We have microfiber couches, and the secret my children have not yet discovered is that the fabric displays fingerprints (and footprints) of all their day's crimes for me to see after they've gone to bed. I step through the family room, picking up and straightening, and I pause by the arm of the couch and look down at the prints of five tiny toes and my heart clenches up and my teeth bang together and I close my eye and say, "Oh, Noah."
For some reason, whether a day has been good or bad, Bed Time in my house is like stepping from perfectly fine weather into a hurricane. It's ironic, too, because when Joey was a baby I set his entire life's schedule by a book called Secrets of the Baby Whisperer, and one of the most important tenets I learned was that bed time should be a quiet time, a time to wind down from the day's activities. I used to carry Joey through house whispering soft good-nights to everything, even picture frames and rugs, all to set the right tone for going to bed. Sometimes, Joe would just be coming home from work during this time, and I would greet him with wide warning eyes and say in a soft, but emphatic voice, "Good night, Daddy."
Bed Time is so far from that peaceful fantastical sunset that I could cry just remembering the easy days of only having one. I'm sure moms of four and five read my blog and roll their eyes at me, as I would roll my eyes at the old me, a mom of a measly two. But I don't think it's the quantity of children that makes being a mom hard. I think it's the need in your heart, the want in my own heart to be a good, nay, a good enough mom. That's what's really behind all my crazy.
Tonight I put Max to bed, gently nudging him onto his side the way he likes and tucking his favorite blanket in a roll behind his back. I turned off his night light and closed the door behind me, and took a deep, calming breath with each footstep that carried me away from his room and toward the bigger boys.
I settled down in a chair with Noah and a book, one-on-one time my emotional middle child desperately needs, when Max began to wail loudly.
In short, the evening consisted of resettling Max three times, forgetting Joey and Noah's cold medicine and having to re-tuck them in, only for Noah to leap out of bed screaming, "SPIDER ON THE CEILING!" at which point I had to get out a stepladder and kill the spider, which escaped from the tissue in which I'd captured it and began scurrying about the room to the horror of its occupants. They must have added ten extra people to our "God bless" list during prayers, and as I was finally closing their door behind me, Max began to cry again.
I think I probably cry once a day. Some days more. It could be anything that sets me off, from a corny commercial on TV to a phone call from Joe in the midst of chaos. I don't cry for any real reason, and when I look back over my day as I am now, once everything is finally, finally settled and done, I feel the need to stand on a mountain--a very high and isolated mountain where I'm standing all alone--and shout out how absolutely grateful I am for these crazy days and these crazy boys, and for being able to stay home with them every day. Because I am. But the truth is, a lot of days, I take a lot of deep breaths. I count often. I pray often. I wish for the patience everyone else seems to have that I definitely lack. And I look at footprints on couches and I remind myself, "They're just being little. They can't help that they're kids." Because if I don't remind myself, I'll be mad. Like, really mad. And impatient, and more than a little crazy. And most days, I'm probably somewhere in between.
But then, the other day, I called out to Joey, "Hey, buddy, you know I love you, right?" and he turned around to look at me. He rolled his eyes with a smile and said, "Of course I know that, Mom. You tell me a hundred times a day, every day of my life." And I thought...I hope he's always exactly the way he is right now. Because "right now" is so good, well, it makes me cry, too.