Zu has a rash that's worrying me.
Coco is eager to pee on the potty and quick to help me clean up any mess (two qualities that her sister certainly did not share at age two), but she's just as quick to have a bone melting breakdown over something that is inexplicable to the rest of us.
I am home alone Monday nights while David is in class. We miss him. I tire of a dinner hour that sometimes feels like the girls bark orders disguised by a "pease, Mommy" tacked on the end, and I run circles in the kitchen, scrambling eggs, refilling milk, shooing the dog outside, reminding them to sit down, use a napkin, don't shout, ask nicely. Then I clean up the kitchen while they wreck another room of the house. Tonight it was the basement bathroom--they turned on the shower and soaked the floor (and themselves) trying to bathe some dolls. It's hard to be the only one here, but I also love it.
"Girls night!" Zu will say, as though we are going to do something different from any other weeknight. And there is something festive, somehow, in the rush of dinner and play and bath and brush and bed.
My favorite, though, (like so many parents) is bedtime. Both girls with me in the rocking chair. Reading books. Rocking. Singing. Both asleep on my lap. I breathe in the smell of their hair, the baby lotion that I love so much, the fruity toothpaste breath.
There's still laundry to fold, appointments to schedule, a guest bed to make up, towels to pick up off the bathroom floor. I should run the vacuum downstairs. But in this quiet moment, a fan whirring, Cooper snoring gently on the rug, the girls' warm bodies leaning on me, I just want to savor it. The quietness. The trust. Despite all my doubts and worries and fears, for this short sliver of time, I'm enough. I'm their comfort and their safe place as they drift off to sleep. It's such a gift and responsibility and it awes me still that I'm The Mom. That somehow all of this is mine.
And still the fear that if I hold it too tight, it just might slip away.
I spent a lot of hours with my therapist talking about how not to live a life in fear. Discussions of mindfulness and being in the moment. Controlling the fear. Believing that my paranoia won't protect me (or them), nor will it be a catalyst for tragedy. Even when things are troubling (this rash!), I am usually able to let logic beat terror.
As I worry about this rash, I try not to spin out into excessive anxiety. But I'm always aware that we are not exceptions to the rule of chance. It's a challenge every day to take that awareness of the great fragile gift of this life and treat it with joy instead of fear.
Being home alone forces me to be totally present, and it's exhausting but also exhilarating.
I've always borrowed the line that I love my kids SO MUCH, but I love them 10% more when they are sleeping. And it's never truer than the nights I'm home alone, when our snuggles are extra long, their hugs and kisses extra sweet, the long list of chores pushed off a few more minutes. It won't be long until the three of us don't fit on one chair, until Zu is reading books to herself, until pajamas don't feature footies and zippers and Disney characters, until the smell of baby lotion isn't part of our evening ritual.
So I'm taking the mess, the water on the bathroom floor, the potty talk, the temper tantrums, and I'm doing my best NOT to live and appreciate every moment of the madness (impossible!), but to hold on to the pockets of quiet as the crucial reminders of how fleeting this is, and how incredibly, unbelievable precious and sweet these girls are--at least when they are sleeping.