Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Destination Post Office

It's all about managing the situation today. I have one goal: to get to The Post Office. With all three children. By myself. It would be a bonus if we could get to stand outside for a minute during that process.

Starting at 7:30 this morning, I began arranging everything, absolutely everything, to work toward that goal. At 9:53, things were looking good. The Boy had eaten breakfast. I had most of one cup of coffee on the inside of me (and even though I was wearing the rest of it on the outside for a little while, it still counts). Both babies were changed, fed, dressed, and sleepy. I had even showered (!) and was getting dressed while The Boy played in the bathroom floor with his trains. The babies were hanging out in front of a mirror in their bouncy seats, gooing and cooing pleasantly.

(I never fully appreciated before what it meant to be able to close the bathroom door and be alone in there. Any bathroom time I have now is a very public, very carefully engineered experience. Generally, I expect to be rinsing the soap out of my hair while singing to the twinfants and doing a running commentary on the train action offered by The Boy, who is crashing the engines into the wall and yelling, "Look, Mama...what's gonna happen?"

The Boy: Crash! Whoa! Look at that!
Mama: Whoa! The yellow box car is going straight up the door! Now over, across...oh, my goodness, he just crashed into the green tanker car!
The Boy: Here comes the engine!! Whoo whoo!! Crash!!

If I knew anything about sports, I think I might have a future on ESPN. Too bad there is no ESPN about trains. I've learned a lot about those.)

And now, to get to The Post Office...

The babies were generally entertained by our exchange and sat, all four eyes glued on The Boy, until they both fell asleep. I decided that two sleeping babies meant I should stop getting us all ready and just play with The Boy in his room (something I rarely get to do any more, so both of us really need it). The offer of some playtime with me seemed to motivate The Boy to get dressed faster than normal (though I ended up having to pretend to be a "robot crane dressing machine" to finish the job). We managed to put together his giraffe puzzle twice before both girls woke up demanding to be fed again.

Having nursed the twinfants, I set out again to get us out the door. "Son, look at Mommy. I am going to brush my teeth. Then you will need to put on your shoes and coat." I loaded both babies into their car seats, LadyBug screaming the whole time. At this point, still shoeless and coatless, The Boy lay down on the floor and refused to speak, move or open his eyes. I tried talking, redirecting, joking, tickling, hugging...he was unresponsive. I ended up dragging him around and trying to put his shoes on him. (I am not unsympathetic, but we had to get out of the house.) By this time, Belle had started screaming and was in serious need of a diaper change. The Boy was moaning, "no, no, no," and I was quickly moving toward a meltdown of my own. I opened my mouth to tell The Boy to get up, took a deep breath, and started singing.

Magnificat, magnificat,
magnificat anima mea dominum...

It didn't come from deep within my soul. It didn't feel like a holy song. It just sprang into my brain and out of my mouth, replacing the words of frustration I'd been about to say. I sang it over and over.

Magnificat, Magnificat...

Maybe at this point in the story, there should be a beam of heavenly light that breaks through the ceiling as a beautiful major chord in second inversion sounds. Harps...a string tremolo...maybe some wind chimes? Both babies should stop crying and open their eyes wide, looking cherubic. The Boy should sit up and smile, and say, "Mama, that's beautiful!" And smiling, I should energetically move everyone toward the car, a shining gold halo encircling my head. I'm pretty sure that's how the Blessed Virgin looked when she was getting everybody ready to go to The Post Office.

Surprisingly, none of that happened. Piercing wails emanated from both car seats. I rocked the loudest car seat with my foot while pushing The Boy's arm into his jacket. I kept singing while I brushed my teeth...magnificat anima mea...I carried The Boy into the living room and deposited him on the sofa, then lugged both car seats with their purple-faced occupants out to join him. I hauled Belle out of her seat and spread out the changing pad with one hand, deftly switching a poopy diaper for a clean one right in the living room floor, rocking LadyBug's car seat with my left elbow. Magnificat. Belle howled as I put her back into her seat, tugged on my own jacket, then picked up the diaper bag, both car seats, and my letters for The Post Office.

Getting there meant everything now.

I nudged The Boy out the door with my knee, loaded the two screaming baby seats into the car, grabbed The Boy and a granola bar from the diaper bag to feed him, and buckled him into his seat. Magnificat anima mea dominum...I checked for keys, phone, and wallet, bucked my seat belt, and backed out of the driveway, still singing, teeth gritted, over a din of crying, unhappy children. How many were there? Just three? It sounded like forty-six.

They all stopped wailing when the car started moving. We were on the way. It was 11:43 AM, and for a split second, it was silent.

I managed to get the letters mailed and even get in a short walk with everybody before lunch. The Boy's normal good humor returned when we got outside after mailing the letters. Maybe he just wanted to leave the house as badly as I did.

I'm told this stuff is going to get easier. I don't know about that. What amazes me today is that it is possible now to leave the house with all of them. So what if it took over four hours to run a ten-minute errand? I did it! And I didn't lose my temper or my keys or any of the children. I survived. I'm calling it a success.

Magnificat.