Perched on the edge of our big new tub, yoga pants rolled above my knees, I stretch one leg across to the far side, smoothing shaving gel over my legs. I'm careful with the razor; the two little bodies in the water have to be kept safe. I shave quickly, the swick swick swick of the blade againt my leg barely audible over splashing and giggling from my companions. I am utilitarian in my mission: make the most of these minutes while the kids are safely occupied in the tub and save a few minutes later when I take my own shower. They are anything but: merchildren of a wild sea, soap-bubble ice cream cone makers, Cinderella wiping the walls clean so she can get to the Ball and meet the Prince.
I am the laziest mom in the world. I am the most clever. I am a failure at prioritizing myself. I am Mother Earth.
Little bodies, slick and with a film of white bubbles on kneecaps and shoulder blades and under their chins. They acquiesce, standing still long enough for me to tousle their hair dry and wrap them, burrito style, in towels. I turn and they make a break for it, climbing up onto my bed and jumping, giggles and somersaults and wet towels and clean teeth and toes.
We read books. Sometimes I am patient with the inumerable questions and interruptions, small hands pointing details of the illustrations out to me. Sometimes I am bone tired, refusing any attempts at plot dissection or character analysis of Curious George. I mean, for fuck's sake---it says right there in the first two sentences of every damn tale that the damn monkey is curious. Must we revisit this each time?
Potty. Blankets. Kisses. Maybe a song (Mother Earth), maybe not (lazy).
The days are long and the nights are short. Other times, not so much. I fall asleep on the couch or I don't. I stay up too late, reading in silence because if I don't get a slice of quiet time with no one watching stupid movies (I Am Number 4????) and no one asking me for a snack or a book or a craft or to discuss some bill we need to pay or requesting some marital relations I will short circuit in a matter of days. The tell tale signs will include irrational loss of temper, profanity under my breath, and a clear realization that I'm being a huge ass + a complete lack of giving a shit about it.
Then later, from a dreamless sleep, a creak in the hallway and the light thump-thump of steps. A warm body - so warm - climbing up next to me. Without rising fully into consciousness my arm raises, scooping up the radiant warmth and swathing my baby in my own blankets. My baby. My sweetest, purest flesh of my flesh. Her: warm belly, long hair, long legs, feet intertwining instantly with my legs, morning breath all night long. Him: shaggy mop, cheeks so soft, hands finding my arm or my face or my neck, breath like honey and milk.
I may think about moving them. Kicking them out. Tough love. Independence. Space.
Fuck tough love.
And space? The warm bodies and soft skin. The tiny snores and toes tucked under my knees and wide, warm palm on my cheek. Breath in. Breath out. How can they invade my space, when they are so much a part of me.
I used to worry that I was doing it all wrong. My husband, that dear and kind man, remembers the manuscript of parenting, lackidaisically reminding me that we should kick them out of our bed. I might agree. I might invite him to be the one to crawl out of that cocoon of cuddles and walk tired, fuzzy kids back to own rooms. I might just not comment, the morning light peeking in the bathroom window and lighting their apricot cheeks in golds and roses.
Fuck doing it all wrong. The night hours - those darkest hours of the day when the stars are pulled over the earth in a silken blanket and dreams dance behind heavy lids. The night hours matter too. We all need our love tank filled. We all need closeness and space, tucked toes and a warm palm on your neck, morning and milk-honey breath. Circulating the air, sharing atoms and oxygen and breaths and blankets. The love tank is emptied by long days of work and school. Rushed dinners. Early bedtimes to quash bad moods. The love tank is filled with couch cuddle puddles and ice cream runs in our pajamas and bath time with warm water and bubbles. By nighttime cuddles in shared dream-space. I might be doing it all wrong. We all might. Fuck doing it all right.
In the morning, the bathroom tile will be cold and the coffee timer has only a 45% chance of being set. There will be breakfast to figure out. Lunch to pack with nothing appealing to include in it and the freezer packs unfrozen and still in the backpack. Clothes to select. Socks to hunt down and shoes to put on and hair to brush. Someone will be running late or too tired or hungry enough for three breakfasts when time scarcely allows for one. There will be school drop off and commuting to work and long days. There will be a day's end that comes at least an hour later than you'd planned and a rushed dinner that contains nothing organic and at least one thing microwaved. Fantasize about indulgent grocery store trips when the cart brims with leafy greens and fruits of all kinds and organic free range chicken and then the beep of the microwave will end this reverie as you remember that you're out of milk and don't have coffee creamer for tomorrow morning's caffeine rush.
There's no such thing as doing it all wrong. Doing it all right? Same thing. You just do. You dress and you bathe and you feed and you stress and you love and love and love until your brain is abuzz and your heart is hot pink infected with all that love. You pretend to be sleeping when the kids sneak into bed, surreptitiously curling a blanketed arm over them to wrap them in your love bubble. You hope for the best. You hope you're doing something right. You see in the glow of the alarm clock their long lashes and sleep-swollen lips and you remember a time when they were brand new and you spent hours just watching them sleep. You hope to god you're not doing it wrong.
There is no right. There is no wrong. There is only a love tank, ready to fill and be filled.