Outnumbered and Outsmarted

The Next Family

By: Shannon Ralph

I always wanted three children. From the time I was a little girl dreaming of my perfect white wedding and picket fence, I thought three was the quintessential number. Yes, lesbians have the white wedding dream, too—though mine involved Molly Ringwald rather than Rick Springfield. (I am aging myself here, aren’t I?) Ruanita wanted one child, reluctantly agreed to two, and ended up with three. She was less than excited when we first found out I was pregnant with twins. I remember the moment vividly. I had experienced a bit of bleeding very early on in my pregnancy, so we had gone to the clinic for an ultrasound. I was lying on the table and Ruanita was standing over me, caressing my hand and playing the part of the extremely loving and supportive spouse. That is, until the minute the ultrasound technician announced that I was pregnant with twins. Ruanita immediately let go of my hand, put her hands up in the air as if someone were pointing a gun at her, and backed toward the door. I believe her initial instinct was to run and she was fighting that urge with every fiber of her being. As for me, I was secretly thrilled when I found out we were having twins. I would get my “perfect” number. If I had only known then what I know now, I think Ruanita’s response may have been a bit more on-the-money than mine.

Of course, Ruanita and I would not trade either one of our twins for anything in this entire world now. I love all three of my children with a devotion that is unfathomable. However, if I had done the math, I may not have been so excited at the onset. It’s simple math really. Kindergarten concepts. Three children. Two parents. Three is greater than two. Yep, we are outnumbered.

At no time does this “outnumbered” phenomenon hit home as strikingly as it does during the week at that most dreaded of hours: bedtime. During the week, I am home alone with the kids at night while Ruanita is at work. Ruanita and I work opposite shifts. I work part-time from 7:00 am until 1:00 pm. Ruanita works full-time from 2:00 pm until 10:30 pm. We decided to work opposite schedules when the twins were born to save ourselves the expense of childcare. We had a budget worked out for having another child, but having two more kind of threw a wrench into our plans. We liked the idea of having our children at home with us, so working opposite schedules seemed like a reasonable solution. Our opposite shifts have proven to be an inconvenience, at best, and a downright catastrophe, at worst. Being de facto single parents five days a week is much tougher than we ever imagined.  How we have managed to survive the last four years is beyond me. I have developed a robust respect for single parents who manage this every single day. Ruanita and I are outnumbered on the weekends, but we somehow weather the storm and actually enjoy family fun time. During the week when I am alone with the kids, however, “outnumbered” does not even begin to address the hell on Earth that occurs at bedtime some nights.

Last night was one such night. My four-year-old daughter, Sophie, fell asleep in the car on our way home from my sister’s house. It was eight o’clock in the evening. Bedtime. I simply had to carry her in and put her to bed when we got home. No big deal, right?  Wrong. For any other child, it would have been no big deal. However, I can’t even begin to explain how ugly a scenario this is when it involves Sophie. My daughter has never been a pleasant child when roused from sleep. As a matter of fact, Sophie can rival Satan himself for pure evil when awakened against her will. I tried to gingerly remove her from the restraints of her car seat without rousing her. I held her close and snuggled her on the way from the car to the front door. I shushed her and kissed her and stroked her hair. All of my efforts were in vain, however. Sophie was awake.

The minute we crossed the threshold of the house, Sophie began screaming. It is like she enters some sort of strange trance when awakened from sleep. There is no talking to her. There is no reasoning with her. She screams. She kicks. She hits. She loses all control of herself. My normally happy, pleasant little girl becomes a raging beast. I decided it would be best to get her ready for bed first, for obvious reasons. I picked her up, carried her to her room, and laid her on her bed to get her undressed. She refused to let me put on her pajamas. I would have simply let her sleep in her clothes, but they were caked with the remnants of that evening’s dinner. So I wrestled with my daughter to get her dressed for bed. It was like wrangling a wild boar —or at least how I would imagine a scuffle with a boar would play out. The entire time I dressed her, she continued to emote this high-pitched sound that I can’t even describe. It was a scream, but it was so much more than that. It sounded eerily like evil incarnate flowing from her lips.

After working up a good sweat getting Sophie dressed for bed, I attempted to tuck her in. She would have no part of that. She threw her blankets on the floor. She tossed her pillows out the bedroom door. She launched her beloved baby doll, Rosie, across the room. She hovered above her bed while her head spun in circles and she spewed pea soup. (Okay…that last one was a slight exaggeration.) I ended up leaving her sitting on the side of her bed wailing while I went to get the boys ready for bed.

Luckily, the boys were somewhat more cooperative with bedtime. I tried to rush them to get their pajamas on because I really wanted to get back to Sophie’s room. I desperately wanted to try to get her to sleep so the screams that were reverberating in my brain would cease. Of course, Lucas and Nicholas are two of the slowest creatures ever put on this Earth. Trying to get them to move fast is…well…an exercise in futility, at best. In actuality, they aren’t really slow as much as they are completely and totally off task. Lucas was dancing around in his underwear chanting “Look at me. Look at me.” He’s oddly obsessed with showing off his underwear these days. Nicky, being the little fashionista he is, did not like the pajamas I picked out for him. So he was rummaging through his pajama drawer, tossing tops and bottoms all over the floor. Both boys then flitted around their room, buck naked (obviously comfortable in their birthday suits), chatting about an array of idiotic and off-topic subjects while completely neglecting to get dressed. I did not care at all to debate if Sonic was faster than Mario. And I most certainly didn’t give a rip about Pokemon. I eventually got them dressed and tucked into bed after refusing to let them brush their teeth. I simply didn’t have the stamina to wrestle with toothbrushes last night. I know. Bad mother. If my kids’ teeth rot out and I have to spend the rest of their childhood pureeing all of their food in a blender, I will only have myself to blame. After the night I had last night, I can live with that.

After tucking the boys in and kissing them goodnight, I went back to Sophie’s room. She was still screaming at that point and had yet to lie down in her bed. I laid her down, tucked her in, and climbed up into her tiny twin bed with her. I shushed her and rubbed her head and kissed her cheek. Eventually, her screams died down to quiet sobs and then mere sniffles. I watched as she finally—FINALLY—drifted off to sleep. As I lay there watching her breathe, her angelic face splotchy from her crying bout, I thought to myself, Why do we not keep more hard liquor in the house?

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