"Mommy, I wish you weren't an author."
I had just finished an evening of teaching. It's been a long, rough day, as is the nature of a day when I'm teaching: there's no way the Enemy is going to let me sail through the day without a snag. It has something to do with speaking truth: I become most aware of my own indiscretions.
The boys have spent the evening with a girl we adore. Miss G is my right-hand girl, nearly a resident babysitter. I love her, and so do they. And now I have come home to two children who have resisted the bedtime routine, one is playing with his homemade 'grappling hook' made from shoelaces and a boomerang, and the other is a weepy puddle of fears. We are on the couch, a tangle of arms and legs. And shoelaces.
"Because I don't want you to teach other places and be gone and travel to all these other countries."
(The upcoming country I'm visiting is called Ohio.)
I try to remind them that we've spent the last three evenings together. I try to remind them that we had a great Trio Date last night, with extra cheese on our pizza. I try to explain that this is my job now, this author gig. I think about explaining words like "mortgage." I try to tell them that I'm obeying God by speaking the words he has given me.
But none of these things matter to them. And too much of "God's will" could just make them resent God for keeping their momma's calendar full.
I let them talk and cry (and grapple with shoelaces) until I realize this cycle is going nowhere good. It's after nine o'clock, and we have in our genetic composite a curfew on rationality. Stay up too late, and we're toast. No closet lights can shine a light against irrationality. Sleep is the only cure.
"Mommy, maybe you can write a poem for us. So when you die, and Grandma and Poppa own us, then they could read it to us."
Nothing I can ever say will ever help them believe I am safe, here, and not secretly dying.
I carry them to their bedroom. "Boys, let me tell you a bedtime story. It's about two boys, and their names are Toby and Tanner."
"They start with T, just like us!"
"Are there sisters in the story? There should be sisters. Taylor… and Twister."
"Twister is a boy's name."
"Then she could be called Rosie. Toby, Tanner, Taylor and Rosie."
"I want them to be called Tucker and Tyler. And Tricia."
"Oh, like us?"
"Which one are you?"
"I'll be Tucker."
"And I'll be Tyler."
Deal. I'll be Tricia, and this story is getting much easier to tell.
"Once upon a time, there was a mommy and two little boys. And the mommy became an author. She wrote books, and people read them. And sometimes the people wanted her to read to them, or talk to them, or teach them. So the mommy, Tricia, obeyed God and she shared all the words he had given her. And sometimes that means she was gone for an evening or a day or a night or two."
"Or four." Right. That upcoming trip to the country of Ohio will be for four days.
"But, no matter how many books she wrote, no matter what people called her - writer, author, speaker, teacher - the most important name was was the first one she had been given: Mommy. She loved her children more than anything in the world."
"More than God?"
"Well, she loved them differently than God. God made her, so she worships him. And God gave her these two boys, so she worships him. But she loves these boys more than anyone in the world."
They study my face, looking for truths in the twin bed with us.
"The mommy traveled sometimes, but she always came back. And they could call her anytime they wanted to, and they could do Facetime, and she left them gifts to open every single day."
"Did she mail them?"
"No, she prepared them before she left." And now she's adding this to her List of Tasks before Traveling Next Week.
"She always came back, she was always there when they needed her, but they did not always need her. They are smart, safe boys, and their mom loves them the most."
Someone tooted in that tender moment, which was just the tension breaker we needed. And my cue to wrap things up.
I kissed them each, I hugged them tight. "Good night, my loves. I love you more than all the books in the world."
I stepped into the darkness of the hallway. I blew them one more kiss that they'll never see.
God, help me to do this well.