The other night, Mike was working late (as in very, very, past-bedtime late) so I was putting the kids down. This should not be a big deal. But for some reason, nothing was going right. Pax screamed at me while I made dinner (the, uh, entire time), and Raines whined. Then neither ate a thing. We broke a glass. They went mental in the bathtub. I mopped everything up (too tired to get them to “help” which is typically our rule) while they ran – literally – shrieking up and down the hall.
I was pissed. All through dinner and the bath I had worked myself up into a nice little snit. I was pissed at them, pissed at Mike for working, and pissed at myself: I did a crap job with dinner, a crap job with the bath, and I didn’t even make them clean up their mess. Crap crap crap. A crap Mum. A shame spiral of pissiness ensues.
You can probably guess how story-time went: More whining and general grouchiness, then Pax busted out some hitting and kicking for good measure. So I picked him up and carried him to my room, leaving Raines in the lurch with some half-hearted promise to return and finish reading. Normally R is pretty understanding about these things, but it was One Of Those Nights, so instead, he was in tears.
Pax proceeded to defy sleep like some crazed, drunk elf. He romped around on the bed forcing me to try to restrain him somehow. He repeatedly asked to go downstairs, and when denied, kicked and punched and then headbutted me when I held his arms. Defeated, I walked away, leaving him on the bed.
NOTE: By “leaving” I mean that I walked THREE FEET away to the chair and sat in it. Same room. Different piece of furniture.
Long story short, Pax cried for over an hour. For part of that hour, I was sitting in the chair, trying to ignore him. Other times, I tried holding him, or rocking him, or doing any of those comforting things a mom does. He kept asking to go downstairs…and in the end he just…passed out. His cheeks still wet with tears.
I felt horrible. Like I had made the wrong choice. The wrong choice for Pax, the wrong choice for me. Something about my behavior was wrong. But I was still all caught up in my snit.
So I stomped back to Raines’ room (he was still awake and calling for me) all ready to continue in my role as The Uncaring Crappy Mom, and just as I reached his room, just as I was forming the words “GET BACK TO BED, RAINES!!!” I heard his little voice in a rapturous whisper:
There are times when I’m literally brought to my knees by my children. Humbled by their innocence, their purity. They are raw truth and goodness and light compared to my hot mess and clouded perception. Raines was sitting by his window, bathed in moonlight and looking out on our backyard. Our backyard which was filled…with fireflies.
I watched my boy-angel for a moment, with a lump in my throat, my heart hurting. And then I made the decision I should’ve made hours ago. The one that Pax was trying to tell me for over an hour: Screw bedtime. It’s summer and there are fireflies and magic and warm night air and two boys who think you are the world. “Raines?” I asked. “Wanna go outside and catch fireflies?”
It was a small thing, and sadly without Pax (so, so sadly), but it was enough to salvage our evening and my remaining self-esteem. We went outside and caught fireflies in our hands and captured one in a jar to examine close-up. Then we climbed onto our old rickety swing-set and swung, fireflies flickering all around us. All down the block, into our neighbors’ yards we could see their lights twinkle. “Mom…” Raines breathed, “this is the most beautifulest thing I ever saw.”
Sometimes…I get it right. But only when I listen.
Next time, little P. We’ll do fireflies together.