We just needed some time in the sun, together as a family of four. Somehow summer has crept up on us, and without our consent the heat and the humidity have taken over, the days have become insanely long and the weather has been tumultuous. The mornings are cool, even breezy and chilly, the afternoons sweltering and almost unbearable, and the evenings wrought with thunderstorms and heavy raindrops.
We’ve been in our house a month, and we still don’t feel settled. Work is demanding, the girls are still adjusting, the house is only half unpacked…and although we’re truly happy, everything feels a bit unbalanced lately. There needs to be some sense of normalcy in our lives, and today the best place we could find that feeling was at the pool, just us (and a million other strangers worshipping the sun) ushering in the season properly.
It’s summer, so bedtimes have been later than usual, and getting back into the routine of putting the girls down at a decent hour has been difficult. Ryan and I are certain that three hours spent splashing and swimming and jumping will knock E.V. and Cricket out. I’m reminded of summer days of my youth, and I recount them to Ryan while our girls giggle in the shallow end.
“Were you ever on swim team?”
He answers no, which is new information to me even after being together thirteen years.
“The best feeling in the world was coming home exhausted and freezing after spending all day at a meet and taking a hot shower to warm up while your mom made chicken nuggets and mac and cheese downstairs.”
It’s so vivid in my mind that I can almost tangibly feel how my girls will feel in about an hour. He grins back at me.
We manage to make the drive home without either child falling asleep. We have strawberries and crackers on the porch, sunning ourselves while the dogs wander. We’re all still in our damp, cold suits, and the heat feels good. The warm tub is even better, and I’m happy as the girls splash around in the suds. I pull each of my littles out one at a time, wrapping them in giant towels that smell of Gain. I throw them on our bed to watch a show and calm down. So far this night is going smoothly.
And then it’s bedtime.
Ryan and I divide and conquer, me with the baby, he with the big girl. Cricket’s been getting coddled quite a bit lately, and so when she doesn’t want to fall asleep in my arms or while I rub her back, I decide to let her cry it out a bit. She’s miserable. She’s pitiful. She throws her baby dolls out of her crib while simultaneously crying for them. I go in once. I go in twice. I resolve not to go in again, so I stare at the monitor in agony. I try to distract myself with FaceBook, and within seconds I hear a thud. She’s climbed and fallen out of her crib.
Cricket is beside herself, and I scoop her up, feeling for bumps and broken bones. Only a broken spirit. I hand her Baby Owl, a formerly rejected lovey that seems to do the trick this time as she clings to it while she sobs. I rock her in the dark of her nursery, and she waivers between tiny post-cry huffs and the occasional sob of “BAAAAABBBBBY!” I had thought before that she was crying for her baby dolls, but now it feels like she’s declaring that she is a baby, so she wants to be coddled. Within a few minutes she’s done with her tears, nestled on my chest, snuggling Baby Owl and me with equal desperation. Her head is hot and sweaty, her toes are freezing against my leg; her shirt and mine are soaked with tears and my cheek is pressed against hers, so I can taste the salt. My arms are swaddling her, holding her elbows and knees in tightly.
There’s a faint scent of chlorine still lingering around, and I can smell sunscreen on her. There are certain signs of summer that not even bathwater can erase, and in that moment I’m encouraged and excited that those childhood memories are being made even now — that one day the feeling of their warm sun-kissed skin against cool, cotton sheets will remind them of these days we’re living now.
Cricket’s finally asleep, so I lay her in her crib, surrounded by soft blankets and baby dolls and Baby Owl. I tag Ryan out, who’s currently trying to convince our almost-three year old to go to sleep even while the sun has yet to set. I think I’ll have more success, and he has household things to accomplish. I calm her and talk to her and then leave the room, but she’s quick to cry out for me.
She’s hungry. Then thirsty. She wants to be held. She wants a book. Her Ariel doll. Her cuddly blanket. She’s scared…of ladybugs. So I scoop up imaginary ladybugs from her crib and pretend to release them out the window. Then it’s spiders in her room, so I grab a nightlight and convince her that it’s magic and keeps all manner of bug away. Then it’s monsters.
I turn off the nightlight and lay on the floor next to her. I’m at my wit’s end. What time is it anyway? How long has this gone on? I’m trying not to be frustrated, trying to maintain a soft heart, but I’m tired. Our plan of wearing the girls out at the pool has worked…on me, not them. Go figure. I lay on the ground in the dark, and the angel on my shoulder shouts reminders that the day is quickly approaching where I’ll be desperate for her to want me to lay at her bedside. That thought sinks in and my patience returns. I peer up into the crib next to me and see a slumbering child. In an instant I’ve forgotten all of the madness of the past hour(s). I still have no concept of time.
I creep out of E.V.’s nursery with a full heart, happy that both girls are finally asleep. And then, as if on cue, I hear a wailing “MAAAAMAAA!” from Cricket’s room. I scoop up my youngest and her Baby Owl, and settle into the rocking chair. Instantly she’s passed out on my chest, but instead of risking it, I resolve to sit with her a while until she’s heavy with sleep before placing her back in her crib. It’s been a long day.
Somewhere in the distance I can hear the faint of pop of fireworks. It’s summer, and I’m happy. Exhausted, but happy.