Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Menage a trois

You think you know heartbreak when at 10:30 at night, your infant daughter, who has been beset by teething woes for days, wakes up screaming. Her screams are jagged bolts of lightning.

You really know heartbreak when you rush up the stairs to go comfort her and find, cowering in the dark, your older daughter who climbed out of her bed and is waiting for you at the top of the steps. She’s very, very sad, Mama, she says, as she pulls you to her baby sister’s door.

Let it be noted that there are some things, as a parent, that I don’t believe in for our family: I don’t believe in 'finish your food' or the family bed. I don’t believe in dressing the girls alike.
By an accident of shopping, the girls on matching pajamas: light blue with little white clouds. I dressed L in these at her bedtime last night and when E saw, she wanted to wear clouds to bed, too.

In the dark last night, these sisters with their impermeable alliance fused into a single unit. They were four big eyes, two shaken faces in a cloudy sky, illuminated dimly by a ladybug nightlight. With M away I couldn’t get the individual attention to either girl that they both needed right then for comfort. I couldn’t console the baby to lull her back to her crib because she followed every gesture of her hovering sister. I couldn’t send the big girl back to her bed, even with assurances that Mama’s here now, everything’s okay, because she wanted to stay with her baby sister until those hiccups that always follow hard crying subsided. And so: the family bed.

Carrying the little one and leading the big one by the hand we entered the bedroom only to encounter a massive pile of forgotten laundry blanketing the bed. I put them together on the floor so I could begin to clear the bed. It was too much for them – so close to the comfort they both sought, to be waylaid. They both burst into tears.

We nested, the three of us, in the middle of the bed. I edged us in pillows – for comfort, for the baby, like her crib bumper – and for the big one, a tactile warning not to fall off this bed with no guard rails. We made a Mommy sandwich: pillows, baby, me, big girl, pillows.

Mama, I stay next to you so I keep you safe, said the big girl as she draped her arm around my waist, tucked her nose into my back and wiggled her ankles to in between my calves. She was asleep before the cry-hiccups from my other side diminished. And over there, as soon as I gave my baby the comfort of a sleep-snack, she was soon slumbering herself.

I lay tucked tightly between my girls, tired and weary (because they’re not the same) and thinking about all my uncompleted activities from my aborted evening, surrounded by clouds. Pin It