In the middle of the night, sometime between too late and far too early, Wife woke to the sound of #9 fussing. He stood in the hallway in near total darkness. When Wife clicked on the light, he simply stood where he was, rubbing an eye and waited for his mother to come to him and put him back to bed.
The night was dark and encompassing. The moon felt it was necessary to hide herself, causing the shadows to seem deeper. In the stillness, the sounds of the night were hushed, and the household rested without trouble. I was lost somewhere in a dreamless sleep, until I was yanked back into the night by the blood chilling cries of #7.
Why do messy items always seem to be stored in glass jars, but the sticky stuff is kept in soft plastic tubes? These are disasters waiting to happen, believe me, as I have watched them happen with now all of my children. A dropped jar of pickles, and exploded bottles of mustard, a plastic jar of coconut oil which was dropped perfectly to crack it right down the middle, as well as other culinary losses. But the damage was limited to the children who could carry in the groceries… at least I thought so.
The other night the children were preparing for bed while I was still up. That does not happen often as I have always been “early to bed, early to rise.” Wife on the other hand, still struggles with her old habits which are the opposite of my nature. The children, on a third hand, have quite completely hit the extremes of both their parents, and I phrase them as “late to bed, early to rise; though it grieves their mother so.” That night I decided to put the children to bed at my bedtime, to help Wife get some extra sleep that night.
The girls were busy cleaning the dinner dishes, so the boys, #5, #6, and #7, were sent to brush their teeth. The usual brushing-teeth-question was produced that night by #5, “Can we use toothpaste?”
You might think it is a strange question, and you would be right, except in this case, where you are wrong. The two younger children, and there are always two younger children, who forget from time to time that toothpaste is not to be eaten. Therefore, when a younger child is caught sucking on their brush rather than brushing with it, toothpaste gets banded from all children under a certain age of reason, and at the moment that is all the boys.
Once I assented to their request, #5 trotted out with his toothbrush in one hand and toothpaste in the other. Behind him the other too boys lined up. #8 rolled on the floor as he is too young for either toothbrush or toothpaste. I took the tube of child-toothpaste and squeezed it with the expectation of a little paste squishing out onto #5’s toothbrush. To my surprise the toothpaste did not come out of the open end of the tube, but rather out of a hole on the side of the tube, almost dead center.
I looked up to #5 and exclaimed, “What happened here?” I pointed to the undesired hole.
#5 shrugged. “It always does that.”
Really? To get to the bottom of it, I call for the one person in the house who was sure to know how long the tube had been broken. #1 trotted up to me and I extended out the toothpaste. #1 also shrugged. She said, “It’s been like that for a long while. I don’t know who did it.” #1 went back to finish loading the dishwasher with her sisters.
I looked closer at the tube. There were tooth marks! Yes, tooth marks on the toothpaste tube. Then I knew, the culprit was rolling on the carpet before me. Someone left the toothpaste down so that the little devil got hold of it… or the fiend has wings. I bent down to take a closer look.
A certain law of physics dictates that only one object can occupy a given space at any given time; and it does so by pushing away all other objects. Now picture in your mind seven little objects, all attempting to occupy the same sink at once, they are our children brushing their teeth… with all the excitement of an undertaker.
I wish I could state that my children rush to the sink in giddy anticipation for the clean feeling of clean teeth. I wish I could tell you how they line up, youngest to oldest and the older ones help their younger siblings with great-big smiles. I also wish I could show you the clean and dry sink after they were through, free of puddles and toothpaste. However, as Wife feels it would be a sin for me to tell my readers complete lies, so I will leave the above as the unfulfilled wish that it is.
Consequently, for the health of my soul, the truth is that our children dislike brushing their teeth, though I am sure by now you gathered as much. I understand that they dislike it because, unlike their father, they hate going to bed; and brushing teeth is the first step toward their dreaded mattresses. Yet since they are obedient children, I get no fight as they slump into the bathroom.
The children gather around the sink like sparrows in a birdbath, splashing around and generally making a mess. And like sparrows, there is always one who simply has to stand in the middle, getting in everyone’s way; that would be #7. Quite often, Wife has walked into the bathroom to find the two year-old standing on top of the sink looking down on his siblings like some kind of Olympian god. He’s been dethroned enough times now that he has given up his elevated position, now he would rather clean his teeth in solitude… at the bathtub. The rest of the children simply fill the void of #7 by squeezing together tighter.
Wife’s second in command, #1 does her utmost to take charge of the bathroom sink, shouting out orders and berating her siblings. I often hear her dealing out to each child their ration of toothpaste (much to the irritation of her sisters) and requesting a sister to help the youngest brother… who was already at the bathtub. While #3 and #4 squabble over the footstool, #2 dawdles about trying to be invisible. Finally #1 ends up helping #7.
In the end, everyone has brushed their teeth and the boys are mostly dry, which is more than can be said for the bathroom floor. I find the oddest part about the nightly ritual is that we have a second bathroom, which is completely ignored.
In the dead of night I rolled over with a dry throat, groping in the dark for my glass of water. I grabbed a hand full of air several times before realizing it was not there. My bedside lamp was switched on and my suspicions were verified; the glass was missing. So I walked to my bathroom sink under the impression that I left my glass there at bedtime. I found the sink conspicuously clean. I was forced to get a new glass.
As I walked by the girls’ bedrooms I turned a bleary eye onto the first pair of sleeping girls, and then the second; they were the cause of my missing glass of water. Those little innocent sleeping faces hidden under tangles of blonde hair did not fool me. I knew what they really were, highly trained operatives of their mother; skilled in the arts of house cleaning with a specialty in cleaning up behind their father.
At one moment I am finishing my meal, and the next my plate has been whisked away before I have a chance to dish up a second helping. I am (by necessity) very possessive of my dishes, shooing off the girls from my place while Wife has them loading the dishwasher. Unfortunately I rarely watch out for my glass of water at my bedside.
Wife is a stern commander of our children who puts up with absolutely no excuses; as evidence of the girls near perfect execution of their expected tasks. Her highly effective regiment produces only the finest of young ladies. These miniature homemakers make the seemingly impossible task of seven children a remarkably light load. I speak from experience, “many hands make for light work.”
Anyway, #4 was uncovered, and so was #1 in the next room. I pulled their blankets back over them before turning to the kitchen for a clean glass. I refreshed myself and placed the empty glass on my headboard with the hopes that they miss it on their next dish sweeping exercise.
Ever since the children got old enough to disagree, bedtime has been difficult. Somebody always wants different pajamas. Another wants to sleep with her older sister, while the first doesn’t want the younger sister to sleep with her. There is the usual pleading for a book to be read (never mind if one was just read to them). And the whole thing ends with numerous cries for “a cup of water.”
Now the reader may take this statement as a complaint on my part. It is not. I am only painting a picture, illustrating the details to lead into the story. After all, the children always end up in beds. The question is, whose, where, and when?
The girls all share beds, two and two. While #5 moves from his own bed into his oldest sister’s bed. #6 is still caged in a crib until he gets moved to make room for #7. This tale follows #3.
#3 sleeps with #4, except when she’s not. Not very long ago I found her when I was just about to leave for work. She was sleeping on the couch under a cushion. I’m unsure what drove her from her bed, however I am sure she did not have the frame of mind to get a blanket judging by the way she just crawled under the pillow. I almost did not see her.
The other night I went through the house turning off the lights before turning in myself. All the children were asleep in the boys’ room and in the older girls’ room. In the younger girls’ room I found #3 wide awake and playing with her toy in a sleeping bag in the box full of their costumes. After I informed her that it was time for bed and I was about to turn off the light she responded with a simple “K, Dad,” and began bailing toys out of the box. The toys came out, and kept coming, and made a nice little pile beside the box.
“O.K. it’s time to get in bed and under the covers,” I said.
“I know,” she said as she pulled the sleeping bag up around her shoulders.
Suddenly I caught on. “Are you sleeping in the costume box?”
“Some time, some time Mom, she let me sleep in the costume box. Some time, she says it’s O.K.”
And like a good father, I let her sleep in the costume box. It was probably a softer bed anyway.