Reading past posts, I realize I make everything involving Maya and Mina seem like a dreamy cake walk, like raising them is the easiest thing in the world. And though they are perfect (mmhmm, that's right, Perfection) and even though I do shower their path with rose petals ("Make way for the child goddesses, goddamnit), raising them is an exhausting constant vigil if for the simple fact that parenting is a 26 hour a day job. My day looks like a bowed reed.
Last night when I finally got my ass into bed, I looked back on the day, a typical, uneventful Tuesday. I looked over at Husband who was already conked out and I thought: It's like wrangling tornados on the daily. I've only contained them with sleep.
Yesterday started as usual, around 6:30. This is the exact moment the wrangling begins. Maya shoots up like a spring that’s been squeezed into a box for 10 hours, and she’s off and running from the moment her eyes open. Mina is sloth-like in the mornings. The bartering begins. "Mina, you get 5 more minutes is you jump up the next time Mami calls you. JUMP UP, like a crazed rabbit!" Mina thinks this is funny and may actually do it. But it’s a crap shoot. Maya has showered and is on her 45th round of "Feliz Navidad" at volume 8 out of 10. I can barely take it. But as I brush my teeth, I'm all humming, "prospero año y feli---" I CAN'T TAKE IT ANYMORE: "Maya! Bro, seriously, how many more times will you sing that song? 5 more? 6 more? Just give me a hint so I know that there's an end in sight. MINA! FIVE MINUTES IS UP." It's really been ten.
Maya switches to a made-up, chant-like song that goes like this: "Who's the batman. You're the batman. Who's the batman. You're the batman. Who's the batman. You're the batman. . . ." And on and on. I want to cry. But I can relate because once in junior high school I got a big, fat Zero on a math test because I couldn't stop singing, "How. Now. Brown. Cow. I said, How. Now. Brown. Cow. I said -- "
I'm making their lunches and I'm singing, "Who's the batman" and I realize Mina is nowhere in sight. I go into their room and she's on her top bunk staring into space, hardly a jumpity rabbit. I'm relieved that her tshirt is on at least. "Dude, snap out of it. We gotta get going." She looks at me like, WTF?
I check in on Maya who has one side of her hair braided, the other half is wet and laying on her shoulders. She is now doing a Who's The Batman dance in the mirror. I'm like, "Nice dance. Stop dilly dallying because the bus is coming in 10 minutes." I have to say the lame "dilly dallying" for fear that HURRY THE FUCK UP will escape from my lips. Mina Check: She is under Maya's covers now, on the bottom bunk, with our dog Lupe in a head lock. Me: "WHAT THE--?" Mina scurries out of bed recognizing the edginess to my voice. Lupe shakes her off. "Socks. Shoes. Teeth. Now." Though I’m crazy rushed, I still say this with the Scottish inflection of So I Married An Axe Murderer.
There is always a point in our morning routine where I have to talk myself down. I have to will patience on myself like I'm shoving on a sticky, rubber bathing cap, ripping hairs as I pull it on. I have to remind myself that they are just carefree kids not little manipulators calculating their test against my strength. This happens many times a day, the wrestling game with the patience bathing cap.
"What do you guys want for breakfast?" "Waffles please," they say in sweet chorus.
The word Please allows the bathing cap to slide on smoothly. They're great, I think. Lunches are done, backpacks packed, everyone relatively clean and combed, waffles and fruit in baggies, shoes on, dogs on leashes. 7:18 and we're ready to walk to the bus stop, almost on time. Mina stops to run back to her room for – I don’t know what. “God, ¡VAMONOS!” I yell.
"OH, Mami can you read and sign this?" Maya says. "What? No," I say, "We're leaving, girl. The bus is coming." "It's due today." She is pleading. Mina whines, "I don't want waffles." I contemplate if Tough Titties is appropriate to say to them. Maya hands me a dense, two-page note from the PTA about some student council horsecrap.
We're walking to the bus stop, Maya quickly, Mina dragging. The dogs are bananas. They scatter in all directions thrilled by outside smells. They run this way and that like they're feral until my legs are mummified by the leashes. Lupe shits in the middle of the street as we cross it. I don't understand this. We are a yard away from grass. Carmen steps in the shit, possibly on purpose. I see the bus lumbering up a half a block away and the girls kiss me and sprint towards the stop.
I go to work and do amazing and brilliant things there until 4:30.
Tuesday is my day to pick up the girls. Tuesday is Library Day. The plan is to go to Wild Oats after I pick them up, eat a little some-some and then head to the library for homework and good ol book fun. After spending 15 minutes gathering them and their shit from all corners of AfterSchoolProgram and saying farewell to every single friend and staff member, we are finally off to Wild Oats, where I barely survive. Taking both kids to the market is like trying to herd rabid cows. Aisles are not big enough for these two. They want to play tag in the wine section. They horde samples. They bump into other people with impromptu, creative jumping games. If I allow them to push the cart it's a guaranteed ruptured achilles. They reenact scenes from school elaborately as I catch knocked-off boxes from the shelves. I make them hold onto the cart, one on one side, one on the other. "GGgrrr, walk!" I yell behind a locked jaw, "Like stiff marchers." They walk. They march. Then they're high stepping. They're dancing, doing a jig. They’re po-go’ing. They're hanging off the cart like side-car racers tipping the basket into a turn. If I have to concentrate on a label or directions to a recipe, I make them sit down in the aisle. Fuck it. It contains them for 2 seconds. Until they are rolling on the ground tackling each other knocking into a chips' display. I am laughing but I say, "Have you guys been in public before? I mean, for reals?" They are dumbfounded, like, What do you mean? I let them make their own salads at the salad bar. They are surprisingly focused. Mina's salad is made of egg yolks, peas, carrots and sharp parmesan cheese. Maya's salad is a sample of every item at the bar. We get to the check out and Maya asks the clerk -- and this scene happens every single time we're in the store --, "Can I bag?" Clerk, sweetly, "Sure." Maya, to me, "Paper or plastic, ma'am?" "Paper, please." She is quite good at packing a bag now. The clerk always offers her a job. This is part of the scenario. The bill is paid, bags are packed and Maya says in a feigned baritone, "Would you like help to your car, ma'am?" Me: "Why yes, yes I would." "I'm helping her to her car," she tells the clerk with a wink.
We eat in the car like a pack of homeless ladies because they don't want to sit at the tables in Wild Oats for some reason. We talk and laugh and eat. We make the food talk and we eat chips in different ways, like a wood cutter or like the Cookie Monster. Inevitably, they spill some shit on the seats that will smell up the car for the next 48 hours. Then we walk to the library and the girls hide behind every pole and tree because each car is their "Enemy Foe." At the library it's a series of Sshh's and Do Your Homework and Yes, I'll Read That and No, You Can’t KickBox the Magazine Rack. My own writing and reading go untouched.
At home, they run around and square off in extreme Tae Kwon Do battles, until someone's crying. They jump on the bed and chase the dogs and nag each other. They get to watch one show a night and they demand that I lie down between them. If I'm physically closer to one or the other, they go to blows. The whining drives me bananas. We watch That's So Raven, quite possibly the funniest show on TV. And we talk about the themes and scenarios of the show. We talk about every theme and scenario that comes to mind. They beg for cereal and candy and apples and Luna Bars. They fight over what book I should read them. Then the Go to Bed Dance begins. I'm exhausted now so the bathing cap is sticking together and shrinking. I have to Do Their Pillow because I showed them how Bugs Bunny used to fluff his pillow to perfection. I have to sing Fly Me to the Moon twice because I've been singing that every night since Maya was in the womb. There's a couple "I'm scared of my dreams" by Mina which are easily soothed. Finally, I announce, "Guys, I'm so tired and I have to do stuff still. Can you just chiz-ill now?" Maya says, "You're the best, Mami." Gulp. I say, "'Cause I'm a push over?" She laughs, "Pretty much." But they hug me like there are a slue of other reasons too.
I leave. Two more bathroom runs. A couple more hugs. They bicker from their bunks over something. And Papi walks in and says, "QUIET." And they are obedient angels under his command.
The tornadoes are wrangled once again. Until 6:30. The next morning. In a couple hours.
I love my husband because he’s kind of a dick. But he’s soft with me and his lip quivered at our wedding. I love my daughters. They’re brilliant and funny, and I’m here to kick down mountains that get in their way. I’m a vegan, and all is right in my world because of it. I can still beat the neighborhood in HORSE because I have a bad-ass set shot. Justice is served well through fair food, and scarcity would be a myth if we shared more, damn. Yo soy una mezcla which leaves me mixed up sometimes. My commute bike’s name is Loops and she’s my favorite kind of car. I wish I had written Chronicle of a Death Foretold. I’ve endured 54 hours of tattoo work. But above all, I fiercely believe in the underdog.
"The only people for me are the mad ones, the ones who are mad to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved, desirous of everything at the same time, the ones who never yawn or say a commonplace thing, but burn, burn, burn, like fabulous yellow roman candles exploding like spiders across the stars and in the middle you see the blue centerlight pop and everybody goes "Awww!" - Kerouac (As told to me by Marigoldie)