I can’t make myself move anymore.
Two of our three children wail from their time-out chairs after ignoring my calls to stop hitting each other and sliding across the kitchen floor.
As a parent I don’t often think of the level of activity I have to maintain to keep our little world humming along until my bones begin to ache from sheer exhaustion.
On the weekdays when my day job lets out, I get home to see three little ones aching for their papa to swing them up and over my back to plonk on the couch, and then repeat with the next one, and the next one.
Soon dinner must get to the table, and our messiest little boy will likely spill his full plate of rice and broccoli on the floor and cry while the dog dives under the table for the unexpected feast.
At night, there is the bathing to do, and no matter how hard I try not to, I will be shouting at a child to stay clear of the stairs, to get in line at the bathroom to have their teeth brushed, and to treat each other with kindness, damn it.
Riley surely knows I’m weakest at night, when the brutal momentum of the day has made my eyes dry and red under my contact lenses. He knows that’s when I’m likely to give in to his requests.
The other night, after we’d read a few pages of Spiderman, I lifted Riley to the top bunk and tucked him in, “snug as a bug in a rug.”
It was then that he asked if we could play Hungry Hippos the next day. And could we have a cupcake party like Pete the Cat from last night’s bedtime book? And when can he have another banana split? And can I put this all in my phone so I don’t forget?
I collapse on the bed at 9 p.m. and shift only intermittently throughout the night.
I’ve not known exhaustion like this before, not in my 20’s when I’d spent sleepless weekends in clubs and shuffled into work on Monday morning for a full day, not in my 30’s when I gave everything I had to my career and clients.
Since the babies were born, I’ve been my happiest, but unquestionably more tired and sick with passing flus and colds than I have ever been.
Our kids know when we’ve had enough.
When we think they have sufficiently tired themselves out and sit transfixed with a cartoon on tv, we will sit deep in the couch, daring to relax in the 10 minutes before their bedtime.
This is when they will spring into action.
Our daughter might suddenly yank a stuffed animal from her twin brother’s arms. Soon all three will be up and running, falling over each other, screaming and crying.
My husband and I watch the family room devolve into Lord of the Flies by 7:45 most nights.
At work the next day, my scheduler asks about a Friday meeting on my calendar, “Eat Banana Split” at 4:30. Can she preempt it, can I make time for one more appointment?
She cannot, and I cannot.
She makes no mention of the “Cupcake Party” at noon two Saturdays from now.
My husband and I will make it happen, no matter how tired we are.