The girls are gone, for the night, and as Everett and Jonathan are out doing errands and Truman's asleep, it's like my house has been hit by the eye of a particularly whiny hurricane. All is quiet. I'm drinking caramel tea (oh, yes: please oh please hurry along and buy some tea from this lovely woman I met at the Flock & Fiber Festival!). It's an altered paradise, a paradise full of tiny scraps of construction paper, discarded toys, single dirty socks, piles of spelling homework.
There are so many things to love about the girls. They are affectionate and desperate for attention. They truly love school, and learning, and want so much to please everyone. Their teachers, their mom, Jonathan, me. They're occasionally useful around the house, and watch after Truman and Everett with an unbridled (and unbridle-able) enthusiasm bordering on obsession.
And there are so many, many things that challenge my sanity.
The elder is manipulative, the younger, a victim. The slightest injury or frustration is an opportunity for high-pitched tearless sobbing. And if you've ever seen an eight-year-old cry in a way that is truly unsympathetic, well, you've known my pain. I feel for them not at all when they cry, because it's so obviously a tool for them. To get out of work (C. the elder cried one recent night when, after having conveniently forgotten all the homework she didn't want to do at school, I told her to read a book. A book!). To bring attention to their role as victim. To get candy, to avoid picking up, to show me that Everett was, indeed, the aggressor.
They fight over Everett's time, wheedling until he agrees to play with one, then the other. It's a little sickening. They fight over where each gets to stand while I make cookies. They fight over the biggest portion of dessert, over who gets to wear the desirable hat, over who can convince me to carry her bag home from school.
I can't stand them sometimes, and as it's been almost a month, I suppose it's ok to say that now. But at the same time I guard them fiercely. When their mom comes over I look at her through narrowed eyes, worried that she'll say something off-hand that will send them into hopeless spirals of hopefulness. "Mom said we are going to move to Taylor's house next week!" C. the younger will tell me. I'll learn later that the "move" was spending the night.
Mom has no place to call home, and Taylor's family (Mormons) have no room at the inn with six children of their own and one more on the way. I want them to stay at Grout, where the teachers have figured them out and where I can control them. Make sure they remember their homework. Sit every night and sound out words like "bib" and "bark" with C. the younger, while I grit my teeth and pray for more, more patience. Get them to bed at a reasonable time, make them pick up their clothes, remind them to flush the toilet, give them vegetables and fruit with every dinner, teach them to double a recipe for peanut butter honey cookies.
I am really being challenged here. But if someone takes away my challenge? They'll have hell to pay.