August 31, 2007

Handmaiden

You would think that, as a mother of five, I would be immensely relieved to have two of the five off to school all day. But I am not.

Part of it is nothing but practical: Rob and William can be given tasks as if they were little remote-controlled cleaning machines--albeit extraordinarily inefficient ones I'd return to the store if I'd bought them for this purpose. All summer I could say, "Get the dustbuster and vacuum under the high chairs" or "Put all those toys back into the playpen" or "Put this dishtowel in the laundry," and they would do it. I must have been giving out orders casually all day long without even noticing: with Rob and William back in school, the floor is littered with toys and towels, cereal and socks. It's oppressive and depressing.

Also, they voluntarily played with the twins, and they did it more than I'd realized, because now I'm scraping bored twins off every surface. Rob could even lift a twin out of a crib--so if Henry was nursing when Edward and Elizabeth woke up from their naps, Rob could go get the twins up and give them cups of juice. Now it's a choice: do I listen to Henry cry, or do I listen to the twins crying? Choose your own soundtrack!

And Rob and William could be trusted to watch the twins for short periods of time, like when I needed to pee or when the laundry needed to be cycled. A few days ago, while I was changing Henry's diaper, Edward somehow magicked out of the ether a brown permanent Sharpie marker and used it to color on my yellow recliner. Yesterday he did the same with a black Sharpie, and also crayoned a clipboard. He must be squirrelling away any unattended weapons of destruction, then waiting for his opportunity to strike.

But it isn't just the convenience of having minions to do my bidding. Another part of it is something I haven't experienced since William was a new baby and Rob was a toddler: the unpleasant feeling of being trapped in a house where no one speaks your language. Without me knowing it, Rob and William were fulfilling some of my need for sentient companionship, for people to talk to--even if all they were saying was "HE HIT ME!" "NO I DID NOT!" and all I was saying was "Settle down now, I mean it" and "You are TOO WILD, go to your rooms for fifteen minutes." Now I'm here all day with people who can't even tell me what they want, or understand when I tell them what I want. I feel like the only intelligent life on this planet, handmaiden to the apes.

My Planet

30 comments:

Black Sheeped said...

The other night when we were at the furniture store, we were debating over whether or not this couch would fit in the den. J said, "This is why we need a kid, so we could call home and say, 'Hey, go measure that wall.'" And I said, "Well, let's go home and make a baby." "Yeah, and then, in like, ten or twelve years or HOWEVER old it is you can leave a kid at home and expect him to be able to measure, we can come back here and buy a couch."

We laugh about needing a minion all the time. I don't know why the dog doesn't learn to go put the groceries away or take socks to the laundry room.

Your planet! It looks crazy!

Marie Green said...

Oh, how I know. 3 children under age 2 is... well it's Something. You are amazing.

Also, I could really use a 12 year old around here- to mow, to sweep acorns, to play organized games with my twins, to make me lunch etc. I would be missing your boys too!

Hang in there, in your crazy planet. Are brownies on the agenda for today?

jen said...

so is that why some days i feel anxious if I'm not online.. why I manically press reload over and over and over all day not even wanting to be there yet feeling strangely compelled to find more communications?

yeah, I'm pathetic.

Devan said...

I can see how that would be frustrating! The kids are soooo cute!

Michelle said...

I am getting excited now because my 20-month-old responds to simple commands like "Put this in the trash" and "Give this to your daddy." And I relish the fact that she learns practically a new word every day, which dramatically increases the pseudo-intelligent conversations we have around here. Now you have told me that in a few years, it will all be taken away. Cruel, cruel world.

Christine said...

Goodness, I can't imagine how overwhelming it must feel at times.

But if it is any consolation, your planet is mighty cute.

Swistle said...

Black Sheeped- We're totally cranking out kids in anticipation of their lawn-mowing abilities. I'm using that as an argument for a sixth child: 2 or 3 additional years of Paul not having to mow the lawn.

Marie Green- YOU READ MY MIND. I came to the computer after putting a pan of brownies into the oven! I'm still experimenting with that mint chocolate recipe.

Jen- I feel the same way! Like this is my social club where I can come and "visit with" (old-fashioned but I like it) other people! On weekends, there are way fewer posts and I get lonely.

LoriD said...

I guess it's time to whip those two-year-olds into shape, then. Give them each a damp cloth and put them to work on the floor. I'm kidding (a little). As for your "no one who speaks my language" problem. You could do either talk radio or Fox News. Both will get you so riled up you'll be shouting at the TV/Radio with plenty to say!

Erin said...

Wow. You just described my Monday through Friday existance to a T. And I only have 2. But your planet has some really flippin CUTE inhabitants.

My Buddy Mimi said...

But you can always talk to the Interweb. And sometimes we even talk back.

nowheymama said...

Thanks for the preview of what my life will be like come Tuesday. I bet the new arrival in Jan. will make it even more interesting. At least K. will only be at school for half of the day.

Speaking of, any hot Swistle tips on getting children up and out the door for school?

Flibberty said...

When I was a kid, I constantly got in trouble for drawing on furniture and the walls. Once I even carved into my mom's piano with a pen. Oh, I was a terrible kid in that way. I didn't even turn out to be remotely artistic.

By the by, they are very cute future minions.

Alice said...

that's totally what my parents used us for! every day during the summer my sister and i would be home alone, but there would be a list of chores awaiting us to keep us busy until my mom came home. and we're talking "scrub the baseboards" and "mop the kitchen floor" and "dust all the knicknacks in all the upstairs bedrooms" kind of chores, like 8-10 each day. my mom was smart.

Pickles & Dimes said...

This was such a well-written post.

And I love the photo at the end.

MadMad said...

I remember those days! This is why when people tell me I'm lucky mine are far apart in age, I always think they'er wrong, and I should have had them really close together before school schedules and soccer practice and ballet and playdates took away my "babysitter."

AndreAnna said...

I keep telling Mike I want to rent a non-sullen responsible teenager to pretend to be my kid. The, Mike informs me that they don't exist.

Jen4 @ Amazing Trips said...

You're not alone. My toenails haven't been painted since my husband painted them before my Henry was born (that should tell you the quality of the paint job) and yesterday, when I was home alone for most of the day, I didn't get an opportunity to go to the bathroom until almost 11 AM.

This is why we blog.

Doulala said...

Sigh, I remember the days of 3 kids under 2. Now I can tell them all what to do!

shauna loves chocolate said...

... And this is why we blog.

Doulala said...

I should add, they don't always listen but at least they are all capable of helping out.

Omaha Mama said...

I have a feeling little Henry is going to be a serene, patient little man - or one tough little rambler! Your twins are adorable, but look very "energetic". Sorry that you've got back-to-school blues. And you're all a-lonely.

And the dreaded Sharpie? They are evil, aren't they? I'm addicted to them and make sure they are only in HIGH places. Scary, how permanent they really are.

Swistle said...

Nowheymama- Hm, hot tips. The only thing I do that is tippish is that I think of the morning routine as one of those plate-spinning things: I get one plate spinning, then go to the next plate. So I get the kids up and tell them to get dressed, and then I go make their breakfast. Then while they're eating, I get dressed. I find activities that MESH. Otherwise there's time when either they're waiting around or I'm waiting around, and that can really clog up a morning routine.

Flibberty- That is so unfair to your mother: if you were going to carve things up, you OWE IT TO HER to be artistic later.

Alice- I find your mother inspiring. Just think how clean my house will be in a few years when Rob is, like, twelve.

Mommy Daisy said...

Ha! Matt was just saying the other day that he can't wait until Zachariah is old enough to mow the yard for us.

"He must be squirrelling away any unattended weapons of destruction, then waiting for his opportunity to strike." - Love this. I wonder where his stock pile is.

Jana said...

Maybe you should home school so that the older ones are around all the time to help you out! :)

And Alice - Are we related? Because my mom did the exact same thing every summer.

Bunny said...

This is why we sit on the computer all day waiting for posts from our blogs...they offer virtual contact with another adult human!

Shelly Overlook said...

The creatures from your planet are very adorable, though. At least there is that.

Jennifer aka Binky Bitch said...

Yes!!! Yes!! You have a way of saying exactly what I'm thinking. Not so much the part about helpful older children, but all the rest.

Blogging saved my sanity, this I know FOR CERTAIN.

How did people survive without the Internetz/adult interaction, even if it is virtual?

Katie said...

AAAAAAAAAAAAA! Those apes have the cutest faces ever! :)

I am scared for you. And for myself. Terrified. Today I actually had three ADULTS chasing ONE toddler and we all felt wiped out. You are outnumbered in the other direction! YIKES!

Stacie said...

Yep. You know, I need to have more intelligent things to say than "Yep" but, in general, I read you posts and, when I stop laughing, I say, "Yep."

Of course, I didn't have the conversational stimulation you had over the summer. But I am in the same bored twin boat. Bored, climbing twins.

Michele said...

"scraping bored twins off every surface"
"do I listen to Henry cry, or do I listen to the twins crying? Choose your own soundtrack!"
"I feel like the only intelligent life on this planet, handmaiden to the apes."

Three of the best lines ever.