One babies became heartbreak for lost babies, which became fear and excitement planning for two babies at once, before one surprise baby so soon after, before the first kid started school, before three knew how to talk, then they all had tantrums, and I had tantrums, and we didn't have a house to live in, and then we did, then there were long days and longer nights.
I am cleaning up from our Mother's Day celebrations (which, we all know, means doing a little extra because yesterday was my 'break' so things just didn't get done). I am having a hard time clearing the homemade cards and Elmer's glue gifts off the table and into their future spots. I want to leave them here, on the dining room table. I want to look down from another cup of spilled milk and notice that they wrote, "I love my mom because she reads to me" when I am about to explode over spilled milk because while they weren't careful or sitting still like I had asked, it's not their fault I'm short on patience, it's mine. And I love them. And I want these cards and pictures to be taped up everywhere so I can see them and remember their love when I am too frustrated to look into their faces and see it there.
It is hard. It is incremental. I can look back on having one baby, three babies, three and a new baby and think romantically, "Ah, but it was easier then when Summer couldn't throw and hit, wasn't it?" Now is hard. Now is long days on my own, with kids that don't nap and don't have quiet time for more than 45 minutes and still come down every 10 to ask for help, or water, or to tattle on a sister. Now means I don't sit and write story pitches or conduct phone interviews or write freelance pieces in the afternoon because there aren't any free afternoons. "Wasn't it easier when Summer napped and Hailey and Robin played nicely in their room for an hour or more?" Because if I am not a working writer, I am someone who answers to Mom! Mama! Mommy! Mo-ohm!, and that isn't even my real name, (as Rebecca Woolf writes).
Hindsight is 20/20 and we all re-write our own histories in our minds. Eventually, I'll tuck my mother's day cards away in the orange box I have in my closet reserved for these beautiful sentiments from my girls. I sometimes hide myself in that closet and maybe I'll notice it out of the corner of my eye and feel drawn to open it, see their crayon-coloured prose and stick-figure drawings of us playing together, happy. Hoping that's what they remember years from now, and not the frequency with which I ran upstairs to my closet hoping to steal a few moments before anyone found me.