One child spins madly in circles while begging to vacuum, [...but there are things on the floor and I need to just vacuum them...] and the baby tries to fall asleep pressed into my heartbeat while we pace pace pace around the house. My footsteps are a backdrop to the other noises. A DVD running. A fan. The dog panting.
I pace pace pace and her eyes close slowly, but then someone wants a sandwich [...with tomato and cucumber and cheese, but you have to put the cucumber on first, and then the tomato, and then a little salt, and then some cheese, but I don't want butter and Mum, why isn't there any square bread left? I guess you can make me a breadroll then, but I don't want butter...] and her eyes open again, a fitting counterpoint to her mouth, which is leaking baby drool all down my arm.
Someone needs a drink [...can I have cordial please? Why not? I want cordial. Okay, I'll have milk...] and I am pace pace pacing while my heart beats a soothing refrain for a tired and grumpy child.
[...Mum, when are you going to make me my sandwich? Whoops, I mean breadroll, there isn't any square bread, did you tell Daddy, he'll have to buy some...]
[...I want a breadroll! But I want a honey breadroll, not tomato. I don't want tomato, I want honey! No, I don't want honey, can I have ham and cheese and can it be cooked please...]
I pace pace pace around the house, crooning and rocking and her eyes are closed now and I am nearly free to sit down and drink a cup of tea [...Mummy, I spilled your cup of tea and it was cold and I am sorry...] and the warm weight of the baby presses into my front as she snuffles at my shoulder.
[...But where is my breadroll? And why is the carpet wet here? Mummy, did something get spilled. Oh FINE, I'll get a cloth, but they have to help me clean it up...]
Carefully, oh so carefully I put the baby down, smoothing her cheek and kissing her gently. It’s a risk, but a minor one and it’s worth it, oh so worth it, just to kiss her while she’s sleeping. There is baby smell all over my shoulder and someone needs a breadroll and someone has spilled milk on the kitchen floor, but it’s all going to be okay. I remind myself to stop pace pace pacing around the house and I drop into a chair to breathe, to relax, to just sit for five seconds, please, just five seconds.
And someone wraps their skinny arms around my waist and someone lays their head against my knee and it’s exhausting this job, so very exhausting, but I rub their hair and breathe them in and it’s worth it. It’s oh so worth it.