The moment Terra wakes up she is screaming with clenched eyes and puffy cheeks. She’s suffering from separation anxiety. I’ll go in the bedroom and say, “You’re awake!” She’ll sob, “YES!” And I’ll say, “You’re upset.” And she’ll say, “YES!!! YOU LEFT ME!” Whether I’ve been gone for two minutes or two hours it is always the same. She can only be soothed by being held in my arms, while being permitted to hold my right breast (she nursed until she was 30 months old, and we stopped too abruptly, now I am paying the price).
Amara wakes up ready to eat, full of energy, but it’s 50/50 whether she’ll burst into tears when I remind her that “Big girls wear underwear when they’re not in their rooms sleeping.” One minute to one hour later, depending on her mood, she comes out of her bedroom dressed for the day, reminds me that she’s so hungry she cannot wait, and plops herself down at the table in anticipation.
Between keeping the girls happy, healthy, and educated, keeping the house in a decent state of organization (everyday something remains untidy –or becomes so as I’m sweating through the fourth load of laundry, my third round of sweeping the living room floor since lunchtime, or the seemingly endless meal preparation), and keeping myself from passing out from the fatigue of…single parenting? the pregnancy? the anemia? the changes? the divorce? the court cases? the entirety? I rarely get a moment for any peace. But I have found solace in the most unusual of places.
For the past few weeks, I have made it clear to my daughters that “When Mama is washing the dishes she likes to listen to her book.” And shockingly enough they respect my wishes! Now, during those moments which used to be tedious and nauseating, I am taken to a different time, a different place, and allowed to focus on somebody else’s worries, which makes me surprisingly relaxed. I make sure to do the dishes when my daughters should be content, but sometimes they still come in the kitchen while I’m cleaning. I’ll let them finish their questions, tap my finger to my headphones, and remind them, “What does Mama like to do while she’s washing the dishes?” And I’ll hear the excited reply, “Listen to her book!” I’ll make sure, “Do you really need me?” And usually they’ll respond with chubby-cheeked smiles and a sprint back into another room.
Before The Millennium Trilogy, Little Children, The Kite Runner, This is Where I leave You, Lots of Candles Plenty of Cake (and, I admit, the Hunger Games Trilogy, though I only thought highly of the first book) the dishes were by far my most loathed chore! But now, in between the breakfast battles and the outdoor play, the lunchtime lunacy and the learning lessons, the dinner preparations and the bedtime business, I find peace. I laugh at myself when I feel the disappointment of looking into a clean, empty sink. No more “Me Time” today. On to make a four-course dinner that will leave me in the kitchen for a few more chapters tomorrow!