I knew Justin was planning on working late, so all my ducks were in a row. In the interest of not panicking that I couldn't possibly get everything bedtime-related done without help, I'd gotten my gears organized and oiled. The girls had cleaned up their bedrooms and helped me put the kitchen back in order from Landon's mess-making spree. Although that makes it sound like the spree was an isolated occurrence when in fact, his entire existence seems to be bent upon mess-making. Cupboards emptied, pretzels crushed, pans scattered, toys dumped, books toppled, toilet paper rolls unwound.
All children do this. But it's only third children whose parents have evolved enough to let the mess simmer all day long because it's too self-defeating to clean up each disaster as it happens. By the way, this is what you'd walk into at my house on any given day: the evolution of my mothering skills.
And on this night, my evolution was looking pretty advanced. Pajamas were laid out; we were approaching bath time. Three children, one mother, no waiting. Bedtime a dusky glow on the horizon. The finish line, where I'd undoubtedly claim my much-deserved cookie without the hindrance of little hungry-eyed, sweet-toothed beggars. Or maybe a glass of wine.
After soaping the little ones in the tub and getting the big one settled into a shower, I wasn't just proud of myself for doing it all alone, which would have been enough, given how dependent I've become on the moment Justin walks through the door at night. It's my addiction, his key in the lock. But deep in my soul, down where accusations and doubt sometimes lie in coils waiting to strike, I was content with the way the evening had gone. With only myself to rely upon. There had been no cracking whips. I hadn't raised my voice or demanded or sighed in frustration. I'd ridden the flow instead, letting go of the strict roots dangling on the edges of the muddy bank. I had enjoyed the float, and therefore, my kids had as well.
All was well in all of our hearts. We had smiled all over the place.
I gathered Landon from the tub and left Lauren to play for a few minutes longer. This is my favorite moment of any day: warm and wet baby boy folds himself into my chest, snuggling for as long as I will hold him under the thickness of a towel. He cuddles, this one, and it is my great bubble-scented joy. He burrows, this one, and it is my heart fluttering a tattoo of forever-love.
I rocked him in the steam of the bathroom, parting it in misty curtains. Mia was dancing in the shower. Lauren was singing in the bathtub (oh, I've never seen a unicorn, never seen a unicorn!). Landon was swaying in my arms, locked tight to my chest.
I spun in three-hundred and sixty degrees. It was all around me, from the singing in the bathtub to my reflection in the mirror to the dancer in the shower.
It was life, and it was so near to being perfect that I wouldn't have been able to distinguish between this and paradise.