The grass scratches my bare legs. The mid-afternoon sun beats down my back. I can barely keep my eyes open.
Kayli and Chloe are playing on the swing-set as I will two-week-old Brody to sleep.
I rock, I hum, I shoosh.
They yell, they squeal, they run.
Finally, his heavy lids close in an eyelash whisper. His pacifier loosens between perfect pink lips. And his head cocks to the right. I sigh in victory.
Glancing up at the girls, I realize that I’ve barely seen them these last few weeks and my heart aches to take them in.
The bright shades of pinks and purples in their dresses perfectly match their socks, their sneakers, and their hair ribbons. Their cheeks redden with play, their eyes glint with childhood.
Just as I relax my shoulders and release my tight grip on the car-seat handle, Chloe drops into the earth to scoop at the dirt, the mud, the mess. She lets out a belly laugh that fills our backyard from ground to sky.
Chloe! I say quietly, taking in her knees.
That’s enough, Chlo! I repeat a titch louder, noticing her dress.
The bath, the laundry, the stains, the baby. I can’t. All run through my mind. Quick. Frantic. Overwhelming.
That’s enough! That’s enough! That’s enough! Is what I say, what I yell, at my daughter.
My heart drums loudly enough for the neighbors to hear; and I’m sure that they do.
My voice edges, my cheeks blush.
Chloe and I stare at each other, our hazel eyes, a mirror. Perfectly matched in color, intensity, and surprise. Neither one of us is sure what to do.
No, this wasn’t the first time that I ever raised my voice at one of my children.
Hot! For a coffee cup reach.
Street! For a ball chase.
No! For a grabbed toy.
But this time the yell was just me. Exhausted. Stretched. Done. Me. And I owed her an apology—a real one.
I dare peek at my daughter more closely.
Her caramel curls whisp at her temples.
Her round eyes widen.
Her full cheeks flush.
Her chubby fingers clench mud. It drips onto her knees.
She remains still in this thick silence.
The words didn’t flow. This was hard. And extremely humbling.
We went inside. I gathered and changed, resettled and entertained.
Jason came home and we all breathed a little easier. He took over the holding, the rocking, and the juggling.
And I gathered Chloe into my lap.
My lips brushed her forehead as I smoothed one of those delicious tendrils behind her ear. I rested my chin against the top of her head. She let me and we held this moment; Our silence still not broken.
Finally, I chiseled at it. Chlo, I’m sorry that I yelled at you. I was just so t—I started to explain, but decided against this. I’m just so sorry.
I wrapped her up, held her close, and hoped that she knew that I mean it.