Three Hours

Normally, having the boys on my own for the evening would be nothing remarkable; Tony and I got in the habit as soon as Eli was weaned of giving each other the night off whenever we could. So when I got Tony tickets for tonight’s Warriors game, I didn’t even think twice about the long spell on my own. Maybe I’d take the boys out to dinner, maybe we’d have friends over. Who knew? It’d be fine.

I wasn’t counting on getting sick, of course, and on losing my voice. I’ve lost my voice only once before since having kids, when Ben was about two, and it seriously freaked him out. He kept crying and pulling on me, acting as if I was torturing him on purpose. When I woke up this morning with only a whispery squeak, I wondered what Eli’s reaction might be. Typically different from his brother, he just got mad at me. “Mama! MaMA!” he kept shouting, as if the louder he got the louder I would get. No dice, kid.

I whispered my way through the morning, till Ben went to school and Tony took Eli off to the playground. I slept my way through the afternoon, hoping I’d feel better when everyone got home. I woke up when they returned, took my temperature (100), took some advil, and headed downstairs to take over. Tony staying home wasn’t a possibility for me; he doesn’t get out too often, and it’s not every day Dwayne Wade comes to town. I’d have the next 3 hours on my own.

4:30 Tony leaves the house. The boys look at me expectantly. I wonder if it’s too early for dinner. Ben, who’s been whispering all day himself, the way people do around those with laryngitis even when they don’t have sore throats, asks quietly, “Computer time?” I nod, and he trots off and loads up the San Francisco Symphony website. One down.

4:33 I get out the playdoh bin for Eli. I liked playing playdoh with Ben; he would sit quietly at the table and roll out plates and plates of soft cookies for me. But poor Eli, second kid, I’m over playdoh. So he’s positively thrilled that I’ve volunteered this, and we push rolls of dough through the playdoh “table saw” for several minutes.

4:43 We’ve worked up a thirst. Eli and I practice drinking from a cup. I’m not ashamed to say that I’m better.

4:45 Snack time. Eli pulls the stool up to the pantry shelves and we while away several minutes rummaging. I reject the luna bar, but let him eat a small pack of peanuts and then a pack of airplane crackers (saved just for such times like this). He’s delighted. He shares with Ben. I’m thinking the evening might be ok.

4:55 Too early for dinner? Maybe snack was a strategic error. Eli and I have a tea party; Ben continues composing music on the symphony website.

5:04 OK, it’s not too early to get dinner started. I offer Ben scrambled eggs or leftover stir fry from last night. He chooses stir fry. Somehow it takes me more than 10 minutes to reheat it in the microwave.

5:15 Dinner time! Ben’s new job is setting the table, and he makes painstakingly careful choices of fork and spoon (for the rice) while Eli hangs from the silverware drawer, rummaging blindly and getting in the way. By the time we get to the table, the food is lukewarm. No one cares.

5:25 A quiet dinner. Eli’s frustrated that he can’t stab hunks of tofu with his plastic fork and tries spearing them with his spoon instead. Sometimes I wonder about his instincts.

5:32 “Dessert?” whispers Ben. I nod and head to the kitchen: ice cream with chocolate syrup for everyone, extra bonus candied orange peel for Ben and me.

5:35 Dinner’s over; what next? I sit on the floor and Eli clambers onto my back. OK, that’ll do. For the next half hour, I give myself over to rough-housing. All I have to do is lie on the floor and make sure the boys don’t hurt each other climbing over and onto me.

6:05 “Circus time!” shouts Ben. “What do I do?” I whisper. “Oh, Mama, you’re the audience.” I’m suffused with love for my firstborn. I sit on the floor while Ben and Eli take turns “surprising” me with the jack in the box toy. I could do this for hours, really.

6:20 “Can we have a bath?” Ben asks. “Ba! Ba! Ba!” shouts Eli, running for the stairs. I guess it’s a bath night.

6:25 Boys happily splashing in the bath, mostly obeying the one rule: Don’t Get Mama Wet.

6:45 Out of the bath, into pj’s, time for books. I’ve been wondering how this would go, and of course this is one of those nights when they want a bunch. It’s been a nice few hours, so we cuddle up in Eli’s room and I summon up my loudest squeak to read them a pile: In the Night Kitchen, The Baby Goes Beep, Rolie Polie Olie, Henry Hikes to Fitchburg, George and Martha. Ben helps me out a bit with the big words.

7:05 Maybe my favorite part of the night: the boys run down the hall to Ben’s room and leap onto his bed, cuddling up together like puppies. When Eli outgrows the crib, we’re planning to put the boys together in this huge room and reclaim Eli’s room as an office; I wonder if we should even bother buying Eli his own bed, he likes Ben’s so much. Once when we mentioned bunkbeds, Ben became probably the only older sibling in history to claim the bottom bunk.

7:10 Goodnight, Ben. Time to settle Eli. I grab my computer and settle into the glider to start this post while Eli drifts off.

7:25 One down. I go peek in on Ben. Still awake. I cuddle up with him. He’s quiet and drifty, but asks, as usual, that I tell him the story of the day he was born. “When you were in my belly, I was a teacher,” I begin. My labor with him was quick, but still, he’s asleep before the story’s over.

7:35 Two down. I made it!


  1. Susan says:

    Caroline,this is a fabulous post. It had me laughing and holding my breath and awwwing. Would you mind if I link to it in my Blog lecture for class?

  2. Libby says:

    Oh, great story, Caroline. But you left out the important part: who won the game?

    I hope you feel better soon…

  3. Elrena says:

    Three hours with two kids and no voice…that ought to be an Olympic event, or a college scholarship category or something. I hope you’re all feeling better today…I’m taking the morning off myself, weaned children or no weaned children!

    And three cheers for The Baby Goes Beep! Our (autographed) copy is getting rather ragged….

  4. Caroline says:

    Ah, Libby, the Heat ran away with it. The Warriors got off to a decent start, but you know there’s trouble ahead when a player rolls his ankle in the first 8 seconds of the game. (Later, the player who carried Rolled-Ankle off the court twisted his own ankle.)

  5. Susan says:

    John and my mom were at the same game!!

    Also: I have to say I am awestruck that you got/get your kids to bed by 7:30. I was never able to manage this even when they were babies or toddlers. Neither of them would ever succumb before 8:30 or 9, no matter what; and now it’s closer to 11, after my own bedtime.