Most days, I pick my children up from school and daycare, and we are home by about 4 p.m. There’s plenty of time for my big kids to play on the swing set, throw the basketball around with the neighbors or do gymnastics in the front yard, decompress from school with a TV show or play in their room. My baby twins have just eaten at school and fallen asleep during the car ride home, happy and content. I have time to feed the dog, unpack school bags and get myself a snack.
Then I anxiously start to watch the hands on the clock in the kitchen inch forward. Because it’s coming — 5 o’clock. The dreaded hour every parent hates. It’s the hour I used to, when I only had one kid, hightail it to Target for some distraction and a cup of coffee. Or desperately call a friend for a play-slash-wine date. It’s the hour that makes or breaks the evening, but in our house, it mostly breaks.
At about 5 p.m., all hell breaks loose and chaos reigns. It doesn’t matter that my kids can’t tell time yet; they’re like roosters and the dawning sun. Or Cinderella at midnight. At the final stroke of 5 p.m., everyone turns into a pumpkin. Or a screaming ball of threenager, a sulking seven-year-old and two colicky babies. It all unravels from here. First the twins start to cry or fuss; one wails from the baby swing while I desperately try to feed the other one, walking around holding a bottle with my chin and trying not to step on LEGOs while opening the fridge to start dinner. My three-year-old wants Zootopia, chocolate milk, a banana, and he wants them NOW.
“Choclat nilk, mama.
Choclat nilk, MAMA.
CHOCLATE NILK, MAMA, PLEASE.
MAMA, CHOCLATE NILK, MAMA!!!!!!!!!!”
My seven-year-old decides she must start her homework that.very.minute. and needs help with her spelling. NOW. She can’t find her library book. I need her to pack her dance things, “BUT NOT THAT LEOTARD, MOMMY, I HATE THAT ONE.”
Oh wait, it’s time to turn the oven on for dinner. Get distracted by fussy baby and forget to press the preheat start button. Back to freezer while holding a twin. Microwave the peas. The microwave is done and starts beeping to remind me the peas are ready.
I look at the clock. Bath time.
Quiet request: “It’s time to take a bath kids. Mattie, put your homework away.” I scoop up both babies and start to head to the stairs. Big kids don’t budge.
Stern command: “It’s time to TAKE A BATH KIDS. Turn off the TV, Spencer!” No one moves.
Shrieking hysteria: “BIG KIDS. GET IN THE BATH. NOW.”
Kids scramble up the stairs. Twenty minutes and gallons of water on the bathroom floor later, everyone is relatively clean. Except for the blue paint and green hand stamps on my three-year-old that refuse to come off.
Send big kids downstairs, so I can put babies down in quiet. Make mental note to wipe up big kids’ wet footprints on the floor.
Have you ever put a pair of twins to bed? It’s basically like a game of Whack-A-Mole. As soon as one gets quiet and falls asleep, another one, previously asleep or quiet, starts crying. I put the twins down on my bed, feeding them their bottles while they’re swaddled and propped up on the Boppy. Just as their little eyes start to close, my three-year-old comes crashing into the room with a metal truck, racing it through my room, chased by his shrieking sister who wants the purple glitter headband he’s wearing for her outfit tomorrow. My son then runs screaming downstairs while my daughter chases him yelling, “YOU’RE GOING IN TIME OUT!”
I try not to shout at the crazy train tearing through my room, knowing it will only make the babies cry, so I pet their heads gently instead. Success. Twins are asleep. Move them to cradles. Creep to the door, shut it gently. Go hunt down big kids. Three-year-old is again watching LEGO trains, wearing purple headband. Daughter has given up on headband and finding the perfect leotard and is coloring. Get vitamins. Get milk for toddler.
Look at clock. Sweet. It’s 7 p.m.! Time for bed kids! Bewildered seven-year-old: “Mommy, you haven’t given us dinner yet.”
Oh. Right. Heh. What is that beeping??!?!?!
Cereal or peanut butter? They choose peanut butter, and I pour a glass of wine into a Tervis tumbler for myself. Classy, I am.
I remember the peas in the microwave. That’s the beeping noise! Peas and peanut butter. Protein and veggies. Close enough.
Where is my husband? Clock inches to 7:15 p.m. NOW it’s bedtime. I shoo them up the stairs.
“TEETH, BRUSH YOUR TEETH!” I yell after them, cleaning up the peanut-butter-and-peas ladden plates. Three-year-old takes his time spitting in the sink. Seven-year-old brushes so fast I ask to smell her breath.
Seven-year-old goes to room to start reading on her own. Drag three-year-old out of older sister’s room to his own bed. Wait, where’s his milk/lovey/pacifier/red car/brown truck/rocket ship nightlight/picture of his siblings? Dang it. A baby is crying. I walk up and down in our tiny closet-office with a crying twin. Now two babies are crying. The first falls asleep. The second crying twin gets strapped in the swing downstairs. Back to the three-year-old’s room. My toddler jumps out of bed 14 times to look for his monkey George book, his blue and orange quilt and his wood train. Finally, his eyes clothes after a third reading of The Day the Crayons Quit — though I’ve secretly renamed it, The Day the Mom Quit. Check on my seven-year-old who passed out while reading to herself, waiting for me to have time to sit with her, my poor sweetheart.
Finally. Silence. My precious babies are asleep. I go back to the kitchen and listen, tense, waiting for someone to start crying again. Some nights I wipe a few tears and take several deep breaths as I look out the kitchen window.
Door rattles with the key in the lock. Hooray! My husband is home! Sigh of relief. He puts his things down and asks, “Hey, honey, what’s for dinner?”
I look at him and laugh. “Wine,” I say.
If you want to stop by my house, please do! We can have a glass of wine, my children will be quiet, and our house will be neat. But please come before 5 p.m. because otherwise, we’ll all be crying.