At first, they were quiet. It was 8:35 p.m. Well past bedtime.
And then they were talking and singing. I ignored it.
And then I heard the first footsteps thunk on the floor over my head.
Crap, I thought.
The footsteps were quickly joined by their matching pair. The footsteps padded around the twins’ room.
Shuffle, shuffle, shuffle.
And then, almost without warning, the footsteps were running at a frenzy down the hall and to the stairs. Bum da bum da bum bum bum bum bum.
“MOOOOOMMMMM!!!” shouted both girls.
“What?” I asked firmly, trying to walk the fine line between yelling and pleading.
“There is a GHOST! We saw HIM!” said Carrie, appearing around the entry of the living room, her eyes wide, but her lips betrayed her as they were curled up in a smile.
“Seriously? There isn’t a ghost,” I told her. A curly red head popped around the same corner.
“Yes, yes there IS!” Ellie testified.
“No, there isn’t. C’mon girls, go back to bed,” I directed them.
Sensing that I knew that they were making the whole thing up, the twins scurried up the stairs. I heard their footsteps round the corner of the banister and chase each other down the long hall to their room.
Whispering, talking and then outright hollering ensued. I sighed.
I cocked my head to the side to listen to hear if there was a follow up scream of pain. Nope.
And then there was the dull staccato of little feet running on the carpet, flying around the banister and drumming down the stairs.
“MOOOOM!” Oh, the whining. Frank and I have been trying to break them of it. Every word is stretched out by at least one or more syllables, often with sentences beginning with the word, “Buhhhhhhh-t!” (“But” is the original, un-mangled word). We correct them nearly every time the whining surfaces, sometimes even demonstrating for them how absolutely annoying the whining is.
So far, we’ve only been met with blank stares and more whining.
Parenting appears to be a lot of repetition without a lot of immediate gratification. I’m guessing in 30 years the twins won’t even remember to thank us for breaking them of this nasty habit – they will just be consumed with the whining in their own homes.
But I digress.
“What now?” I asked. Again, working hard to maintain a firmness in my voice without sounding desperate. If they could please, please, please sleep, I could get some of the long, long over-due thank you notes done.
“Ayeeeee. Neeeeed. Waaaahhhh-ter!” complained Carrie.
“Stop whining, please. You can get a glass of water.”
“Mooooom. Ayeeeee. Neeeeeed. Kleeeenexxxxxx!” called Ellie.
“Well, first, please stop whining. Second. Please, for the love, go get a Kleenex.”
As far as I could tell, the feet and voices obeyed. The footsteps wandered back to the twins’ bedroom. Another loud THUNK.
I sighed. I put down the pen I was using to write out thank you notes.
Up the stairs I went, flipping off the light in the twins’ bathroom at the top of the stairs.
Their bedroom is at the far end of a long hallway, giving them ample time to hop into bed and to pretend as though they never left it in the first place.
“Girls,”I said upon arriving. “Get. In. Bed.”
Carrie stared back at me, deciding whether she was going to heckle me by stating the obvious.
“We are, Mooom.”
Oh no, she didn’t! I thought.
“You weren’t three seconds ago. I can HEAR you walking around and singing and hollering,” I told them. Ellie’s eyebrows inadvertently shot up. This was news to her.
“Girls. I am very, very disappointed to find you both out of your beds, wandering around and playing…” so began my lecture.
I am sure I said many wise and important Mom-things from the doorway to the twins’ room. In response both girls tried to explain that they were only playing with the doll house.
But as my gaze around the room took in both the chaotic mess of their room (So.Many.Stuffed.Animals!), my heart softened as I looked at their little faces.
“Please, girls, go to bed. We can do so many fun things tomorrow, but you need your rest so that you can enjoy them.” I finished. Not quite General Patton, but I was severely limited by my own lack of stamina and restrictions on appropriate word choices (the twins’ expert-level use of the phrase “sons of bitches” is not what I want to get called into pre-school for this year).
“But Mom, remember when we went to the park with Daddy and the lightening and the thunder and we had to hurry home and it rained?” said Carrie as quickly as she could.
I started to interrupt her. I started to tell her that the story about the storm was irrelevant, but then I stopped myself.
Her big blue eyes were serious. Playing at the park and leaving because of a storm was one of the riskiest things she’d ever done in her life so far. It was not a secondary detail, but an important thing to remember while I was telling her about future plans to play at the park.
“Yes, and everything was OK. It was scary, but you made it home and everything was OK. Now let’s go to bed and get rested for the busy day tomorrow, OK?”
There was some more whining and some more negotiating, but in the end, there were two girls in two beds, attempting (as far as I could tell) to sleep.
I went downstairs, stopping at the kitchen for a snack. As I walked back to the living room, I had a realization that I am sure that every parent has. It isn’t a new or unique or extraordinary.
It is as common as the way that time marches onward.
I realized that there will be a day when the twins and Annie are gone. They will be at college or in their first apartments or wherever, but what’s important is that they won’t be at home. Around bedtime on that day, I will probably wander into the kitchen for a snack or a glass of water. I will turn off the lights in the kitchen as I leave and round the corner to the living room, passing the stairs as I go. I will look up those stairs and I will realize that there isn’t a light on, dimly, in the hallway for little girls to find their way to the potty late at night. I will wander up the stairs, around the banister and to the end of the hallway.
I will stand in the doorway of the twins’ room, remembering that years ago I told them to please, for the love of all that is good, go.to.bed.
And instead of big blue eyes peering up at me from a lovely mop of blond hair or piercing blue eyes looking back at me framed by a mane of wild red curls – there will be two perfectly made twin beds. They will be well-worn and indented in the middle from where two little girls grew up tall and strong and smart and brave.
I will stand in that doorway, holding a cold glass of water with the condensation making my hand wet and I will stare at that room for a really long time, remembering.
And I know, without a doubt, I will wonder, maybe even aloud, “Where did all that time go? How can they be gone already?”
So tonight I sat down in the living room, put away the thank you notes, and wrote this down. Not just for me, but for my girls so that they know how deeply and profoundly loved they are – and as Frank says to them whenever he puts them to bed, “you can’t do anything to change that.”
I love you Elliana, Carrigan and Annabel. Every minute, of every day.