"But Mommy, I want to be with you."
I sighed and tried to explain again. "Rowan, I'm just going to the basement to change the laundry. That's it. I just want a few minutes all by myself while I change the laundry, then I'll be right back up to be with you."
"But Mommy," he said again, nearly crying despite the fact that we had been together nearly every minute of the entire day, "I don't want you to be alone."
I shut the child gate with him on the other side and descended the basement steps. Thankfully, within a minute I could hear him laughing and running with Henry again. It had been a long, long day.
It began with a vicious alarm clock at 5:00 a.m. Matthew hit snooze, which I welcomed gladly, but at that point I discovered that Rowan, all of five and still having some potty troubles, had peed through his diaper (something he usually doesn't even need or wear) on our bed. Including my pillow. I crawled out of bed and got another diaper, and managed to change him without waking him. A towel thrown over the wet spot and a substitute pillow brought in seemed reasonable at the time, and I lay down for a few minutes more sleep.
Sadly, sleep rarely goes on as long as I'd like it to, and at 5:30-ish I struggled out of bed. Matthew was already up and dressed. Noah and Titus's flight was due to leave at 10:30, and what with our distance from the airport and the need to be there at least two hours early, we had to leave the house by 6:30. Or--Titus is expecting you to make crepes for breakfast, Marilyn--somewhere around 7:00. Or maybe yes we're finally out of the house, please no one say they need anything else at least by 7:30.
Bless her heart, Grandma Carol said she would watch 2-year-old Henry for us. Rowan, on the other hand, came with us. He was so, So, SO excited to finally be going to the airport, because wow. Rowan is actually lots of fun to take on road trips because he rocks out to our favorite music and even sings along. The teens went to sleep in the back.
If you've never taken a 5-year-old to the airport, you should know that it is very intense. There's lots of hold my hand, please and no, seriously, hold my hand and I will take you back to the van this instant if you keep pulling away from Mommy or dropping on the ground or trying to run away from me, young man! We got family passes to accompany Noah and Titus to their gates, which is the one advantage to having legally blind children.
The teens got on their flight successfully and we headed out to find some food. There was lots more of, I want to go to a park, and I want to sit at this table in Subway; what do you mean we're not staying? I want a park, Mom. If Grandma is tired of watching Henry then Savanna can.
Home several days later, or so it felt, Matthew retreated to our air-conditioned bedroom and left me with both children. I get it. He has MS, and the only way he would make it to work in the evening was if he took a good long break out of the heat. I understand, really. But golly, I just wanted to veg out. So I figured, stick the kids in the wading pool out back and I could sit there in a comfy chair with my laptop. Easy-peasy, right?
I really should have known better. Rowan ran out first. I gathered up Henry and followed; we went outside and--Oh, dear Lord, no, Rowan had the Look. The one that says he's about to poop his pants. There was nothing for it but to order him inside to the bathroom immediately. And telling Henry, who had just gone outside with Mommy for the first time All Day (although he had spent time out with Grandma), that we were walking straight back in was not pretty. A high chair, ice cream cone, and Grandma's computer games temporarily took care of Henry while I took Rowan to the toilet. Why, yes, Rowan, you may certainly have your ice cream cone while sitting on the toilet. Hey, it kept him happy.
Ten minutes yielded no results, so I let him off the toilet but informed him that there would be no pool until he pooped. I have no desire to scrub poop out of that thing. Let's see: Option 1, take both kids to the park for two minutes until Rowan feels the urge to poop again, then order them back inside and have screaming tantrums. Or Option 2, sit and watch TV while staying close to the restroom. I chose Option 2.
The kids watched a couple shows before starting to chase each other all over the house. I let them. I love it when they play together, and Henry's giggles are so completely adorable. Off to the living room, back to the day room, behind the big armchair, and--
"Mommy, I just peed my pants."
I closed my eyes and breathed out slowly. I opened my eyes again. "Okay," I said, trying to sound unfazed, "stay right there and I'll get a towel." We keep a stock of rag towels in our hot tub room (which sadly does not have a functioning hot tub at the moment) and I had one on the wet spot within two minutes. I took Rowan back upstairs to the toilet and plunked him down.
Downstairs, Henry busied himself with climbing into his high chair. Since it was pretty darn close to dinner time, I put his tray on and gave him some rosemary french bread. Then, from upstairs, the welcome cry: "Mommy, it went in! I need Neccos!" Oh, my dear child, I said in my mind. I would happily give you 1000 Neccos if you would only make it to the toilet every single time. I cleaned him up, left the results soaking in the toilet for a while--almost always necessary if it's going to flush--and put fresh clothes on him.
Downstairs again, Rowan began running once more. Henry started nodding in his high chair, then fell fast asleep. I glanced at the clock--was it really 6:30 already?--and decided to just take Henry up for the night. I washed him and gathered him up, all without waking him, and started up the stairs.
I was followed.
"Rowan, go back downstairs."
"But Mommy, I want to be with you."
"Rowan, I'm just putting Henry in his bed, then I'll be right back."
"No, Mommy, I'm coming with you. I'll be quiet."
"Rowan, please, I need to put Henry in his bed. I'll be right back and then we can play together. Please go."
"Mommy, I just want to play with you always."
"Rowan, go. Now." He finally went, and I took Henry to his bed. Funny thing--he was no longer asleep, but awake and bright and perky. Dash it all, I thought. Instead of my youngest going to bed two hours early, and being able to spend quality time with Rowan, I would now have to continue focusing my tired brain on both small children. I nearly cried.
I went downstairs and had a conversation with Rowan about this. "Don't you see, because you insisted on following Mommy and didn't listen when I said to go back downstairs, Henry woke up. I was going to do fun things with you this evening, maybe play Scrabble or Candyland. Now I can't, because when Henry's awake he takes all the pieces and loses them. Because you didn't listen to Mommy, you've lost the special time I was going to spend with you."
Rowan nearly cried, too. "But Mommy, Henry can go to bed now, and then we can play together."
"No, sweetie, it doesn't work like that. Henry is awake now, and probably won't go to sleep again until it's your bedtime, too. When Mommy and Daddy tell you to do things, it's because we want things to be good for you. When you don't obey right away, sometimes those good things go away. That's why it is so important for you to obey The First Time we tell you to do something."
I don't know how many times I had that conversation last night. He disobeyed and disobeyed and disobeyed. I tried to be patient. Sometimes I yelled, then felt terrible about it. The adults finally sat down for dinner (the children had already eaten, and were running madly throughout the house), and then I smelled that Henry was poopy. I left my dinner to go change him.
In the middle of changing him Rowan poked his head around the corner. "Mommy, I just peed in the hallway." Deep breaths, Marilyn. Deep breaths. "Okay, let me finish changing Henry, then I'll come help you." I got a towel and covered the second wet spot--oh yeah, I hadn't cleaned up the first one yet--and had Rowan strip. Then the terrible bit: calling Grandma away from her dinner, the first in a long time where she and Paul had actually been able to sit down together.
"Mom, would you please shower Rowan so I can scrub this poopy diaper?" (Yes, we use cloth diapers.) She agreed, thankfully. Words cannot express how much I am thankful for my mother-in-law. I went to the laundry tub in the basement and, feeling a headache settling in behind my eyes, decided to fend it off and improve my attitude by singing a song of praise to God while I scrubbed. It helped. I felt so relieved, but oh heaven preserve us, beware of complacency!
I went back up and Carol was struggling to Keep Rowan Still while toweling him off. I sent him upstairs to get underwear. "But Mommy, you go get it for me." I reminded him that I had to scrub two pee spots in the carpet. "Mommy, I don't want to get my underwear. You can." So on and so forth until finally: "ROWAN, I AM CLEANING UP YOUR PEE OUT OF THE CARPET, AND SO HELP ME, IF YOU ARE STILL NAKED WHEN I GET UPSTAIRS I WILL PUT YOU DIRECTLY IN BED AND YOU WILL NOT BE GETTING OUT OF IT." Within one minute he had reappeared downstairs, sporting not only underwear, but sweats and a t-shirt as well. Thank the Lord for small mercies.
Then Grandma asked him to clear his plate from the table. He collapsed on the stairs, closed his eyes, and pretended to be asleep. I tried making it a game. No go. I finally said I would count to 10 and if he hadn't summoned enough energy to clear his plate, he obviously didn't have enough energy for a nighttime cup of milk or cuddling or stories. Rowan: "But Mommy, clearing my plate takes 100 energy and I only have 50." (I admit to a stifled giggle here.) I counted to 10 and he just sat there. When he saw me actually putting his cup back in the fridge, he finally got up and sauntered to the table to begin clearing his place. I told him it was too late, but that since he was actually clearing it he could have his cup back. He would still have to go to sleep in his own bed with no stories.
Cue tears. "But Mommy, I want to snuggle on your bed."
He finally did go to sleep, and then Henry did also, thankfully. And then I had laundry to fold and my bed still wasn't re-made from being peed on (I had stripped the wet bedding). Good golly, we actually slept on an unmade bed last night, because Matt came home and collapsed before I could put the sheets on, and then he wasn't budging.
Conclusion: I am very thankful that my children love to be with me, but sometimes I just want to scream, "LEAVE ME ALONE FOR JUST FIVE MINUTES, PLEASE!" You?
P.S. I am also thankful that I made it through the day without injuring or killing anyone.