Waking up to a full house with small fry snuggles and the pop of a toy gun means I stumble out of bed with sore muscles from too much walking to amuse ourselves and prepare to short order cook through breakfast. Country fried potatoes, with ham, with no ham, and less ham, Mom. One wants eggs, the other says no, the third thinks I'm crazy for asking what I should remember. French toast and syrup but why are there eggs? No, not that, anything but French toast with eggs in it. My child is antsy and skates through the house. My care is still in bed and I mumble about pads. He throws an empty beer can down the steps into the back yard and I tell him to go put it where it belongs. I didn't mention he should take off the skates because I thought self-preservation would tell him for me. He descends and toward the bottom he falls and he's landed on his stomach, crying but not moving as I'm covered in soapy suds. Water is turned off and my hands are wiped on my sleep shirt as I run to his side unconcerned about how exposed I might be or the neighbor that said he wants to see what I'm showing. I help him up and get the skates off but force him to walk up the steps as much as he can. I need to see if he is physically able or if a broken bone won't allow such movement because it's a knee that was injured and scraped and brings tears.
In the kitchen he's passed my test and I reach down and lift him and cradle him to my chest. The mom that claims no upper body strength . . . The woman that is too old to carry her 9 year old. I carry him to the couch and set the pillows up to elevate the source of his pain, and head to the kitchen for a bag of frozen corn because sensory integration dysfunction is what we've called the destruction of all of the gel ice packs I no longer buy. "Mom, I'm thirsty and hungry." He didn't want my short ordered breakfast but he wants food and he wants me to get it because Mom's attention makes the pain go away. He settles on leftover tri-tip for breakfast and I hope this morning isn't counted in the Mom of the year award nominations.
I'm running around to pick up dishes and laundry and scrub around the toilet where aim was more like point and shoot and adjust pillows and refill drinks and sit long enough to be noticed and asked for a snack and then get rewarded in hugs and exposed cheeks that I cover in kisses.
I want to go to Mom's house for food and love and it's a day where I need my Mommy. The kids are entertained by technology and have no interest in going. "We'll only be there a little while." And I get a sulk and sadness and dejection. I remember it's his holiday too and he's old enough to be home alone. I leave him for a short run and we head to grandma's house long enough to show off my latest tattoo and tell the family I finally shot back at the ex who hates me and wishes me dead. I'm growing in ways they can applaud and I'm given hugs and healing.
We're home and they're hungry because they couldn't possibly eat from the table loaded with fresh fruits, vegetables, barbecue ribs, chicken and thai foods at Grandma's house. That would be too easy. I'm home and step into the slow progression of my knife chopping through pounds of spuds for homemade mashed potatoes and the dredging of cubed steaks in flour and buttermilk and flour again, careful that they don't see it's gluten free for me, or they might not eat it. I use too much sausage in my country gravy and know at least half of it will end up in the trash because Kid1 doesn't like gravy. Kid3 wants to watch the neighbors with their fireworks while I'm frying up dinner and I say no. He screams and cries and slams doors and hides underneath bunk beds. And I say no. He rallies and reasons and screams in fits and I start singing just as loudly Cosette, then Eponine's lines in a Heart Full of Love, because performance holds the rage that is simmering because I've had enough. The song ends and I offer another no, but he thinks his rage might win me over because he can't see past the calm I force. He says no, and I remind him of the videos on Instagram that prove he doesn't know how close is too close to fire and that he didn't see the wisdom in taking off his skates before descending a flight of stairs. He goes off to cry and I know I've hurt his feelings. I care.
I give it time for him to cry and for myself to calm the rage before I find and apologize to him. He rages through his hurt and blame, and I accept that he needs to explain his feelings. Kid2 comes in to tell me how much he hates summer school and that I am a horrible parent for making him go to boring summer school because he hates learning and exercise and I ask him to leave the room so that I can cry. I know this trick is dirty, but I needed the moment to not be yelled at. I fake a cry that is a slow whimper of defeat while I watch animal videos on Facebook and try not to laugh and Kid3 climbs out from under the bed to wrap his little arms around me. I open my arms and shield my tear free face from him and hold and kiss him and he apologizes for the anger he gave me.
Morning comes and Kid2 reminds me he doesn't want to go to summer school. He stomps and slams doors and yells that he doesn't want to go and I know I can't have a day where I have to go to the school and calm him down, so he is allowed to go to Grandma's house and Kid1 flips me off because he wants me to be a firm parent with Kid2. A couple of hours later he's asking for minutes to be added to his phone and I give them to him because I had already offered the day before.
It's Wednesday. I'm grateful for work and grateful that it's Dad's turn. I'm aware of the guilt I have. The guilt that they have to house hop when they don't like it. Guilt that they have two houses of not enough because two houses are struggling on a single income and they are stuck in the middle. I know the rage I quiet when facing the ocean and watching a sunset and feel I am their ocean and the abyss needs to house their rage in a safe place.