First ice skating lesson after nearly a year break. After he lost his job and my dad paid for skiing and I didn’t think we’d have the time or desire for such an activity again. But they’ve been begging for months, and I finally conceded.
It’s a rush of a Wednesday saved only by the fact that Isabella gets out of school early for once and we’ve miraculously arranged a ride home for her. By the time I pick up the younger two and arrive home, we have just shy of an hour for chores, homework, piano practice and dinner to be on the table, all prior to Daddy coming home, in order for us to leave on time, drive through rush hour, spend fifteen minutes circling streets for a meter, run through the rain, and lace up three pairs of too-long-laces ice skates. All three girls beg me to stand by the glass as they practice for thirty minutes before the lesson, but I want to use what little time I have to fit in a walk and a listen to my Spanish book. I concede to ten minutes of watching them flash by me full of grins, squeeze in twenty minutes of walking, and sit through their lesson intermittently looking up while I write my weekly Spanish essay.
Mythili ends up not having a single kid in class with her. The young DU teachers group her with Isabella, one level up, which she seems to accept for the time being. But as soon as the lesson’s over, she puts her pouty face on. “Ice skating is BORING if I have to take a lesson by myself.” She whines about her skates not coming off, about how thirsty she is, and falls into a teary-eyed slump on the chaise lounge as soon as we enter the door, no “Hello Daddy” or hugs to pass around.
Before bed, tears still creeping into the corners of her eyes, she begs me to cancel, to change her lesson, to bump her up to the next level so she doesn’t have to be alone. I try to reason with her: it’s like having a private lesson, like piano, and what a deal! But there is no reasoning with Mythili. All I can do is promise (likely to no avail) to beg the teacher next week to let her join the other class, or I will, I kid you not (because I know this kid), have eight weeks of pouting and complaining in my future.
Their school pictures came in today. I waste no time in changing them out, and, sadly, all three look only slightly differently than they did last year. Does this mean they’re growing more slowly? I wish. As I walk through our new home and see their chubby faces pass me by in photos from the toddler years, my heart aches. I remember when they were so young, and their needs were so simple: eat, sleep, cuddle, read, bed. Yes, there were those random times when they would cry, cry, cry for no reason. (Perhaps there was a reason… but none of us will ever know).
But now? They have so many reasons to cry, to fight, to whine, complain… I can’t get dinner on the table without backtalk about setting it or the dustpan being lost or homework not being done or an argument about who did what last. They no longer need the simple list of eat, sleep, cuddle, read, bed. They need to be told that their voice matters. That their needs are important. That I need to look up from my writing to look at them. To fully look at them. To know that when they cry, they cry for a reason. A million reasons. Just like the rest of us.
And I wish I could turn back time, when their needs were so simple. I wish I could be the mother that I was, when I didn’t have to fight the battle of who needs what, from homework help to where the fuck is the dustpan-well-you-might-as-well-grab-some-paper-towels.
But I am a mother. I signed up for that battle of trying to figure out why that baby wouldn’t stop crying, of carrying each one of them in varying positions across the room, rocking, consoling, patting, singing, praying for silence. And I signed up for these battles too, however disheartening or day-cringing they make me.
Because when they cry, there’s always a reason. And as their mother, it’s my job to figure out how to make the crying stop.