I wake up rather blearily at 6:30am. It comes after another late night of creating but those are my favorite ones to burn the candle for.
I lay in bed a little while, savoring the warmth while it lasts….read a few words in Leviticus and try to make sense of them in my foggy state, check my email on my phone….and ….I hear the unmistakeable padding of footsteps approaching my bed.
My first little wide-eyed thing joins me in bed to tell me about her dreams and that she’s hungry, really hungry, for breakfast. And we barely make it through plans of pancakes before we hear Bea shouting to us. She sounds angry that she’s the last one up today.
I glance at the clock, trying not to be too disappointed that my best laid plans of beating them out of bed didn’t work today.
Still smelling of sleep and popped dreams, we make our way downstairs and to the breakfast table. MG wants dry toast (still recovering from a stomach bug), Bea wants peanut butter toast and a clementine. I make her an egg but she won’t touch it.
Breakfast doesn’t last long, but emptying and refilling the dishwasher, starting a load of diapers in the wash, wiping down the counter and table, prepping chicken for dinner in the crockpot, and sweeping the floor always seems to exact no small fortune of time from our day.
I mentally go through my plans and feel a small wave of anxiety. It’s Wednesday, house cleaning day. Which means we don’t have any agenda to leave the house and it also means I have two main objectives to accomplish with the girls underfoot: cleaning and exercise.
Cleaning for me always begins in the heart of the home, the kitchen. All is right in my world, it seems, if my kitchen is clean. I gather my supplies and begin to scrub; I beg the girls to find something to engage in.
MG is easy. She has planted herself at the bar and wants to play with “soft sand” (kinetic sand) . I take a break from the sink to gather some kitchen utensils for her to make the play time more fun. Meanwhile, Bea has dragged over a chair and is begging to join in.
MG doles out a small portion of sand for her along with a few unwanted utensils to play with. I make the most of these 8 minutes to wipe down the stove.
“Mommy, Bea’s eating the sand!” I wash my hands, wipe out Bea’s mouth, wash out Bea’s mouth, wash my hands.
Repeat, repeat, repeat. Bea continues to return to the scene of her crime, undeterred by the grittiness in her mouth and the disapproving warnings of her mother and sister.
This last time requires yet another hand washing and I feel the pain shoot through my fingertips as I subject them to the steaming water, lye soap, and a rough cotton towel. They crack and bleed, tiny red rivulets in protest to their harsh environment. Soft, feminine, pretty hands have been sacrificed to winter and making and child-raising.
I put my foot down and send Bea away from the counter.
“Mommy, is it time to watch a show yet?”
“Nope, not until I do my exercise. You’ll need to find something to play with until then.”
But I don’t know what to do.
I suggest 3-5 things. All are met, predictably with negative responses.
“Okay, well I just have to clean the bathroom, vacuum & mop the floors, and clean upstairs and THEN it will be time to watch your show. I’m sure you can find something to do until then”
I resume my work, but it seems mere seconds before I hear, “Mommy, Bea’s coloring on herself.”
Which is followed by, “Mommy, Bea’s got the scissors.”
“Mommy, Bea is eating play-doh”.
How silly I am. Where do I get off thinking that a 22 month old would need anything less than constant supervision? With little time to reconsider, I shimmy her up to the table, open a yellow can of doh and buy myself just a few more seconds. I realize it will mean another pass of the vacuum, another wipe of the table, and perhaps even a few pieces “disappearing”, but in that moment, it’s an exchange I’m willing to take.
Finally the main floor is clean and I move on to the second floor, brigade in tow. MG has joined me in the fun and is “dusting” directly underneath my feet. While we focus our efforts on the master bedroom, Bea opens MG’s sock drawer and pulls apart every single pair and then throws them around the room.
As MG and I are piecing this misfortune back together, Bea uses to her arms to counterbalance her bodyweight and slides herself triumphantly onto the bathroom counter. Pleased with herself, she climbs into the bathroom sink and turns the water on, all over herself. From this perch, she opens a clear plastic tube of tiny hair elastics using her teeth and exuberantly pours them out, raining them victoriously all over the floor. When the shower stops, she examines the tube carefully to see that a few dozen still remain in the container, globbed together at the bottom. She forcefully gives it another shake, emptying it this time, to her satisfaction.
Finally it is time to vacuum, which is the final step in the cleaning process, and I feel the tension hinging on this last item. MG is about to break with the anticipation of her show. Bea is crumbling under the pressure of having to entertain herself. I am just dragging myself to the finish line in the hopes that this will ever be done.
As I’m vacumming our bedroom, I glance down and see a stray Color Wonder marker peeking out from underneath our bed. I briefly consider assuming the posture of the three other bodies who live here and passing it by unaware. But then I realize with a sinking feeling that I am the mom now and being the mom means that no one else is going to come behind you and clean up the things that you don’t want to.
In duty only, I pick up the marker and put it in my pocket with a mental note to return it to its rightful home. “If not me, then whom?” I think. And that question takes me down a really short and winding trail that reminds me of how exponentially weighty my role in this family is.
At last I wind up the vacuum cord and alert MG that I am finally done cleaning. At the sound of my voice, Bea comes bounding towards us, suspiciously covered in Tinkerbell stickers.
It’s 11am and I glance down at my Fitbit…and I realize…you have now walked a mile in my shoes.