The two hours between four and six p.m. are the trickiest part of my day. I have it easy in the mornings, since Big Daddy is the one who has to get the kids up and ready and to their respective schools and sitter. All I have to do is nurse Genevieve and pray she stays asleep while I shower, dress, make lunches, and scoot out the door by 7:00 a.m. Sometimes she does, but I still manage to be a few minutes late almost every day. The workday itself is generally pleasant, since I like my school and my students this year. I don't even mind the after-school dash to Mud Island to pick up Genevieve and then to the school for the other three. But once we get home, I am looking at two to two and a half hours of clothing changes ("Daddy wants you to change out of your uniform when you get home, you know that. Because you will spill stuff on it. Come on Somerset, give it to me. Fine, leave it on then, I don't even care..."), snack facilitating, homework coaching, squabble refereeing, and attempts to get the baby down for a nap so I can clean up a little and start dinner, which will almost inevitably end in screeching from the living room waking her up so that I end up cooking and cleaning with a sleepy baby tied to my back. All I really want to do is sit down and read or watch Oprah, but I can't and for the most part I've accepted that. Most days I do fine, biding my time until B.D. makes it home to at least keep me company in munchkin land and take his turn being the one to beg, plead, and threaten Somerset into pretended compliance with our meager rules.
But some days there are surprises, and that's where I fall. I've always prided myself on being a go-with-the-flow kind of person, able to think on my feet and take problems in stride. For some reason, those abilities seem to take a nap in the after-school hours. When that happens, various personalities step in to take Calm Mama's place. Sometimes it's Mommy Dearest, who causes a steady stream of nagging and bitching to come out of my mouth about the ungodly state of the kids' rooms, the mindboggling presence of so much of their crap in the living room, their arguing, their forgetting of things at school, and so on. Other times, like yesterday, it's The Big Baby. She throws tantrums. It is not pretty.
Yesterday afternoon, Calvin told me all about how the Santa Claus we know, in the red and white suit, is just an image that was thought up in the 1950's by Coca Cola, and how he always wore green before that, and how he isn't really fat but used to be skinny. I understood that he learned this in school, and was able to casually ask him where he learned about that. His student teacher. Of course. I did a good job of hiding, but this information just crawled right up my ass and made me furious. Calvin still believes in Santa Claus, and I realize this is probably the last year that will be true. At this point, he chooses to believe, even in the face of naysayers and some evidence to the contrary. Luckily, he seems to have taken this fascinating revelation about how Santa is just a cheap marketing ploy, which his tweny-one year old student teacher is so proud to have discovered all by herself on the amazing internet, and incorporated it into whatever logical process he has going on about Santa in that beautiful brain of his. But I was still pissed, and as soon as Big Daddy got home, I lunged for his laptop and fired off an email to Calvin's very lovely real teacher asking her to please tell her student teacher that some of us try hard to give our children an actual childhood, and could she please not kill Santa for them just yet. I felt somewhat better after that, until I went to move Somerset's lunchbox off the counter and noticed it felt heavy. I opened it to see that her entire sandwich and most of her chips were still in there, meaning all she had eaten all day was a banana. When I asked her why she hadn't eaten her sandwich, she looked upset and said it was time to go back to her room (from CLUE class back to the YMCA room) and she didn't have time to eat. There have been other times when she told me she did not have lunch on CLUE days, but it usually turned out that she was just confused because she ate in the CLUE room and thought it was "snack" time. This time, though, the food was still there so I knew she hadn't eaten, and this just flew all over me and reignited my fury over the Santa debacle. I decided to write a note to the Y teacher about how they need to get their shit together and make sure my poor baby gets to eat her lunch at the same time and place every day, but I couldn't find a pen. That was it. The Big Baby decided to throw a hissy fit about the impossibility of finding a pen in this disorganized pit, and how could it be that we don't even have a #$*&%$ pen in this house?? In fact there were probably more expletives than respectable words coming out of my mouth, but I'll spare you. B.D. tried to give me a fine-point sharpie, which I threw back in the basket, shouting "That is not a pen it is a #*&%ing Sharpie!" and then ranted about how I was going to throw all of those Sharpies away because the kids keep drawing with them and there was a mark on the table now from one. To his credit, B.D. did not tell me to pull my shit together, instead choosing to stop folding laundry to go and find me a pen. This left me standing alone in the kitchen, feeling stupid, and noticing for the first time that the Rosemary Clooney Christmas CD he had just bought me to replace a long-lost tape was playing on the kitchen stereo. It's my favorite Christmas album, and he bought it for me, and he put it on to play so we could listen to it while I cooked and he folded, and instead I had drowned out the wistful, melancholy version of "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas" that always makes me cry and that is the reason I love that album so much with the sounds of my temper tantrum. I felt like a complete ass. I thought about how irritated I get when he acts moody, knowing that in his worst fit of grumpiness he has never come anywhere close to throwing a fit like I just did. So I pulled it together. He brought me the pen and I wrote the note, and I mumbled an apology, and in a little while we were both able to act like nothing had happened.