She’s crying again. Ellanor. She’s teething, I think.
I pick her up and let her nurse but after a couple sucks she’s doesn’t want it anymore and is back to crying. I bounce her. I walk around the living room doing half lunges trying to avoid stepping on the crayons and blocks that are scattered through out the floor from yesterday’s tantrum. The neighbours probably think I’m crazy. She cries louder. I bounce faster whispering “shh…shh…shh” over and over.
Malakai hands me the remote. She wants Barney – again. I’m so sick of Barney. I try for Daniel Tiger instead, fiddling the remote in one hand, bouncing and shushing Ellanor in the other. The intro song to Daniel Tiger comes on and Malakai hits the floor with a smack. Her tiny two year old limbs mimic thick spaghetti noodles as she cries her famous words “no, no, no”.
Please, Lord, not today.
It’s okay, I remind her, it’s time for breakfast anyway. I put Bee back down and give her something to chew on. That should keep her quiet for at least 3 minutes. I step over my flailing Toddler and go into the kitchen where I grab my coffee cup, nuzzle it in my two hands – it’s still warm – I close my eyes and down the entire thing like a swift shot of vodka. Breathe in, breathe out, step over last nights macaroni + cheese stuck to the floor, rummage through the dishwasher to find a bowl because why would there be any in the cupboard where they belong? Why would any be clean, even? I rinse out the cleanest dirty bowl I can find. Fuck it. Good enough. Pour some yogurt in there, plop some blueberries in and breakfast is served.
I pick Malakai up off the floor though she wriggles and kicks and continues to protest with the most annoying “noooooo” in the world. I fight her into her chair, buckle, click – I win. She screeches and throws the bowl of berries + yogurt across the table. I smile and calmly tell her breakfast is important and remind her she’ll be hungry later if she doesn’t eat. How I managed to stage a sweet, patient voice frightened me. Who was this person?
Ellanor’s had enough now, she’s crying yet again so I go and pick her up, throw her on one hip and walk back into the kitchen. Malakai is kicking the table and repeating “no,no,no” but I just ignore her and open the utensil drawer, pull out a spoon and dig into the tube of yogurt on the counter. I stuff my mouth, swallowing gulps, ingesting as fast as I can before walking and bouncing my teething baby to sleep.
Finally, Ellanor is heavy in my arms and I unbuckle Malakai from her high chair and help her down. We go into the living room and she is horrified to find Daniel Tiger still on. Slam. Her body hits the floor again. Ellanor wakes up from the sound and I am now an outsider looking in. I watch myself as I walk sedately over to the television and turn it off. I hear more crying but I don’t know where it’s coming from. Both I assume.
I sit down on the couch, pull out my boob from my robe and nurse Ellanor back to sleep. Malakai climbs onto the couch letting out muffled whimpers through her hand that’s crammed in her mouth. Her face is red and wet with tears and I feel my eyes swelling and burning. But I don’t cry. Instead, I sit motionless, baby sucking on one side, two year old curled up in the fetal position, her little arms wrapped around my free one on the other side.
I stare blankly at the piles of clean clothes that lay wrinkled and unfolded on the dining room table and briefly I wish that I was somewhere else. Someone else, even. Oddly, I remember what we tell kindergartens at school to do when they get upset – blow bubbles. I blow hard forcing an exhalation that’s followed by a deep inhale.
I try again.
I am 5 years old. I am sitting here. Self soothing. Comforting others with no one to comfort me.
The flashback and self pity hit me hard and my chest tightens. I want to escape. I want to run away. I want to drink an entire bottle of wine and get really really high. But then, as if God had finally seen my invisible white flag waving viciously in the air, my mind was silenced by the silence.
No more crying. No more whining. Not even a sniffle. Just pure, sacred silence.
I check to see if Malakai had fallen asleep but I see her eyelashes glitter. She gets up momentarily, repositioning herself into my body and then tilts her head back and up so she can see me. I meet her teary-eyed gaze and she smiles. My chest tightens again but this time it’s my heart mending, not breaking. She snuggles up, gives my arm a long, hard squeeze and gently kisses my wrist. A knowing feeling washes over me. I kiss her on the top of her head, close my eyes and together we breathe in the stillness.
Everything is going to be okay.