We are visiting with my in-laws, who we don't get to see very much due to the three and a half hour drive and schedules that are nearly impossible to coordinate. When we finally make to their perfectly bucolic town and home, it is nice for my husband to spend some time with his parents. To facilitate this, I take over the duties for which we frequently tag-team if he is home.
After collecting all the dirty clothes, throwing in a load of laundry, putting away clutter to prevent death-by-tripping-on-invisible-toys, it is time to catch the children. They are chasing fireflies, so this is no easy feat. Then comes stripping off the wet clothing, seemingly super-glued on with a mixture of mud and grass, and plopping them in the tub. Amidst screams of glee and giggles, everyone eventually gets a good scrub down. The p' jammy chase is next, followed by the "remember, your teeth will fall out if you don't brush them" chat while brushing teeth. By the end, beads of sweat role down my forehead and I need a bath myself. Unfortunately, the work is only just begun. I look out the window and see my husband sitting on the bench in the garden, under an ancient Magnolia, glass of wine in hand, talking to his Dad. I briefly imagine the warm honeysuckle scent in the air outside and the sounds of crickets. They better be freakin' surgically bonded after this alone time.
The girls go through the usual bedtime filibusters: lobbying for more food - because clearly, they have been deliberately denied food all day. Then there is need for milk and water, and of course, teeth brushing again or "our teeth will fall out." (Didn't see that one coming.) Of course they all need back tickles, lullabies, and finally, hugs and kisses. The whole process takes about an hour. Add thirty minutes if we read, but since they were chasing fireflies so late, we skip that tonight.
I am about to close the door with my oldest and exhale, when, "Mommy?"
"Oh, never mind. Can you get Daddy?"
"What, honey? You can ask me."
"Well, I know you aren't going to do it."
"Izzy, just ask."
"I want my blanket from the car,"
She has this blanket she got three months ago for her birthday. It is not an imperative blanket, meaning, she chooses when she sleeps with it.
"Izzy, I'm too tired to go look for it. We will find it tomorrow."
"I knew you wouldn't do it. You don't do very much. Daddy is more active then you."
"What do you mean Izzy?"
"Well, Daddy does all those little things."
"Izzy, I just spend over an hour getting you guys ready for bed and getting the laundry done for tomorrow. You don't think that's anything?"
"Well..." she looks at me sheepishly, "It just seems Daddy does more."
"Good night Izzy. I love you." I can think nothing else to say as tears well up in my eyes. I close the door and go to take a shower.
My husband and I frequently have "conversations" about our roles as good cop and bad cop. Can you guess who which one am I? If you haven't guessed it, let me give you another recent example.
My four year old gets her cookie treat taken away for bad behavior, by my husband and myself together, as in, in unison.
"Please, please, please Daddy! (Note, she doesn't even bother addressing me here) Can I just have a little bit? Please?" This, of course, is accompanied by the cutest face ever. You may recognize it - it involves the pouty lower lip, head hung low, eyes looking up.
"Ok! You are so cute! I can't resist you!" Yup, he says these words out loud to her.
So, this is how it goes. I spend the evening cooking meals from the garden and cleaning up. Washing clothes and putting them away. Making sure all the school folders are looked through. My husband plays with the kids. Which do you think they remember?
It is a gut-wrenching reality, one that seems unalterable. There is no fix I can think up. It is part of the struggle of that elusive balance. Trying to teach them about eating healthily and together, the responsibility of caring for your family, for the earth, etc, etc actually involves living that way. That takes time. I am glad, and so fortunate, that my husband just happens to be an amazing, adoring father who loves to spend time with his three girls and relieves me of that duty while the other things get done. But, I am totally jealous that I am not the one they see in the foreground, and that I am the bad cop.
The hope I cling to is that maybe one day, they will have a realization that I actually was doing something and that's why there was no more energy for the thousandth thing they asked. Perhaps that will be when they take on taking care of themselves, or, more likely when they take care of their own children. Maybe then I will have that "heart-in-my-throat" moment for "I noticed all that work. Thank you for doing it."
I can dream, can't I?
Thank you, Mom, for all that you did, and continue to do for me, my girls, and everyone around you. It never goes unnoticed even though we may not acknowledge it out loud.