The clock showed a minute to 9:00 PM. The sole light in the vast expanse of our first floor came from the low hanging fixture above my head. I folded clothes. Mechanically and without thought. The evening had been rough. Potty regression? Check. Power struggles? Check. Yelling and screaming? Check. Haggling and cajoling? Check. Crying? Double check.
As I sat, my back against the wall tears streaming down my cheeks, the mood changed. The sullen expression on Ammu’s face morphed into concern. The back talking Pattu stilled. Their plates half full after an hour of sitting at the table moved to the center indicating they were done. Wordlessly Pattu laid her head on my bosom hugging me tight as only a four-year old can. Ammu stood by my shoulder caressing my head.
One tiny palm wiped away tears as the other stretched my lips to form a smile. Amma is happy declared a childish voice. I gave in and laughed. A group hug and some cuddling later, the food went down the trash, the kids wiped down and anointed with vicks before I tucked them in.
As the folded clothes pile grew I went over the evening one more time. Where did I go wrong? Rather where should I have changed tactic and held on to my patience with gritted teeth? As much as I reminded Saathi that they were four and he near forty why did I forget that simple fact? Why did I give in to their bait and engage in the power struggle? Why could I have not practiced empathy? The questions were numerous and the answers stark in their absence.
I went to bed exhausted and woke up to the feeling of wetness on my cheek. Ammu head was inches away from mine and she had a look of tenderness that melted me. “Can we blow bubbles this morning?” came another voice ahead of a little bundle hurtling my way. “Can I get my bike back? I promise to listen to my body.” said another. Throwing off the covers, I scooped up the twins and nodded yes.
Bubbles and bikes. That is all they remember. Perhaps that is all I should remember too?