Clack, clack, clack, the plastic of the Little People hits the bottom of the plastic storage container as BG drops them from her full 40 inches. Then, with one foot, she steps on the side of the container, sending them all flying through the air.
And begins again.
I am sitting on the couch, my knees curled into my chest, a book in my lap. Slowly, I lift my head.
"Honey, why are you doing that?"
"Because, see, when I put my foot here, this goes down and the people go flying."
Equal and Opposite Reaction. Newton's third law. I am familiar.
"I mean, why are you choosing to do that?"
"Because it's fun."
My littlest trots over and places my sneaker on my chest. I kiss her forehead, which is cool to the touch.
Twelve hours ago, when I collected her crying self from her crib, it was not.
"It isn't dangerous," the emergency nurse had told me on the phone, of the 104.5 degree temperature. "Just try to get her comfortable so she can get back to sleep."
I held her in my arms like I did when she was a baby, the burning skin of her face nestling into my neck. I sshhhed softly, hoping her whimpering wouldn't wake up big sister.
"Do you want your tablet or book or something?" asked DH.
"No," I said. "She's enough."
Little sister, back to her normal shenanigans, sidles over to see what big sister is doing. Gleefully, she picks up Cinderella and Batman and drops them into the box.
"What is she doing?"
"Playing with you. She's playing with you. Because she loves you. You love each other."
BG seems convinced and goes back to her task.
This morning, when I woke up with my sick baby in my bed, I felt calm. When BG woke up, tromped into my room and announced herself, I felt level. I understood my job. My place. The appropriate level of reaction.
I glance down at my book. I realize I haven't read a word of what I've spent the past ten minutes reading. As Belle and Wonder Woman go flying through the air, I cringe. I hold my breath. I hold back. I don't know if this is a test. I don't know if this is a boundary I need to establish or a battle I need to choose. Both girls are giggling as they push either other, each one falling back with an amount of force proportional to the size of the pushing child.
I want to scream at them. I want to ignore them. I want to be present. I want to disappear into this book. I want to be seen as patient and creative. I want to be seen as laid back and mellow. I want to be seen as knowing how to mother my kids.
Does anyone know how to mother her kids?
I watch them play, I watch them invent their games, I wonder how much of the sass, of the stubborness is a direct reaction to my own. Equal in force, opposite in direction.
All I can control is my own reactions. And even then, I'm not sure I have as much power over it as I'd like to think.