We had three kids under one roof this weekend, and it was pretty awesome.
My niece had her sixteenth birthday party at her family's cabin up in mountains in Calaveras county. (No frogs, jumping or otherwise, in attendance.) Her brothers sensibly said, "A weekend trapped in the snowy woods with six tenth grade girls and one bathroom? No thank you." And thus it came to pass they stayed with us.
I've known my nephews since they were fetuses, cuddled them as toddlers, delighted in observing every new personality trait that emerges and shapes them. And one of the most awesome things about these guys is how patient they are with their small cousin. Will and Aaron will spend hours playing with Trixie, redirecting her with their blunt hammer of enthusiasm, pushing her to do things that she'd never do on her own. The kid I have wouldn't have decided it's fun to climb an eight-foot ladder and dance the robot in an attic -- not on her own, she wouldn't. But guess who now loves scrambling up and down ladders? The great thing about 10 and 12 year old boys is that they don't read parenting websites, so they don't really worry about things like safety or developmental appropriateness.
This is how the weekend went: We picked up the boys at 6 p.m. on Friday, and we basically did not have to do a thing with any of the three children for the rest of the weekend. I mean, I left out big bowls of sliced fruit and kept two pitchers of ice water in the fridge, but all I saw all weekend were two blond blurs and a small ginger one, then a door would close as my daughter shrilled, "We need our privacy to play!"
(At night, we made a big deal out of the boys having the run of the TV as a reward for being so patient with their cousin. They elected for Batman the first night. The second night, they saw Liberace's star turn on the Batman TV series. I am not sure whether or not we have become enshrined as a fond childhood memory or if we are going to star in an article on childhood trauma.)
The boys made towers out of Duplos and Bristle Blocks, knocked them down, and made more towers. They played hide-and-seek for hours. They played dress-up. They read books -- at one point, chasing Trix around the house to read her the unfortunately long-winded Larry and Friends*.
It was so weird having wide open tracts of free time without having to elaborately rearrange my schedule beforehand. I read two books. I bought a flat of strawberries and made ten half-pint jars of jam. I cleaned the refrigerator, cooked two casseroles, collected chicken eggs, worked out, had brunch with my girlfriends, napped for two hours yesterday ... I write it all out and it's like a beautiful, boring dream.
Of course, after the beloved cousins went home this evening, my daughter stood on the porch, sobbing, "Take me with you! I want to come!"
I feel for her. It's hard to come down from a great weekend and return to reality.
* I purchased this book after reading about it on Brain Pickings, and boy, do I regret it. There is no plot beyond "Larry has many hipster arty friends, and you are going to get everyone's biographies in excruciating detail." Also, it is vaguely racist. My daughter likes the book if each page is boiled down to two sentences. When poor Will tried to read the whole thing, there was a point where Trix said, "I need to take a break and read another book in the middle."
In retrospect, taking a child's book endorsement from someone who a) does not have to read to a child on the regular, and b) makes a living by gnawing on the thinky books of the day was probably not going to work well.