But I have fantastic kids and an amazing husband. The little irritations and occasional (or not so occasional) tantrums are so huge in my eyes that I let them overshadow the many wonderful, charming and hilarious qualities my kids have.
Sienna is probably the most thoughtful and considerate five year old in the world. Every morning she wakes me up in the hideous half-light that preceeds six a.m., grabs my hand as I tumble groggily out of bed and walks with me back to her room, where I pull Charlotte out of her crib and fall into Sienna’s bed with the two of them for a little pre-dawn cuddling. Charlotte would be content to cuddle for hours, but after five minutes Sienna is out of bed and off working on some project while the Ogre and Liam slumber and Charlotte and I doze. Sometimes she paints or colors a picture, but more often than not she wakes me up twenty minutes later to proudly show off “something sweet.” Often she leads me to the kitchen where the few dishes left in the sink overnight have been washed with incredible amounts of soap and are perched precariously on a dish towel to drain, soap bubbles still sparkling as they slide down the sides of glasses. Lately she’s discovered the erasable marker the Ogre bought me to write notes to myself on the bathroom mirror at night; this morning I woke up to discover a stick-figure drawing of Sienna and me, with “yttik olleh” written above them. She had copied “Hello Kitty” off her nightgown by looking at it in the mirror and proudly announced to me that it said “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star” (there were stars on her nightgown as well). When we were sick last week Charlotte and I fell asleep on the couch one afternoon and I awoke to a spotless living room and a table decorated with a bowl of arranged fruit. Sienna had cleaned and decorated so that “Mommy didn’t have to.” Anytime I’m sad or frustrated about something Sienna invariably gives me a somber, wide-eyed look before running off to her table to draw me a picture. When I’m angry, even if my anger is unjust, she never fails to come to me later and apologize and promise to try harder. And she does try harder. Sometimes I wish she wouldn’t try so hard.
Charlotte is two, so there’s lots of boundary-testing at the moment, but like her sister she has such a desire to help. Not once have I opened the washer to transfer clothes into the dryer that she hasn’t come running to me with her arms open, delighted to be given a sock or a pair of pants to put into the dryer. She’s also such a little cuddle monkey. She’s happiest when she’s wrapped in someone’s arms, and she never leaves anyone’s company without blowing kiss after kiss after kiss. In spite of being supplanted by her little brother, she’s so loving and gentle toward him. Her favorite way to communicate with him is by laying on top of him and smothering him with kisses. When he’s sleeping she’ll walk right up to him, put her fingers on her lips and say “sshhhhhhh,” then loudly proclaim “milim sweepin” (Liam’s sleeping). Just in the past week she’s developed a fascination with Sienna’s old baby doll and has begun carrying it everywhere, rubbing it’s head, patting it’s back and sitting on the floor, hiking her shirt up and trying to nurse it. She threw a colossal fit the other night when I had put her in one-piece pajamas that snapped up the back and she couldn’t get them off to nurse the baby. After she calmed down she brought the doll to me and looked at me plaintively, saying “peese nuwse?” (please nurse). She also insists on wearing shoes twenty-four hours a day; “shoe” was her first word, before mama or daddy or sissy, and nothing in the world makes her happier than a new pair of shoes.
Even watching Sienna and Charlotte bicker, which they do endlessly, is enough entertainment to keep me laughing all night. Sienna is constantly snatching things from Charlotte, loudly telling her “no!”, and generally serving as a tyrannical busybody to Charlotte’s insatiable toddler curiosity. But Charlotte, small as she is, knows how to sneak around; she’ll wait until Sienna’s occupied with something else and then grab whatever toy happens to be Sienna’s favorite that day, squawk triumphantly, wave it under Sienna’s nose and then run screaming to hide behind me when Sienna inevitably comes after her. But it isn’t too rare that I happen to get glimpses of sisterly love and sweetness; Sienna will help Charlotte get a cup that’s out of reach or sit with her and read her a book that Charlotte brings to her. Charlotte will curl up next to Sienna to watch a movie, chubby arms wrapped around Sienna’s waist. And kisses and hugs abound whenever one of them gets hurt.
Liam is, like all babies, the most wonderful one ever born. He’s so smiley and so good-natured. Even when his stomach hurts and his legs are drawn up in obvious discomfort, he still tries to smile when he sees my face. He lights up when his sisters are near, his whole body clenching and twisting in delight. He loves being whispered to, he’s incredibly ticklish, he snorts when he laughs and he sleeps like his Daddy, arms above his head, snoring loud enough to hear from down the hall and dead to the world. I love waking them up in the morning because it’s like watching two mirrors; they both yawn, blink, and stretch identically and at the same time, their bodies contorting as they groan, sigh, roll over and agree to face the day together.
And the Ogre. He’s wonderful and loving, but in a different and deeper way than I dreamed about my future husband being when I was younger. He gets mad at me when I read Harry Potter and watch Buffy because he knows that my education is better than that, and he knows that I want to continue that education. He urges me to spend my time reading worthwhile books so I can learn and improve my grasp of language and literature. When I neglect the housework and the cooking because I spend the day writing he’s thrilled; he constantly offers to haul the kids off to the living room and let me shut myself up in the study to write, or to take care of dinner and bedtimes for the evening so I can go to Starbucks with a good book and some peace and quiet. He doesn’t bring me flowers every night or tell me often that he loves me, but he stays up every night to finish the dishes because he knows that I hate waking up to a dirty kitchen. He takes me aside when I get irritated and start snapping at the girls and gently reminds me that they’re children. He bounces the baby at night when he gets fussy so that I can sleep peacefully. He crams hundreds of hours of studying into eight or ten hours of the day and a few stolen hours when everyone’s asleep, because he loves coming home to see his children and to have dinner with us. He lives on five hours of sleep a night so he can study, prepare for his classes and spend time with his family. He goes out of his way to help his students, spending hours in one-on-one sessions and communicating via email. He frets constantly about the best way to approach texts with his students so that they’ll see the beauty and wisdom of the works he loves; he frets constantly about the best way to raise our children so that they will learn to be good above all. He very rarely takes time for himself, and he never complains. Even when his eyes are red and his shoulders are slumped he still manages a smile for the girls and an encouraging word for me.
It’s hard to bear all these blessings in mind during the hustle and bustle of our daily lives, when spilled milk and dirty diapers and temper tantrums all seem to clamor for my attention and fill up our day with nothing but trials and frustration. But really the tapestry of our days is weaved in endless love and blessings; the snarls are only occasional and easily overcome.