Wednesday, April 4, 2012

My Mommy Marathon

I was sitting in my office at work the other day when a colleague who happens to have a two-year-old son started talking about their family's bedtime routine. His little boy goes to bed between 6:30 p.m. and 7 p.m.

"What?!" I questioned, shocked at this revelation. "Sometimes, the girls and I don't even get home until almost 6:30 p.m.!"

So begins the story of my mommy marathon.

By "marathon," I do not mean an actual road race with chip times, paper numbers and short shorts made from a high-tech wicking material. (All the hours I spent running in the past are now used to do other kinds of rigorous physical activity like laundry and picking up the playroom. It's also why I will not be wearing a bikini this swimsuit season. I know you're disappointed.)

When I say "marathon," I mean the all-out sprint that begins when I leave work, and race to pick up Avery and Lexie from daycare. This pace doesn't slow down until the twins are in their beds fast asleep. Unless I'm going 90 to nothing with my hair on fire, it will be 10 p.m. before the kiddos are in bed.

That is totally unacceptable. One reason? Tantrum city! No one wants to endure screaming in stereo surround sound from an overtired Avery and Lexie. Another? The later the girls go to bed, the less time I have to watch "Gossip Girl" on DVR. When you only have time to watch one or two programs a week, they become pretty essential. Plus, if the girls ever become members of Manhattan's elite, I really should know how to fit in properly. It's just proactive parenting.

Before I share the play-by-play of my mommy marathon, I should mention the competition between the clock and me only takes place on Mondays and Tuesdays when Geof is working the night shift at the TV station. On these nights, I'm physically outnumbered, so when Avery is throwing a plastic sippy cup off the second floor balcony onto the hardwood floor below and Lexie is climbing diaperless into my bed, I curse his schedule and respond as quickly as possible in priority order to the crises unfolding before me based on which one I think will damage the things I like most. In this particular real-life example, I lunge for Lexie first, because I really like my mattress and do not want it to smell like pee pee.

Here's the rundown:

5:30 p.m. - I pull into daycare, go inside and get the girls off the playground. On the way to the front door, I negotiate a squabble over which girl I hold and which one walks next to me holding my hand.

5:45 p.m. - We get to my car. Instantly, I provide apple juice-filled sippy cups and snack food to the hungry twins. Undoubtedly, Avery will not like what is in her snack cup ("NO! No want any goldfish!"), dump it on the floor in the backseat and lie on top of it screaming for more. I wrestle her off the ground and into her car seat while trying not to look to other daycare parents like this is an abusive situation (I'm using the one getting swatted at, by the way), so they won't call Child Protective Services.

6 p.m. - We drive down I-40 to our house. Avery has typically calmed down by this point. She and Lexie take turns requesting songs on CD and estimating when we'll see the two water towers along our route. I pray silently that Avery will not demand to hear "Frosty the Snowman" since it is now April.

6:15 p.m. - We arrive at home, and I unload the girls from their car seats. Lexie tries to climb the ladder in the garage while Avery asks to bring the basketball into the house. I tell both of them "no" and prod them to the door.

6:25 p.m. - Everyone is finally in the house. The twins clamor to go onto the deck. I agree, so I can start dinner without dodging toys and little people under my feet.

6:40 p.m. - I nuke a typical dinner of protein, two veggies and two fruits. By this point, Avery has likely protested eating a number of the items I'm cooking and has scavenged in the refrigerator for other items I will not cut up for her, because I know she won't eat them, either. I juggle this with moving Lexie from counter to counter in the kitchen, so she can see what I'm doing. "Mommy, see! Mommy, I help!" Hmmmm, can you do dishes?

6:45 p.m. - The twins refuse to eat until I put their plates on their picnic table on the deck. I oblige, because I'm watching the clock, and I know we're running WAY late. They eat until they see our neighbor grilling out on his deck next door. They abandon the picnic table and run to the bench, so they can wave and talk to him. Tick, tick, tick.

6:55 p.m. - Our neighbor goes back inside, and the girls eat a little more before deciding it's time for a game of chase, or as they call it, "Get You!" By this point, they have hidden behind me several times, and my favorite cream-colored dress pants are dotted with black bean juice and hints of green from avocado.

7:15 p.m. - Vitamin selection begins. Avery demands two, even though the bottle says for her to take just one. Knowing an argument will take another 10 minutes, I concede and remind myself to steal it back from her later. Lexie takes five minutes to make her selection and ends up with a "clapper." (See previous post)

7:25 p.m. - Now upstairs, we begin the pursuit of bath time. I ferry Lexie to the potty while I try to prevent Avery from filling the garden tub with cold water only. After collecting 10 plastic food items from the play kitchen in the playroom and dumping them in the water, the girls finally get in. I bathe them at the same time as they splash the walls and me. I am still in my now stained and wet work clothes.

7:40 p.m. - Bath time is over. Towel off and pajama time begins. Like mini nudists, they want no part of it and sprint off in opposite directions totally naked. They ignore my calls to come back to get dressed. Fearing urination on my carpet, I race after the closest one and get her dressed. By this point, the other one has announced, "Mommy, I peed. Mommy, I pee on floor." Groan.

8 p.m. - Everyone is diapered and dressed with hair combed. Now, we begin the toothbrushing battle. I let them try to brush their own teeth and then I jump in to help. The girls like me to sing while I brush for them. Avery requests "Jungle Song." Having no idea what that means, I immediately sing "Welcome to the Jungle." She likes it. Lexie does, too, and wants me to sing it her for, as well.

8:10 p.m. - I nudge the girls into their bedroom and shut the door, reducing their play space and hoping they'll calm down quickly, so we can get to bed. We're already way past the 8 p.m. bedtime I was shooting for. Totally amped up from multiple renditions of Guns N' Roses, they jump up and down on their converted crib beds just like trampolines. They are not interested in my attempts to start story time.

8:20 p.m. - Lexie brings me "trophy book," a kind of Where's Waldo book for toddlers, which she adores and wants to read every, single night. Mommy is sick of "trophy book." Putting my disdain aside, I sit her in my lap and speed through "kitchen" page and the search for 10 hidden cupcakes, hoping I might manage to get the girls in bed before 8:30 p.m.

8:30 p.m. - No luck. I put them into their beds multiple times, and they get out multiple times. Each time, they have a new excuse. "Mommy, I need book," says Lexie. "Sweetie, it's going to be dark in here in a minute, and you won't be able to read it," I explain, trying to counter this popular stall tactic. "Mommy, need book! Other one," Lexie insists. I get the book, cover her up and lean in for a goodnight kiss.

At this moment, Avery walks over, hugs me and says totally unprovoked, "Mommy, I sorry for spilling goldfish crackers. I sorry not getting my seat." I am totally taken aback and speechless for, perhaps, the first time ever. Not only did she remember the terrible tamtrum from about 2.5 hours earlier, but she felt bad about her bad behavior! Wow.

I give her a giant hug and tell her how much I appreciate her apology. For that one minute, I forget that the finish line to my mommy marathon is in sight, and I am very close to ending my competition with the clock. I shower Avery with kisses and put her into bed with her beloved "red blanket."

8:45 p.m. - Hearing only muffled protests, I turn off the light and slide out of the room while softly telling the girls how much I love them.

The race to bedtime at my house is long and crazy, and sometimes, it feels like it will never actually end. Just like in a real marathon, quitting isn't an option. I have to see it through even though some of the steps along the way might be painful, frustrating or involve unexpected potty breaks. But, in the end, it's worth it. I may not get a medal or a beer from an event sponsor, but ocassionally, I get a "thank you" or an "I'm sorry," and those sweet words are my own prize, helping melt away the stress and tense moments and energizing me to do it all over again the next night.

Oh, and remember that guy whose son goes to bed as early as 6:30 p.m.? I failed to mention that he also gets up at 5:30 a.m. - even on weekends. I'll take my long nights over early mornings any day!

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