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I Like My Kids More in Theory Than IRL

Photograph by Twenty20

My daughters, currently preparing to enter kindergarten and third grade, are eminently lovable. Being their mom is easily the highlight of my life. Yet while I adore them endlessly, I tend to like them more in theory than in real life.

One time I watched a TV show where a couple of mothers went away for the weekend with just each other and not their families. The moms ended up hurrying back home sooner than expected because they missed their children. Less than a minute after reuniting with kisses and hugs, though, they looked at each other over the din of their kids' whining and complaining and asked, "Why did we come back so soon?"

Yeah, that.

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I really couldn't love my children any more than I already do, but their likability score increases exponentially when they're asleep. Or not with me.

All I want to do is run to my babies ... (until) they ask if me if I showered after working out, because I'm sweaty and smelly. Little shits.

On the occasions when I read horrific stories of parents doing atrocious things to their children, like leaving them in hot cars while they're off getting cocktails, or starving them as if they're prisoners of war, all I want to do is run to my babies, hold them close and let them know I'll never let anything bad happen to them. So I go to them but within 30 seconds, they usually ask if the abundance of my affection means I've decided they're also ready for a puppy. Or they ask if me if I showered after working out, because I'm sweaty and smelly. Or they ask if now is the time to ask for new Minecraft skin. Little shits.

But when they're sleeping? I practically weep with affection while watching the halos hover gently over their soft blond curls, their long eyelashes resting like feathers on their cheeks while their honeyed breath whispers sweet nothings into the night. In those moments, I kick myself for not appreciating them more when they're awake.

That is, until they actually wake up.

I try to start each morning with a blank slate. They're mine. I chose to have them. I fought to have them. They're here. They don't know any better. They're learning. They're doing what 4- and 8-year-olds do.

Then they go and tell me for the 19th time in three minutes that the dentist told them they're special and only need to brush their teeth once a day.

Or the eggs they asked for not two minutes ago—the very eggs that I just set down in front of them that I took the time to shape into a smiley face with a raspberry for a nose goddammit—was meant to be a request for peanut butter toast, and how do I not know that?!

But then they leave for the day, after an average of 11 tears, four arguments over who's responsible for retrieving socks, seven failed hairstyles and a manhunt for a missing water bottle that it turns out was in the intended backpack all along—and as soon as the door closes behind them, I can't remember what actually went wrong.

It may be like that thing where moms allegedly can't recall how the pain of childbirth feels, which is how they're able to wrap their minds around the concept of having another baby. When I haven't seen my kids for a while, I get butterflies of happy anticipation in my stomach right before I walk into their classroom, or I hear their school bus pull up at the end of the day and rush outside to welcome them with open arms. When they emerge from the bath all clean and good smelling and delicious in their pajamas, I want to eat them up. When they bring me drawings of our family, or walk up to me just to give me a kiss on my nose and then continue on their way? Heaven.

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When asked about my children or even for no reason, I'll tell everyone about how well they listen, how clever they are, how hilarious they were that one time that humor was the best remedy. And it's all true—I just don't think of the other stuff at that moment. That is, until my kids enter the room and act like, well, themselves.

At least I know I can count on treasuring my kids for 8 to 11 hours every day. Hopefully, though, someday I'll be able to enjoy them during their waking hours, too.

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