies a tilt of the head and is followed by a closed mouth grin, or a hand to the chest, so taken aback by that darling thing in front of you.

{ clicking sound } { still hugging } 

"I just love you so much, Mom".

The wall would have told you my face softened from surprise and anticipation to a smirkish side-smile.  I knew what she was up to.  While I do believe that she meant the words she said, I also knew that she was being that theatrical self that the mirror, behind me, was bringing out in her.  The mirror phenomenon in full effect.  She was getting a kick out of being the motherly figure in the mirror, the one who was giving me the praise I deserved for … thanking her? …not yelling? … being darling?  Whatever it was, I was enjoying her in it and just went with it.

"You are the best mom in the whole world."

"Thanks, May.  You are the best May in the whole world".

I'm pretty sure she released her hug, with her hands on my shoulder and tilted her head at me smiling like a proud parent.  Maybe she didn't, but it would have fit the scene.

We went downstairs to watch a movie, and to eat too much popcorn.

And we will go to Saturday Market in the morning, too.  

 © Houseman 2013