Monday, December 15, 2008

Every night, just after I've tucked my daughter Sadie into bed, just after I've given the final squeeze, kiss, butterfly kiss and super-secret-finger-wave, she waits about ten minutes and then she reappears.  She has to pee, of course.  She needs my company.  I follow her into our bathroom and lean against the edge of the sink while she gets herself settled.  Tonight she told me that Celina likes to sit on the toilet a little while after she pees so that the drips will stop dripping.  Celina is Sadie's stuffed frog.  Celina often has some good advice.  Sadie took her time measuring out exactly four squares of tissue and then rolled the word "tissue" around, eventually morphing is into the word "tush."  This, of course, made her laugh hysterically because what, at the age of 4, can be more funny than a butt?  

My son, Theo, too likes my company in the bathroom.  We've had some of our best conversations while he is on the pot.  In our house, we have only the one bathroom which makes for some intense dancing in the hallway on occasion.  It's a rare homecoming that isn't accompanied by a race up our front stairs and a mad dash to secure a spot on the toilet.  At some point during my shower, an ill placed knee will send an armada of plastic boats clattering into the tub.  In the lingering fog that follows, my husband shaves, I dry my hair and the kids sit on the counter and draw shapes in the steamed mirror.  It's a tight fit and one that often seems just shy of unbearable.  When, oh, when will we have any privacy?

Soon, perhaps.  We've put an offer on a house.  A house with more than one bathroom.  Already, I miss the crowd.  I wonder where I will have those conversations?  How will I manage to shower without the company of rubber turtles, and Playmobil pirates?  A small house means we're all piled on top of each other, we know everything that's going on with everyone.  For better and worse.  I like knowing these things, but I have begun to realize that even at the ages of four and six, my children will want a bit more space.  Theo's begun to knock on the bathroom door before he enters, instead of flying through like a cannon ball.  Six months ago, he'd pull off all his clothes and run naked through our yard with reckless abandon, but by midsummer, he was asking for his swim suit.  Sadie builds complicated Lego castles or sets her table for a tea party with Celina.  Theo heads out into the yard to toss and catch a ball again and again and again.  When they are thirsty, they go to the cupboard and get a glass and fill it with water.  This is as it should be.  We all need our own space. We need privacy to figure out who we are and what we want. 

In this possible new house is a small room, too small to be much of anything, really, but big enough for a desk and a chair.  I've got my eye on that room, that tiny one that overlooks the back yard.  It's a good private spot right in the center of the house where I can still be found.

Friday, December 12, 2008

"Say your prayers and you die..."  Hearing these words from the mouth of my six year old son, Theo, was tonight's last straw.  There isn't always a last straw, most of the time we make it all the way through the whole bedtime ritual without nearing even the end of the straw line, but then there are the nights that build with a quiet intensity from dinner onward.  Tonight was that kind of night.  The kind of night where each bite of soup was the end result of an extended and excruciating bargaining process, and the road to the pajama drawer was paved with a thousand distractions.  Tonight, at my daughter, Sadie's request, I dressed her toy frog, Celina, for bed in a two piece powder blue track suit.  Once I'd wriggled the furry green flippers into the little sleeves and straightened the hoodie, I was informed that "Celina hates that outfit.  She hates it.  She would never wear that to bed and she needs to be changed."  Sadie, in striped leggings, her bare belly a sweet reminder of her babyhood, rummaged through the doll clothes while Theo pulled on his pull-up (yep, he's six, but a damned fine sleeper) and peed right into it.  I tried to remain upbeat and non-judgmental while reminding him that if you're peeing in your sleep, it's a "pull-up" but if you're peeing and you're awake, it's a "diaper."  He shrugged it off and went down the hall to clean up.  I have to say, that even in the middle of things, I appreciate his nonchalance.  

Finally, everyone was in pajamas and cuddled on my lap in the big red chair for books.  This is often my favorite part because I love a good story.  Also, once a theatre major, always a theatre major and so I have to admit it's nice to let my inner thespian run if only over the pages of "Go Dog, Go."  Tonight's selection, however, was a double dud.  No stories, just a counting book and a Spanish words board book.  I counted thirty oddly drawn monsters and rolled all the Rs in words taking us from La Cochina to El Bano and beyond and the kids listened.  The selective power of the child's ear is amazing to me.  They sit rapt while I count "two whiskers, three warts, four lumps..." but try to tell them how the moon rises or ask them to stop banging the wooden hammer against the French doors and I might as well be speaking another language.  

At any rate, you're probably wondering what got me to the last straw.  I'm wondering that too because now that they are asleep and breathing softly down the hall, I miss them.  
"Say your prayers and you die..." Theo shouted.  And I, in my best authoritarian Mom voice said, "That is inappropriate."  He's flinging action movie jargon my way and all I can come back with is a bit of flustered librarian speak.  It's troubling to hear this kind of strange threatening language come out of my boy and as much as I know he's testing out the power of these words, it's hard not to become hurt and worried.  Violence is out there and its power is undeniable.  It is my job to accept this and help my son find the way through it to peace.