The period of time defined by the TV clock between 8:00 PM until 10:45 PM never fails to make me angry. After Xander has his meds, I lead him to his room. I tell him I love him, kiss him on the lips and cover him with his blanket. He’s not able to say anything in return, but never fails to kiss back. I go downstairs and load the dishwasher, making sure not to press the start button. He hates the sound of it running. He’s always back down within ten minutes and his pull-up needs to be changed for the first time. If not, he turns lights either off or on depending on his need. Sometimes he has to touch certain objects in a particular order before going back up to his room. I travel this unreasonable journey behind him. Over and over. Occasionally, Xander will break something in Maya’s room while I am helping her shower downstairs. She always deals with her Zen attitude. Other times, he comes quietly downstairs to open my wallet and shred the paper money inside. If it ends up in the garbage, I often miss finding it. If he tosses it down the laundry chute, I gather the pieces from the basement and tape them together while I wait for him to return with another soiled diaper. I breathe deeply and close my eyes. I always try to remember to look through the kitchen garbage for miscellaneous coins, jewelry, and toys before taking it out. I fail to look carefully enough sometimes. Things considered important often end up in a landfill. Xander and I travel in tandem up and down the stairs. By 9:00, I decide I hate people who travel to a gym and use machines to feel proud of their physical accomplishments. My thighs burn as I feel irritated that we live in a three story house with a basement. I wash my hands so many times the skin burns by 10:00. Why don’t I wear gloves? I pack school lunches for the younger kids and try to remember not to leave Spencer’s lunch money by the door because bad things can happen to unattended dollar bills. Xander will want snacks on some of our trips up and down the stairs which I place in plastic bags that he takes to his room. They help him sleep sooner, but I have to clear my mind of the vision of the crumbs and shreds of plastic mingled with torn pages from story books I will need to clean in the morning with mild thoroughness. I have learned that if all the paper shreds and crumbs are eliminated, the frenzy to replace them will make our ritual longer the next evening. Xander never minds if I do laundry in the basement, so I carry loads of clothes up and down. I try to listen carefully from under the house, but I sometimes miss mischief I might have heard on the first or second floor. I remember to check the bathrooms for messes when he seems to be settling down. The toilet seats and faucets usually need disinfecting. If I take a shower and he doesn’t knock on the door in protest of the bathroom fan, I know he’s asleep. I open his door with quiet stealth and I see him under the blanket I first covered him with hours ago. He breathes with lusty contentment on top of crumbs and paper. I try not to cringe at the thought as my skin crawls imagining laying in his spot. Toys he’s had since he was a baby obstruct the path between the door and his bed so I can’t sneak another kiss without tripping and waking him. I never fail to desire another start to an evening that could have gone differently if I was a better mom.
Once Xander is asleep, I feel guilty that the rest of the evening is mine. Eric and I fortify each other for the following day. Our blankets shield laughter and cries while entwined in limbs and conversations that never lose novelty.
I fall asleep feeling like the luckiest woman on Earth.