The Art of Routine
I hung up the phone when I decided Maxwell wasn’t going to sleep. Janie and I went upstairs to get ready for the day. We had our morning routine. After Daddy and Landon leave for school, Maxwell goes to bed for a nap and her and I color in her Strawberry Shortcake coloring book, talk about ladybugs and ponytails while I try and catch the Today show. Once she catches on that I am really watching my show while I drink my coffee, she insists she needs to watch her show. It really is always the same. Mom usually calls and then we go upstairs and make the beds, get dressed and plan the events for the day.
“Now momma,” Jane says, “let’s tiptoe tiptoe to get Maxwell so he won’t hear us.” She tiptoes up the stairs while I am behind her holding onto the railing with one hand and holding my tea with the other.
“Janie,” I said, “we don’t have to tiptoe. He never went to sleep!”
“Oh,” she covers her mouth with her little hand. “Dat Maxwell is siwwy. No, I tink he is bad.” She snickers under her hand. She storms into his room and marches up to his crib, wags her finger at him with a furrowed eyebrow and says, “Maxwell! You need to take a nap.” He is standing up against the railing with big crocodile tears staining his face. When he sees us he just whines instead of cries.
“Oh buddy, come here.” I picked him up and his face turned to a smile. I couldn’t help but kiss his entire face. I just love the way my babies smell. I never get tired of it. I stood him on top of his changing table and held his arms out. He smiled. He knows what comes next. Routine. Jane grabbed her little stool and pulled it up to the dresser just in time.
I gave him an exaggerated horrified expression as I gave him the once over with my eyes, “Maxwell, did you grow?” He turned his head to the side and smiled. Coy.
Jane repeated what I said to him only her expression was stifled smiles and muffled giggles. “Maxwell, did you gwow?” He turned his head to the other side and smiled as if he was really thinking, “Aw shucks, tell me more.”
“You did!” I said it with utter amazement. “Maxwell, you grew! Let me see.” We unzipped his pajamas and Jane helped me take them off him. Maxwell was nearly fifteen months and was a peanut compared to what his brother was at this age. They all had the same light skin tone, and same lean frame. Max’s hair was just starting to come in. It sort of looked like a spring chickens feathers, tufty, and soft. It was dark ash blond at the moment and I’m sure it’ll turn darker like his brothers. He had two new very sharp teeth on the bottom and four on top. He has blue eyes unlike Jane and Landon who have brown eyes, just like their daddy.
As if we were anthropologists in a grand dig we examined every limb in our hands and held it like a priceless artifact.We oooohed at the length it had grown to and replaced it on the table delicately as we move to the next bone. Max laid as still as a sack, waiting patiently for the next accolades. His little body lay completely quiet but for his breathing and his little diaper making whooshing noises when we moved his artifacts. Janie was engrossed in the process and she knew her part for every limb. The feet were the hardest for her. She could barely keep her little fingers from laying in a little coo-che-coo on his wee toes. On this day, she could barely hold it together the entire examination. I slid my ten fingers underneath both feet. I raised them up just enough so she could reach them and with a nod she replaced my palms with each of hers. I began to turn his left foot just slightly to make my calculations and he wiggled his toes. I glanced down at her and when she saw those twinkle toes begin to jiggle- her eyebrows shot up in delight and she couldn’t remain in the game. She dropped both his feet together and when they bounced to the table we attacked him with nibbles all around. He thought it was great. He responded with belly laughs and rolled all around trying to push our faces away. Routine.
Jane was next and she picked out her clothes while Max took her clothes out of her drawers. I would deliver a commentary on what she chose as she would put together all kinds of combinations and permutations based on one headband or a pair of shoes she was certain she was going to wear that day. Max would take out as many other clothes as he could while I discussed options with Jane. I put them back, Jane chose a different pair of tights, and Max throws more. The more combinations to deliberate, the higher the clothes got thrown. I finally suggested her navy blue dress because it was a beautiful day and she looked so cute in dark blue with her blond hair. She just loved the idea and put it on. She moved back and forth like a ringing bell and watched her dress flow front to back.
“I wove it, mama. I a princess.”
“A princess?” I say. “How about a super girl?” I used to think that girls were trained to love pink and be the ‘princess in distress’ but I am sure as anything they are born to love this stuff. I have spent so much time and energy trying to turn her focus to trucks and heroes. I have scoured through books to find a female hero that she can identify with and there’s not much out there. It’s been like this for years. I blame Jane Austen. She started this entire fairytale with Mr. Darcy in Pride and Prejudice. That saucy prince just ruined all of us ladies out there hoping for independent happiness sans a man. Disney has its problems too. The story of a prince swooping in to save the lady peasant has been around long before Cinderella and Snow White.
“But mommy,” she ran over to her bed and grabbed her life size Cinderella. She held her up to her body and waltzed with her to her imaginary music. “I wove Cinderellie. Did you know that Cinderellie woves animals? I tink she doesn’t like wadybugs eider.” She laid her on the chair and fixed the buttons on the princess’s dress. “Oh, Cinderellie, do you like my dress?” She looked up and smiled at me, “Look, mommy, you have hair like Cinderellie! You’re a Princess!” Her eyes widened and she took my hand. “Let’s dance with her momma.” I gave up my thoughts of trying to convince her super girl was a better dream. Every girl should think her mother is a princess I suppose. I know I do.
Jane held Cinderella up close and twirled in delight. Side to side she swung her lady friend and whispered in her ear. I watched her get carried away in her fairytale. I wondered what she was telling her that made her giggle so sweet, and how on earth anyone wouldn’t want children in their lives. I envied her youth. She danced and danced and finally dropped Cinderella and continued to play. She sang songs and made her bed. She pricked my checks with soft kisses and whispered knock knock jokes in my ear. I watched her the entire time from my perch on her overstuffed chair. I really got lost in her joy. I got on my knees and held her hands and danced with her. I twirled her under my arms and moved around the room with her. Watching her and interacting with her made me feel a sort of drunkenness. Each time she did something it was like taking another shot of whiskey. She stopped and flung her arms up into the air, her arms were straight up by her ears and she threw her head back and smiled a huge, broad smile turning her eyes into half moons. She arched her back and stood on one leg. Her other leg she gracefully folded up like a flamingo. She tilted her head back more and lifted her chin to the sky. It was almost like she was smelling her joy. It was like she was outside and she was swaying in the wind, just letting the brisk breeze pass over her swiftly. She was reaching to the sky. She stretched her body out as to take it all in- in the breeze. I was so drunk I pulled my head back too and let my hair fall behind me and experience the air of glee. I wanted to be the wind. I wanted to run wild and whip around rapidly with her. I could feel what Janie was feeling. I could smell it too, the joy. She rushed over to me and gave me a bear hug.
“Oh momma, are you runnin’ again?” she said as I came back to reality.
“Yes,” I said as I squeezed her tight and rested my face in her hair. “We were running together.” Another routine.