Some Saturdays we are magnificent. We are up with the sun, appropriately caffeinated before anybody even thinks of whinging for second breakfast (have I given birth to actual hobbits or do other people’s children also believe that breakfast should be a multi-course event?), and by the time that the girls are down for their 7am nap – yes, really! – the boys are dressed and ready to head out with me so that Kirsty can have a break. Other days – the rainy days, the this-week-has-been-too-hard days – don’t pan out like that at all. But we have become adept now in finding beauty in the ordinary, in embracing or even celebrating the hours where nobody cried, or that they all did and we didn’t turn to gin.
On the really tough days, the boys get extra screen time (at the moment they really love watching little scientific playlists on YouTube: a caterpillar hatching from a cocoon, a spider building a web, fish doing whatever fish do [they call them ‘feesh’. They call their great-grandma that as well!]). And we entertain the girls by popping them down in our kitchen with its wipe-clean floor and letting them create devastation. On the really tough days, we are guaranteed twenty minutes of quiet by popping them on the floor with an almost empty yoghurt pot or two, and a bowl of fruit and tiny cereal pieces. They can amuse themselves for a good while eating the cereal piece by piece, devouring the fruit and smothering themselves and everything else in yoghurt.
(Pro tip: If you have more than one small child, ensure that they each have their own yoghurt pot. Sharing leads to tears!)
Afterward, they almost always require a bath. Mostly, these days, we bathe them upstairs in the ‘real’ bath; they love to splash, to drink the water from plastic cups and to play with the many, many plastic toys that litter the bottom of the tub at all times and make me remember with longing that my parents gave us as children our own bathroom, and just as I write this I realise that this was not necessarily intended as a luxury for us but a blessed relief for them.
But sometimes, we bathe them in the sink. We do it because they were small once, just a heartbeat ago, because they had their first ever bath in this sink and we remember it as though it were yesterday; the small, slipperiness of them that reminded me of their birth, their mewling cry as they left the water and made contact with the air, the way that they cuddled against our shoulder or nestled in the crook of our arms to sleep, towel clad, hair duckling-wet.
It is quite a different experience these days, with one crawling and one walking; no sooner do we take our hands off of them than they launch themselves, skidding, across the countertop. They turn the taps on and off, on and off, and Embla laughs with sheer delight, her baby voice ringing over the sound of the water. Olympia, fickle, tempestuous, indulges us for a few minutes and then demands a ‘cuddle’, wrapping her arms and legs about me as I lift her, dripping from the water. And before I know it, I too am soaked, a wet-dress mess with a streak of yoghurt across my face.
Sometimes I think that my favourite days are the ordinary days, the days where we are not superwomen and we are merely their mothers, holding our babies, living each minute as it comes.
I love them.
Motherhood is everything that I hoped it would be.