The boy glowers at me with his arms crossed and his features set in a rage. He tells me he will not sleep in his blankets, that he wants the bed bare. (Odd.) He refuses to sleep with his pillow, that’s how mad he is. Only his Pinky teddy bear. And he is not putting on pajamas. I shrug okay. He has brushed his teeth, so I see no harm.
I sent him to bed without dessert, which is akin to capital punishment at our house. He grabbed a solar-powered calculator from his sister’s hands, and when I insisted that he give it back, Brendan hurled the calculator so that its corner dug directly into my ankle. I sent him for a time out in another room, where he wailed about the unfairness of my judgement. I found an ice pack and a band-aid, unswayed by his loud protest.
“No kiss goodnight for you!” he insisted, as I kissed his sister.
Somehow she and I managed to rearrange her shelves so that they look quite good, after an hour-long sorting disaster. Homework did not get done. Violin did not get practiced. But the dolls and the doll clothes and the vast array of journals and fabric and art paper and musical instruments are all contained, and no longer sliding into her bed. The cleaning project came about with bad timing, but this morning she told me she liked waking up in a messy pile of her things, setting off an alarm in my head. We emptied a basket of doll things to use it for the headbands, brushes and hair doodads—and I knew we had turned a corner, from dressing dolls to dressing herself. She thanked me profusely for helping her find her lost treasures and for how pretty everything looked. We talked about where to find the special books (on the living room bookshelf) and the art supplies (in the art bin), and cleared the stuff from her desktop. She grabbed a handful of M&Ms for her dessert, quietly, knowing Brendan was going without.
In ten short minutes, both were asleep, so I can turn to other needs. The soup pot bubbles on the stove, sending the cat into a begging fit until I provide some bits of chicken. I heat the water for tea to soothe my hay fevery throat. My to-do list shows I’ve forgotten as many chores as I’ve remembered today, and tomorrow is a big day to catch up. Sometimes I forget these children are so small—their spirits are so huge to me. Sometimes I forget they are getting older day by day, until I find a basket of hair accessories has replaced another of doll clothes. Until Brendan plans and pulls off a craft project from his new book with no assistance whatsoever. I still want to bottle the hint of lisp from his missing front teeth. I’m glad he’s still so willing to hold my hand and to offer smooches, on nights when I haven’t taken away dessert.
I’m not a perfect mother. But I’m good enough, today. And even if I weren’t good enough, just barely, they are two of my favorite people in the world, and I’m glad to spend this part of my life with them, a rainy night in spring when they are ages seven and nine. I’m glad to be just in the next room over, listening in case they need more than organization and teddy bears.