Tick.Tock. 3:54 pm. Tick. Tock. 3:55pm.
I look over at my two children. Alex is having a conversation with his Spider-Man toy. Isabella is chewing on a block. Both perfectly content. Then why am I sweating as I watch the minutes tick by on my watch? Because I know that in T-minus five minutes these two sweet, cheerful children are going to morph into aliens disguised in Gymboree clothing. I know that as soon as the clock strikes the Hour of Oprah, the whining, the crying, and the screaming are going to start and continue for several hours.
My children cannot tell time, so how do they know to fall apart at 4:00 on the dot? Apparently my children are not the only ones. It seems to be a universal pact among children to drive their already exhausted mothers’ mad from the hours of 4:00 -7:00 pm each day. I have had countless conversations about this phenomenon with my sister, women in my book club, ladies in my BUNCO group, and random frazzled mothers in the grocery store. We stand around scratching our heads asking each other:
“Why is it that as soon as I get ready to make dinner, my children melt into puddles of tears at my feet?”
“Why is it that the hours of 4-7 seem to last forever, while nap time goes by in a matter of milliseconds?”
“What possessed me to take my three-year-old and my infant out in public at 4:00 in the afternoon?”
Tick. Tock 3:59 pm. Tick. Tock. 4:00 pm.
Hold on to your patience Momma, here we go! Isabella starts to cry. I pick her up and nurse her. She quiets for a few seconds, before deciding it would be fun to poke and pull at my nipple. No way, sister. I sit her up and start to sing to her. She reaches past me to grab the remote control. She puts it in her mouth. I take it away. She screams. I give her a Batman toy that I find stuck in between the couch cushions. Alex comes running from the other room. “That is mine. She is slobbering all over it.” He takes it away. She screams.
I sit her on the floor with some toys. All is quiet for a few minutes. Alex comes hopping in holding himself, “I gotta pee. I gotta pee. I gotta pee.” He says he needs my help, so off we go. Isabella cannot see me anymore. She screams. The phone rings. It is my husband. “Hey hon, I am going to hit the gym on my way home from work, okay?” Without waiting for a response, one he knows he does not want to hear, he continues, “Jeez, I can hear her crying. I will let you go take care of her. See you in a few hours.” Click.
Tick Tock. 4:59 pm. Tick Tock. 5:00 pm.
Time to start dinner. I put Isabella in her highchair. She starts to fuss. I throw a few Cheerios on her tray as I get the rest of her dinner ready. Alex comes over. “Momma, I am really hungry.” I ask him what he would like to eat. His response, “You know.” Great! Guessing games with a three-year-old, my least favorite game. I start my list of healthy options: cheese, yogurt, cereal, apple. He shakes his head no and wanders off. I go back to cutting up blueberries for Isabella who has by this point eaten or dropped all of her Cheerios and is fussing for more. Alex is back with a popsicle in hand. “Momma, I climbed up on the cooler and opened the freezer door to get my popsicle. I am getting bigger.” I tell him that he can’t have a popsicle before dinner. He whines, he cries, he pouts and says, “I am mad because of you.” Isabella fusses because I have stopped shoveling the strained meat into her mouth. Alex continues to whine, cry, and pout. I crack under the pressure. I tell him he can have it if he promises to eat his dinner, knowing full well, he will no longer be hungry when dinner is served. Dinner! I have to start dinner.
I cut up the vegetables in between feeding Isabella. I have rhythm down, spoonful in mouth, cut up some cucumber, and so it goes for a blissful moment or two. Alex hops down from his chair leaving sticky fingerprints everywhere. “Momma, I gotta poop! NOW!” Off we go. Isabella can’t see me. She fusses. The phone rings. It is my husband. “Just leaving the gym. Going to stop by Home Depot and I will be right home. What’s for dinner?” Click.
Tick Tock. 5:59 pm. Tick Tock. 6:00 pm.
Dinner is underway. By now Isabella has eaten her weight in blueberries and Cheerios in an effort to buy myself a few extra minutes. Alex is begging me to let him eat leftover Easter candy. And even though I am exhausted and would love to collapse in a heap on the sofa, I do the only thing I know will keep them entertained, I turn on the music. We have a dance party! Five songs later, the timer is buzzing and I could swear I heard the garage door open two songs ago. But my husband has not come in the house. I look outside, he is watering the flowers! Doing my best not to lose my temper, I yell out to him to hold the baby while I get dinner on the table.
Dinner is served, and the boys sit down. I stand, balancing Isabella on my hip as I try to cut my chicken one-handed. Alex gets up five minutes later. He is not hungry. Surprise. Surprise. After dinner, we head upstairs to get Isabella ready for bed. Alex is playing with a wooden paddle toy, the kind with the elastic string and the rubber ball. As I am putting pajamas on a squirming Isabella, he is wrapping the elastic string around the doorknob. I ask him several times to stop. He ignores me and the ball breaks off. Then he proceeds to wrap the elastic string around his neck. My husband takes it away and throws it is the trash. Alex collapses into my arms. He sobs as if the dog just died, and I rock him in attempt to comfort and calm him. Isabella begins to screech, “Momma. Momma. Momma.” My husband tries to soothe her. “Momma. Momma. Momma.” Alex continues to weep. My husband looks on in complete dismay. I am ready to run screaming down the street.
Tick. Tock. 6:59 pm. Tick Tock. 7:00 pm
Alex settles after a promise to visit the dollar aisle of Target for a new paddle ball toy. We put Isabella in her crib and cover her up with her blanket. She smiles up at us as her eyes flutter closed and she drifts off to dreamland. My husband offers to give Alex his bath and get him ready for bed. I head downstairs to clean the kitchen and straighten the playroom, but first I make a necessary stop at the wine cooler. I pour myself a big glass of Chardonnay, and toast myself on surviving another evening with my little aliens, I mean children.