They know how to push. Push my buttons, push the boundaries. I want to be here, really here with them. But it’s so hard. He wants me to read a story. Not just any story, the one I really hate that I wish could mysteriously disappear in the night. All I can think about is when I can get back to my never ending checklist. She wants me to cuddle with her for unspecified amounts of time. No matter how long it is, it’s never long enough. She complains I never play with her, usually as I’m rushing around the house trying to clean up the messes she and her brother have made while trying to make sure their complicated dietary needs and desires are met before the baby wakes up or needs another diaper change. It’s frustrating that she doesn’t see the obvious. I want to be with her, if only I wasn’t the only one doing most of the work.

It seems so much easier with the baby. I can pause with him, and watch him smile or sleep and talk to him as he responds with coos and goos. But for some reason, I have trouble doing this with my older children. Sometimes it isn’t just that I’m overwhelmed with work, though that is certainly true. Sometimes being with them makes me feel claustrophobic. After a day spent wiping snotty noses and poopy bottoms, reminding and threatening, the last thing I want is a long cuddle. It’s after 8 p.m. and all I want is to curl up on the couch for a hot chocolate, and my knitting, maybe a quiet conversation or holding hands with their dad if I’m lucky.

But I want to be present. Engage with them and let them know that they are loved. If I could learn to limit my cringing to the inside and resist the urge to run when the lists overtake me, and I just want everyone to leave me alone for a while.

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