In it Together.
It has been unbearable in my house the last few months.
July brought Evan’s sixth birthday which meant a sleepover, presents, a week long sugar high and a very whiny little sister. In August we switched roles and celebrated Lulu’s birthday. This time it was Evan that fell apart at every seam when it wasn’t her being celebrated or spoiled. The birthdays have faded away but what is left resembles the aftermath of any legendary war battle and a mother who is clearly suffering from PTSD.
The birthdays, much like the historic battles, could be described as easy in comparison to the grueling aftermath. The parties are fast, furious, and certainly chaotic but they are also only one day out of the year. One day where one of my children (whoever is not having a birthday) acts like a total fool and cries, kicks, screams, cusses and says “It’s not fair” at least 52 times, which is slightly more than usual. One day where they sulk in the corner, sit in timeout for hours, and finally slink into bed, defeated. The next day they wake up and they are survivors. Living to see another birthday come and go.
The aftermath is what gets messy. The aftermath looks like heaps of presents that don’t belong to you. It looks like Christmas for only one person in your family. It sounds like bragging rights, high pitched shrieking, and the never ending promise of “I’m telling mom!” It feels like opposing hands grasping the same toy, limbs flailing and impacting faces, mom yanking the hands apart and stealing the toy with her own hand.
It goes on for months after each birthday.
In the last few weeks I’ve given up my own battle. I tried to hold back these two battalions time and time again. Now I’ve surrendered. Instead I lay on my bedroom floor, cover my eyes with both hands, and listen to the screaming and wonder if these two will ever be able to form a treaty. I think back to my own sisters. I try to remember what if felt like to spend the majority of my daily energy on fighting with someone. I can’t remember it. I’m not sure if that means it didn’t happen, or if I’m choosing to remember things differently. I know there were certainly fights. Violent battles even. I remember a remote control being cracked down over my head. Being depantsed in public. Endless jokes with the punch line always being me. But really what I remember is holding my sisters’ hands when I was afraid. Whispering to them in the dark all the secrets I could muster up when I was supposed to be sleeping. Yearning for the day I would be as old and as cool as them.
When do those times start happening? Or are they happening already and I’m just laying on the floor so much that I miss them?
Last night was especially bad and I thought it might be impossible to escape without some casualties. Every word they spoke to each other seemed to be through closed teeth, with forced breath, and white clenched fists. Every toy became a tug-a-war, every book became a fight, and every peace talk I offered was especially ineffective.
I realized I need to clean my carpets after the amount of time I spent laying on my floor.
I told the girls to get on their pajamas and meet me in my room while I ran downstairs and out to the garage. The girls didn’t know I was going to the garage which was my first concern as soon as I realized I had locked myself inside of it. I knew it would scare them but I had to pound loudly on the door and scream Evan’s name, hoping she would hear me and come let me in. Minutes passed with me knocking and bellowing like this. Finally, although I hadn’t heard a response, I felt there was a presence on the other side of the door.
“Ev? Are you there? I locked myself in the garage.”
Silence, then Lulu’s voice. “Evan is hiding behind me right now!”
“OK. Well, Evan, could you please unlock the door for me?”
Finally she obliges. As she slowly pries the door open I see her wide-eyed face peering from behind the doors silhouette. She looks terrified and she’s tightly clutching a DVD at shoulder level. Right behind her stands Lulu still wrapped in her towel from bath time. She clings to the edges as if it’s a shield. They are frozen with anticipation to see what is coming through the now unlocked door.
“Oh my gosh mom!” Evan exclaims
. “I thought this DVD was talking to me!” holding up the DVD in her hand.
Apparently she had picked up the DVD at the same time I started yelling to her, and came to the logical conclusion that Abby from Sesame Street was shouting “Evan” and pounding on something inside the DVD.
Although it was a very small victory in the overall scheme of things, I declared the war over for this one night. The girls had found a common enemy, or at least a perceived one, in the shape of a talking DVD. Together they faced that enemy. Armed with bath towels and cowering behind each other. But together.
Lulu and Evan, I hope you can someday find a way to face some other challenges together. Until then, you can find me on my bedroom floor.
(Below picture is not photoshopped. You were actually hugging each other)