Pearl’s smile lights me up from the inside out, but her hitting hands make me crazy from the outside in. She agreed tonight to wear something different tomorrow after three nights and four days in her red sweatpants and blue polar bear sweatshirt. She is four, bursting out of her own skin four, laughing at butt jokes four, excitedly identifying c’s and p’s four, screaming “SALVO!!!!!!!!!” at the top of her lungs four to fetch an errant dog across three backyards. She is silky soft after an infrequent bath. She blow-dries her own butt after she pees. She sings 5-4-3-2-1-0-the-lights-are-going-out and click, follows our voices to the bed, where she fends off sleep.
In the bed next door, Aviva whispered to me the story of how she chose us. It was September, you see, about one month before her birthday. She was in the sky. She went into the Blue Room and saw that Greg and I were available to be her parents. (I’m paraphrasing a little.) The other couple she could’ve chosen was two men, Jerry and Michael, and she wanted to have a mom. Next she went into the Sky Room, where she paid 60 sky bits for each of us, 120 altogether. She signed her name with a feather – make that a “feather” – pen, which of course wasn’t a real pen at all. Then she went into the God Shop, where God was waiting. At this point, I was so lulled that I can’t remember what they talked about, Aviva and God. But she went ahead and got born on October 10, our anniversary, because she wanted a wedding on her birthday.
Then Pearl woke up and cried and Aviva wound up on the couch in my office, where she drew me a picture called “Sunny Mountain” and one for Greg called “Eyeball,” all veiny. I went back upstairs with Pearl, refusing to lie down again but willing to sit. I counted my breaths, stroking her hair, watching her eyelashes lower and lift and lower and lift. I remembered doing this when she was a baby, watching and waiting, amazed at her stamina for staying awake.
Finally now, she is asleep. They are both asleep. The days are getting longer, bedtime is getting later. Last night I went to my room at 9:00. I don’t know who I was more upset with, my kids or myself. No difference really, and nothing to do about it but to sleep, to surrender the day, to start a new one eight hours later, at 5:30 this morning when I was, lo and behold, rested and relatively ready. It turns out I was following another mama’s good advice without even knowing it:
Go to your room. Mothers know well how to quell conflict and restore peace. When the stress of the day has you at a breaking point, when family friction erupts into open warfare, retreat to your room. Make sure it’s quiet there. Make sure it has a place where you can sit, catch your breath, reflect and relax. Take a moment or two or ten, all the time you need for a thorough time out. The tactic to manage a two-year-old can do the trick at any age. Go to your room. When you emerge calm and refreshed, peace and forgiveness await, and your mother is proud of you.
Sometimes trusting your instincts really does work. My instinct last night was to a) throw someone who will remain anonymous out the window, b) throw myself out the window, c) eat all of the Liz Lovely chocolate-covered oreos my friend Gina turned me onto in one sitting, d) walk around the block crying and punching the air, or e) go. to. sleep.
So I slept. I walked the dogs as the sun rose today, thinking how they are the male, canine equivalents of my female, human children. Pulling, dragging, sniffing, smelling, peeing, pooping, licking, kissing, whining, fighting, snuggling, sleeping. And on the last block before we came back home, I remembered something I haven’t done in a while, too long: to call on my angel posse. I took both leashes in my left hand and placed my right hand over my heart. I asked for lovingkindness, towards myself, towards Pearl, towards Aviva, towards Greg, towards whomever I might encounter today. I reminded myself to open my heart. So easy to close up, succumb to anger.
And I walked down our little hill, inhaling the scent of the most delicate, fleeting spring fragrance. It smelled like forgiveness.