She is finally asleep, that little ball of energy, my spitfire.
A half-dozen times, I have lost count now, my baby girl calls for me to do one thing or the other, always stalling for time. It is a battle, sleep does not come easy for her. I hear nothing for a glorious stretch of about five minutes, and I think she has finally succumbed to the Sandman. Then, the pitter-patter of little feet heard coming down the stairs. Mommy, I have to tell you something. The tears falling freely now because she knows this is it. Her final appeal to a mother who has warned her that there will be consequences next time. She sorrowfully pleads her case on the latest woe keeping her from slumber, and I am torn. It is half past my own bedtime and I am beat. It has been a long evening. I re-trace the outline of today’s events in my head.
Day begins before the sun has yet risen. I move quickly to get my own morning routines completed before the children awake, cherishing the solitude of early morning reverie. I move quietly about, folding laundry, swishing toilets, wiping counters, making beds. I listen for stirring, but as it happens, I will wake them today. We have a distance to travel and must be on the road early to make our deadline.
The children are already skirmishing before I take my place at the wheel. Their dad warns them to behave, and with a few last quick trips in to the house to retrieve essentials, we are off. The daylight moves in shadows, and we watch for the sun behind the clouds. It is shy, hiding behind a dense mass of cumulous. We arrive at Grammie’s house. Buns are sliced and buttered, summer sausage and grated cheese on some and jam and peanut butter on others. MaryAnne requests that her sandwich be simply mustard. The Kaisers hold egg salad, made with mayo and celery. Sarah asks, Is that my sandwich? in a dubious voice. She looks distastefully at the yellow mixture I am spreading on the buns. I shoo her out of the kitchen and finishing packing the picnic basket.
We arrive at a park where we will spend the day getting re-acquainted with old friends not seen in a year or more. The children make tracks all around the park and are back in five minutes, hungry for lunch. We feed, cajole, console, cherish these little ones in our care. We wipe dirty hands and faces. The children are satisfied, and run off. There is a tiny lull in the daily routine, and we sit back on blankets and enjoy each other’s company. It feels good to have adult conversation under a now blazing sun, but our chat is short lived. The gang are all back for dessert.
The children get tired of the play sets, and the pool becomes the next attraction. Everyone wants to swim, but only half have brought swimsuits. No matter. Four wear the proper attire, one wears underpants, another sports his shorts and another yet wears long grey leggings that cling to her legs. The children last ten minutes in the pool, rising from the water shivering and water-logged. They are all soaking wet, and no one has thought to bring a towel. One quick-acting mother runs back to the park and grabs the picnic blanket, leaving behind a trail of receiving blankets, baby wipes, a soother and sippy cup and various cans of half-drunk club soda. None of these things get noticed again until late in the afternoon. Our priorities are elsewhere.
The day is a blur of activity. We eventually find the sprinklers, motion-activated, which leads many of the original children who were freezing an hour ago to shed their clothes once again. One little lady take it upon herself to peel everything off and stands on a blanket in her birthday suit, to her mother’s chagrin. Jonah’s Mom, who is pregnant and has a headache today does not notice that he is running fully clothed through all the sprinklers, pausing to take a drink at every second one. He is so delighted with this new-found pleasure that we cannot resist laughing at his antics.
It is mid-afternoon, and we must say our goodbyes. The little girls hug and promises are made to write. The boys clap each other across the back. We head for the van, but take a walk back to our picnic spot one last time. My daughters have a parting gift in exchange for a few little toys their friends so kindly gave them on their departure. There is another round of hugs before the final farewell.
We drive home, unpack the van, have a snack and then head for bed. I am ready to unwind, and yet there is this little voice that calls out to me. Mommy, Mommy, I have something to tell you. I fly up and down the stairs and feel my breaking point coming. It has been a long day.
Mommy, I just want to cuddle with you, she says to me in her little four-year old voice. I think about the busy day and the time spent tending to tasks that are necessary. Were cuddles overlooked? I kiss her good-night, smooth her hair back and tell her I love her. Sleep is not long coming.