My better half is out of town for several days and I’m keeping things together as usual. It’s infinitely easier now than when the kids were little, but the question from the two older kids tonight was the same: why are you so cranky tonight?
A friend with older kids once commented that the pressure of raising kids is still there as they age, but it’s different and she was correct. Young children will wear you out with the constant physical demands of feeding, changing, washing and everything else that goes with small ones; even when there might be no physical demands, they want something akin to the fictitious mouse of Laura Numeroff’s excellent children’s story, If You Give a Mouse a Cookie. I should be grateful now because we had an operative curse in the household for years as anytime that my wife departed on a business trip, one or more of the kids fell ill. After it happened twice, I palpably dreaded these trips because they could be – and were – met by episodes of pneumonia, bilateral ear infections and intestinal viruses. Some people have animals that can portend a departure by seeing an open suitcase on a bed, but we had latent viruses that perked up when the luggage came up from the basement.
I’m now past the point of changing blown out diapers and having to spoon-feed the kids but in a sense, they’re still intensely demanding with their short attention spans and raging egocentrism. If they want something to drink, they can get it but there’s no guarantee that the glassware will make it back to the kitchen. Towels will be used and dropped where they are and if a teen doesn’t like the answer to his question, the ensuing conversation can become rancorous and potentially end in a raging indictment of my personal sense of honor, fairness and a general condemnation of the useless values engendered by western civilization. Where one indicts openly, another can respond with sullen silence and pointed use of the dreaded death glare, hoping, like Big Bang Theory’s Sheldon Cooper, to telepathically instigate a minor stroke for nixing plans with the peers. When there are children of different genders, school levels and personalities, the increased stress is more exponential than arithmetic as you bounce along from one pin to another.
Despite it all, I should be grateful because the Eldest leaves in the Fall for college and when she’s out, her presence – and death glare – will be sorely missed. Perhaps it will be hardest on my wife however, as she’ll be left to swim in a pool of ‘tween-age and teen-age testosterone. In the moment however, the gratitude will have to wait until each is abed and quiet, adult rationality returns to the household.