Vignettes

I pull up to the house and put the car in park. I open the gate, then the front door and immediately hear my children bustling upstairs with their grandparents. “Hey guys! I’m home!” I call to them, but before they answer I’m thrusting up the garage door and rolling the garbage cans from the street. I expertly pull the car in, not too far to the right, not too far to the left, not too far forward. Just right.

I step heavily up the stairs, checking my watch as I open the gate. 5:30pm. I left the house exactly 12 hours ago.

*   *  *  *  *

My daughter wiggles in my lap, whining that she wants to watch a movie. “What are we going to do right now?” I remind her. She rests her head on my hand and sulkily recites our plan: homework, then one, maybe two episodes of Daniel Tiger. “We may eat dinner between the episodes.” This possibility incites yet another meltdown and I hug her lean, sinewy body closer to mine, smoothing her hair out as I whisper in her ear.

My son, not yet one, sees our embrace from across the room and makes plain his desire for similar attention. I wave him over and he smiles, crawling full steam ahead. In a moment he’s pulled himself up at my knees.

“Family snuggle time!” I cheer. My daughter begrudgingly obliges, and I hoist her brother, balancing him behind her on my knees. He is thrilled to be included but he is inadvertently pulling her hair and she cries out in pain and frustration. Her wails set him off and suddenly they are both crying. I struggle to keep him on my knees and his hands out of his sister’s hair. How will I manage until their father gets home? Managing two kids can be so, so hard.

*  *  *  *  *

“I’m going to leave him in here, to watch Daniel Tiger,” I tell my husband, but it’s more a question than a statement. Is it okay? He’s not even one.

He nods in agreement.

I try to silence the voices reminding me that his sister never saw a lighted TV until she was two years old and at eleven months he’s already watched entire 22 minute programs. He deserves a TV free infancy too! A snarky voice chides. Oh he’ll be fine, it’s only one episode! another pleads. She’s clearly the one who has to start the laundry.

Glancing back as I haul cloth diapers down the stairs I see my son transfixed, his cherub face bathed in the glow of the screen.

*  *  *  *  *

“How about five more bites and then we’ll read the new Capitán Calzoncillos,” I bargain. “I bet you can finish your whole hot dog,” my husband counters.

I flash to the article I recently read about what all preschoolers need. “The power to control how much they eat,” was the first thing on the list. Are we hurting her by requesting these bites? What happens if she wakes up hungry, asking for food in the middle of the night? It’s happened before and I’m not doing that again. I don’t even think she’s old enough to make the connection between not eating and waking up hungry. I’m not sure what we should do.

“That was three!” my daughter smiles triumphantly, mouth full of half-chewed hot dog.

*  *  *  *  *

“This is the last chapter and then I’m turning off the light.” My daughter shifts her body, clearly agitated by the impending end of our story. Slowly, she turns her face and spits at me.

I turn off the iPad and lay it next to me, surprised by my calm. I knew the meltdown was coming and I’m almost thankful I have this opportunity to hold my ground; at least it will feel like I’m accomplishing something.

She promptly melts down.

I stay with her. I tell her I love her and I’ll be here when she wants a hug. She writhes and howls and kicks her long, strong legs, but is careful not to hit me. (This is progress.) She wants to read it now. It will be so long until tomorrow after school. She’ll be waiting and waiting for me.

“I’ll pick you up early,” I assure her.

“No! Don’t pick me up!” she screams.

“When do you want me to get you? How about right after you’re done on the playground?”

She nods her head and whimpers. “And then we can finish the story?”

“Then we can finish the whole book,” I promise.

After much shushing me and telling me not to talk, she lets me lie next to her and hold her close. I push my nose into her cheek and tell her I love her. She sighs.

We pull up the covers and perform our bedtime rituals. I realize she hasn’t gone to the bathroom yet but she assures me she’ll call me when she’s ready, as she always does.

Ten minutes later, when I go to check on her, she is fast asleep. It’s only 8:35pm and she’s usually not down before 10pm. I worry that she didn’t pee before she fell asleep but I know there’s nothing I can do.

I close her door quietly behind me and trudge downstairs to deal with the laundry.

Would you share a vignette with me?

10 Comments

  1. That last one really gets me – I see our future right there. And in reference to the one before that, we also negotiate for bites. I’ll be thinking of a vignette today.

    Also, I just wanted to say how much I’m enjoying your writing here at your new space. It’s still you, but it’s different. More polished but still authentic. I like it.

  2. I love these vignettes! Your life sounds a lot like mine. Here’s one from last night:
    We are trying to play war (the card game). C asks for a bottle (sippy cup) and as I get up to get it for her, I forget where I put down my cards. J is very helpful in helping me look, as he really wants to get back to playing. We look all over the house. But he’s holding his cards as we walk around the house, and once we finally find MY cards, we realize we don’t know where he put HIS. It’s getting very late, and I say we should just go to bed. Major tantrum ensues. Kicking, screaming, crying. I wait. And wait and wait. My poor guy. It’s the night before his birthday, and he’s overtired, and I don’t think the birthday anticipation is helping things.

    Finally J has a brilliant suggestion that we play Skip-Bo, since we know where those cards are. We get out the Skip-Bo cards and he calms down. We play briefly, although C keeps throwing all the cards around. J is satisfied, though, and when she finally gets the cards to the point that the game is totally ruined, he agrees to go to bed . I lie down in his twin bed, with C on my chest, J next to me. C falls asleep immediately. J talks about how I yelled at him too much that night, and that once he gets silly it’s hard for him to stop. He says that I keep telling him to calm down, but he sees his sister still acting silly, and that makes it harder for him to calm down. I ask if he’d like me to separate them when that happens next time, and he says yes. I move C to her crib, give J a kiss and lie down next to him. He falls asleep.

    1. Thank you for sharing that. That scenario has played out a million times in our house (the doing something, leaving to do something else, and then losing something from the original thing). I was chuckling as I read that because I’ve done it so many times.

      I hope J’s birthday is a good one tomorrow.

  3. These are really beautiful. I definitely see you evolving as a writer. I love you honest stream of thought posts as well, but this…is art. Little glimpses into your heart and that of your family. Perfect.
    I have a million vignettes swirling in my head and no energy right now to turn them into words.

  4. I totally loved this post. Totally. I’m going to write my own for tomorrow. 🙂

    I hear ya on the screen time for the 2nd kid. You do what ya gotta do though. ((HUGS))

    Also, ditto what Mrs. T said – ” It’s still you, but it’s different. More polished but still authentic. I like it.”

  5. I love this! I want to do something similar.

    I want you to know that I’m not getting updates in my reader from your blog until DAYS after you’ve posted. I always come and read the latest blocks of posts I’ve missed. I’m not not reading… I’m just manually checking for posts!

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