This morning, my alarm went off at 6:30 and I got out of bed. What you don’t know is I had been awake for hours because one of you was sick. You kept crying out in your sleep and I got you out of your bed and put you in mine because I didn’t want you to wake up your sister. So I put you in my bed and watched you sleep and listened to you snore for hours and hours.
I cooked breakfast for four of you. What you don’t know is I didn’t fix anything for myself, thinking, “I’ll just eat something later.” I fixed lunches, and brushed hair, and gave out medicine, and sent two of you out the door, one to work and one to school. I kept the sick one and the littlest one home with me.
I took a shower after locking and bolting the door to make sure you were safe, hurriedly, so I could call the doctor in time to get an appointment for the one of you who was sick. As I was getting dressed, I was calling the office over and over again, hoping to get past the busy signal. I made your appointment and checked on both of you. The sick one was lying on the couch, listlessly. I told you you had about fifteen minutes until you needed to get ready for your doctor’s appointment and went to sort laundry. I sorted laundry and started the first load of the day (after all, it’s laundry day, and laundry must get done), before helping the little one get dressed, use the little potty one more time, and get out the door and buckled in to the car.
We made it to our appointment with one minute to spare. What you don’t know is I never ate breakfast this morning. I sat with you, the sick one and the little one, at the doctor’s office for two hours. I held the sick one in my lap and stroked your hair. I talked to the little one and answered her questions. What you don’t know, is when they stuck the cotton swab in your throat to perform the strep test and you cried, I could feel your heart pounding because you were scared, and because I had my arms wrapped around you. What you don’t know is that my eyes filled with tears, because it hurt me that you were scared and hurting. When I held you in my lap as you got the shot I knew would make you feel better, my lips trembled because I felt your pain and sadness as if it were my own.
We stopped and got milkshakes and french fries for both of you on the way home. What you don’t know is that I worried if I could afford it. I worried if the one of you who wasn’t with us, the one at school, would feel sad and left out because she didn’t get fries and a milkshake.
We came home and I passed out your fries and shakes. I put the clothes in the dryer from the morning and got another load started. I got you both settled, the sick one and the littlest one. I stood at the kitchen counter and ate the cheeseburger I had guiltily bought myself when I got your milkshakes while I prepared the slow-cooker soup I had planned for supper.
I took my load of clothes into the living room to fold. Before I could start, one of you knocked your milkshake off the table, into the blanket and on to the floor and rug. I had to clean it up. What you don’t see is my exhaustion and my tears of frustration because I have so much to do, and can never seem to get it all done and I’m so damn tired. I finish folding the load of clothes just in time to get you both in the car and drive half and hour to get the oldest one of you, the one at school today.
You both, the sick one and the little one, fell asleep in the car. You don’t see me in the front seat, as I cry while I drive. You don’t feel my fear for you. Fear for your safety in a strange and scary world, of course. But more than that, fear that you will grow up in a world with a shortage of warmth and compassion. Fear that the things I’m trying to teach you: kindness, compassion, joy and love – will become less than hate and fear.
I walk into school and retrieve one of you. The other two remain sleeping in the van. We drive home. I feed you all ice cream. You know I wouldn’t usually give two sweet treats in one day, but today is an exception. I was right. The one of you who wasn’t with us earlier feels left out and jealous because two of you got milkshakes and she didn’t.
While you all eat your ice cream I fold laundry. What you don’t know is, as I fold, I’m wracked with chills. My head hurts like hell. Most likely, I’ve contracted the same sickness I took one of you to the doctor for earlier today. I finish folding laundry, while intermittently wiping up ice cream spills and assisting potty training attempts.
After folding laundry I wash the dishes that have been piling up in the sink since this morning and start warming up leftovers for dinner – the soup I started earlier isn’t ready yet. What you don’t know is, now I’ve been parenting alone for 10.5 hours and I’m so tired and lonely, I would give just about anything for somebody to be here, for me to talk to. Before I get dinner finished, one of you, the little one who’s not quite potty-trained yet, pees in the floor, and I take a break from cooking and mop it up.
While you eat I sit at the table with you and talk to you. I’m waiting for the soup to be done and for your daddy to be home, so we can eat together. I am hungry.
What you don’t know is a lot of stuff. And it’s ok. You don’t need to know, and you can’t, not until you’re much older, and maybe have people of your own to love and take care of. I hope you do know some things, though. I hope you know you’re loved beyond measure. I hope you know you’re the reason behind some of my tears, but you’re the reason behind almost all of my smiles. I hope you know, before you all came along, my life was pointless, without meaning. It’s been a really hard day today, and there will be a lot more hard days. But I hope you know, to me, it’s worth it.