Tuesday, February 16, 2010
The Witching Hour
Every family has one. Every parent fears them. You can not escape it, no matter how hard you try. It's impossible to do so. And it happens EVERY DAY. That one point in your waking hours when your nightmares come true, the clock strikes a certain hour and time halts to an agonizing crawl. Each minute feels like 5 and you find yourself glancing at the clock over and over and over again, pleading with the second hand to hurry the heck up and just MOVE FASTER!!! On top of this, the moment the clock strikes your hour, your kids suddenly morph into these little hellions, bent on utterly destroying what little sanity you may yet still cling to, different tactics each day but always with the same nail on the chalkboard intensity, and nothing, nothing you do, will stop them. You can't bribe them. You can not reason with them. You can't use warnings and get an effect. Time outs mean nothing to them. No. Oh no. You are on your own, dearie. And you must use your wits to survive and stay sane, always struggling with that instinctive desire to run out of the house screaming, pulling at your hair, and spouting gibberish. This awful time of the day is different for each family, sometimes even different for each parent. And there is nothing you can do but to hold on and ride it out. What is it that I speak of? This point in time that is so dreadful it can make any parent reduced to shudders, wincing at the thought of yesterdays hour, dreading the return of todays? My friends, It is called The Witching Hour.
The Witching Hour for me is from 4:30-5:30 pm every single day without fail. This is the time in my day that I prepare for from the moment my eyes open in the morning. The moment the clock turns to 4:29 I heave a sigh of resignation, take a few deep breaths, try to mentally shield myself from what I know is about to come, and shed just one, small mental tear of despair. Then I make sure to dive for my Ipod (the only weapon against the hour I have found to be worthy and has saved me many times over), clip it on, and dive into the hour that Time forgets.
In this hour many things occur simultaneously. The least of which is that I have to start preparing dinner for a family of five to be ready by 5:30. Then I have to get my 7 yr old to start, and stay on track of, his homework. While I wrangle him to the table, I must also deal with the inevitable screams and howls of outrage from my infant who has decided (right at 4:30) that I MUST pick him up now and hold him nonstop, while trying to open hot oven or stir hot pots, slice and dice, pour, and sauté. I'll be honest folks. I've almost completely given up on fresh food. I am a huge fan of frozen dinners lately. Of course I have to weigh the risks of holding the baby while cooking vs. the shattered eardrums that may come with leaving him nearby in sight but not held, adding in the factor that of course J, who works from home, is on an important phone call and so I have to try and keep everyone at least to a decibel level that does not reverberate through the entire household. Next, as I am arguing with my 7 yr old who has decided all of a sudden he is STARVING and must eat now, and doesn't want to wait for dinner, which causes an argument about how its my fault he has to wait to eat, completely disregarding the fact that I offered him a snack the moment he walked in the door from school 30 minutes ago but he refused because he wasn't hungry then...... my 3 yr old decides he is a dog and wants me to play Fetch with the TV remote control. I try to redirect him to something else while I glances at the stove and notice that something doesnt smell right (OH CRAP THE WATER IS BURNING.... HOW DO YOU BURN WATER?!??!?!?!) while also glancing to see that it's only 4:34. 56 minutes to go.
Of course as I am trying to redirect my 3 yr old he accidentally steps on the babys finger which elicits a piercing shriek followed by sobs. I rush to lower the temperature of the stove, dive down to scoop up the baby and comfort him, then ask my 3 yr old to please PLEASE would you like to go watch Dora????... No, he doesn't. He wants to do homework like his older brother. With the same paper. No, not the same kind of paper, that would be too easy!!! The same piece of paper. of course, my normally deaf 7 yr old hears this across the room and starts to yell at his brother "YOU CAN'T HAVE MY PAPER I'M DOING MY HOMEWORK" as I notice in reality all he has done is put his name on the paper and started doodling a Star Wars figure at the top right corner. Juggling the baby on my hip I tell one boy to lower your voice, the other he cant have his brothers paper he needs his own, and start scrambling around looking for some crayons. Next I lean over to my 7 yr old, tell him he needs to start his homework and I will check back in 5 minutes. If nothing has been done he will get a time out for not following directions. Then I race over to the kitchen, place the sobbing baby in his excersaucer, throw some baby snacks to him, check the time. 4:40 pm 50 minutes to go.
I grab the entree, throw it in the oven, and start figuring out what would be a good side item. In the background I hear emerging mutterings from the two older tyrants, which soon turn to all out screams of defiance and outrage. I whip around and see my two boys in a tug of war over a pencil. Not just any pencil. A Transformer pencil, one of about 73 we have in our junk drawer 2 feet from me. Why they feel the need to fight over something that we have plenty of I could never tell you. I just don't have an answer. I dont know who started it, and frankly I dont care. I reach out to our drawer, grab a fistful of pencils, jump over the excersaucer and wailing baby to get to the table, and slam down my filled hand urging each boy to "Knock it off there are plenty of pencils!!!" I glance over at my 7 yr olds homework. He's written 3 words on his paper. I glare at him and mouth "Do. Your. Homework....Now." He glares back and mutters under his breath, but his hand moves with a pencil in grasp and under my hawk eye, incredibly he starts to write. After keeping my gaze on him for a moment more to solidify the fact that I am indeed watching, I glance down at my 3 yr old to make sure he is fine and not coloring on the table top, but actual paper. I bustle back to the kitchen, croon my my ticked off baby, give him a kiss, detach his clenched hands in my hair, and check both the food and the time. 4:54 pm.
This is when I bring out my weapon. I look to make sure all the kids are relatively safe and all the knives are high up enough so that no one can sneak by, grab one, and start playing "REAL PIRATES", double check to make sure the baby is safely contained I have a stock of baby toys to alternately try and tame him with, then plug my ears up with my I Pod ear plugs, hit play, and turn the volume up high enough that I can hear nothing but music. I have found, after trying multiple songs and only getting a positive feedback consistently, that if I play the song "Do You Want To Date My Avatar?" and sing it each time to the baby, he looks like he stops crying and once in awhile I catch a glimmer of a smile. On those very rare occasions I can catch what looks like a laugh erupt on his facial features. I could be wrong. I can't hear anything by this time. But I tell myself he is, and set to work on dinner, singing and dancing. Once in awhile I walk over to the table to make sure my 7 yr old is doing his homework, and doing what I can to make sure he stays doing it until it is complete. I then check to make sure my 3 yr old is alive, well, and if he is destroying the living room by then, I can at least sigh in relief knowing that nothing breakable is valuable. Then making sure dinner is ok on it's own, I place the baby in his high chair, grab some food for him, and settle down to get splattered with liquid ham and pineapples. Im now fighting to keep sane and dinner on the table at the appropriate time by drowning myself in my music.
It usually takes about 7 or 8 repetitions of the song before I am almost home free. At 5:25 I pull off my plugs, bark out that homework time is done and if it hasn't been completed he can do it after dinner but for now please clear the table. I send my other boy up to tell J it's time for dinner. I get out plates and utensils, place them side by side, and dole out portions, cutting up the kids so they are easy bites. I throw pots and pans into the sink, pull out 4 cups, pick a drink for us all (sometimes wine for Mommy) and by 5:30 I have everyone at the table, sitting down, eating (most of the time) and happily chatting about their day.
After dinner is done, the kids have put their dishes in the sink and I have loaded and turned on the dishwasher, I take a step outside and breathe. It's now Js turn to watch the kids so I can take a break and bask in the glory that I have survived yet another Witching Hour. I have 23 hours left before I must go through it again. Poor J though. His Witching Hour starts at about 7 pm each night, when he puts the two older boys to bed. I mentally wish him luck.
Photo courtesy of craziestgadgets.com