Bryn woke up all sunshine and smiles today, but shortly after joining Bekah and Levi downstairs, she got all fussy. I couldn't figure it out. Aside from the usual squabbling over toys, there didn't seem to be anything big. Cathy brought Chris over to play, which usually thrills Bryn, but if anything, she got even crankier. By the end of lunch, she was crying and set out to climb the stairs by herself, declaring through her tears, "Bryn needs night-night."
I figured that she must just be really tired, so I put her in her crib and expected her to crash. As soon as she was in her crib, though, she was calm and sweet again, asking for various toys by name and saying "tank-oo mommy" after receiving each one. I put down Shay, Bekah, and Levi in succession and settled in for what I hoped would be a nap of my own. I'm pretty much running on empty, what with babysitting 11 hours a day, tutoring at night, and trying to work in time to do online essay grading, all while taking care of my family, keeping my house in passable condition, attacking mountains of laundry, running errands, and traveling on the weekends. All I could think of was how blissful unconsciousness would be.
But Bryn wouldn't be quiet. Over the monitor in my bedroom, I could hear her laughing and talking to herself. She was "reading" herself stories, playing with her tea set, and talking to her stuffed animals. She kept laughing, just really cracking herself up. She was having a blast. At first I was annoyed by all the noise, but when I really started to listen, my mood perked up a bit too just by hearing how happy she was.
And that's when it dawned on me: Bryn was cranky today because she needed alone time. The few shining moments of this morning when she was not fussing were all when she was doing something by herself--coloring, playing outside by herself while the rest of the kids used the slide, watching the last 5 minutes of Sesame Street while the other kids clambored for lunch. She is surrounded by other kids pretty much all the time, and it is getting overwhelming for her. She just wanted to be by herself, to play alone for a while. And once given that time, she was completely joyful.
When I started thinking about this, I realized that this is why I am cranky as of late as well. With the million activities listed above, I have not had any time to myself in a long while. I'm pretty much only alone while driving to tutoring, and I have recently found myself turning off the radio and just driving in silence, enjoying the rare peace and quiet. The rest of the time, I feel stretched thin, on edge, cranky and bad-tempered, wanting nothing but my day to be over so I can rest and refuel--but my typical 7 hours of sleep is really not enough to make up for being "on duty" during the rest of the day's 17 hours.
As soon as I started contemplating this, it seemed that four children in my care entered into an evil plot to prove to me that I am not, in fact, to be allowed the coveted alone time. Bryn's joyful playing alone went on for two hours, complete with constant jabbering and laughs. After about the first 45 minutes, Shay woke up cranky from her nap and continued to fuss until she managed to fill her diaper. Finally, I thought, I could rest a bit. But as I carried Shay back up the stairs and to her room, I discovered that Bekah had taken advantage of the cover of noise my children were providing. Rather than napping peacefully like I had assumed, she had instead been busy building what she called a "fort," and I would call "a gigantic room-eating mess," in the upstairs playroom. She had stripped down her entire bed and dragged all the sheets, comforter, pillows, and toys out into the playroom. Then she had done the same with the futon in that room, as well as the body pillows that are usually kept by the tv. When I caught her, she was starting to empty out the many toy bins into her pile of mess.
By the time Bekah and I had managed to put away all these items, Shay had decided that post-pooping, what she really needed was a bottle to refill her now-empty stomach. Then Levi woke up and wanted nothing but to be held and kind of whimper into my shoulder, while Bekah kept trying to make Shay wear my shoes. Bekah and Levi have now been picked up by their nighttime babysitter, and Shay is now teething on the monkey on her play mat. Bryn is asleep, continuing her blissful alone time. I think it's clear who got the best end of this deal!!!