There is a period in the day, which happens after school and before dinner/husband arrival, when otherwise cheerful and attentive mothers present with a twitch and the crazy eye and when children walk about like little monsters on a mission to terrorize tranquility.
It’s called the witching hour.
The witching hour occurs after the children have expended all their calm, sweet energy, eaten all the meals that they will eat before dinner (!*@), played everything they know to play, and have only tired, frustrated energy left to finish their homework, for which they need your undivided enthusiastic attention. However, you are trying to spiralize zucchini or julienne green onions for the new Thai Chicken Curry Internet recipe, because WE WILL HAVE HEALTH! AND VARIETY! AND CULTURE!
You know what I mean. It’s the time when you open your mouth to speak, but what comes out is a voice in a different octave that is hurling commands at the trolls who have overtaken your children’s bodies. It is when all things converge: homework, supper, QUESTIONS, and the limit of your patience. Parenting patience is rationed. For example, you say to your husband,
YOU: (in cheerful, supportive, doting wife voice) Hey babe, what time will you be home?
HUSBAND: 6 o’clock
YOU: Ok! Awesome, see you then!
But let’s say you get a text later on that reads: “ETA 6:30”
Then ALL PERDITION BREAKS LOOSE, because you had allotted patience for your people until 6 and now you have to have THIRTY MORE MINUTES of parenting, julienning, answering, cooking, sweeping, delegating, and mediating all by yourself. Your ration is gone. And parenting without patience during witching hour is the most dangerous thing.
THEM: “HE PEELED MY SKIN!!”
“HE KNOCKED ME OVER WHEN I WAS SLEEPING-BAG-DANCING!!”
“HE LICKED MY LIBRARY BOOK! THE LIBRARY ONE! WE’LL HAVE TO PAY FOR WATER DAMAGE NOW!”
“WHAT’S 7 TIMES 8 AGAIN?? AND HOW MANY CENTIMETERS ARE IN A METER??”
“WHAT ARE BOOGERS MADE OF????”
ME: <rocking on the closet floor listening to The Carpenters (Mondays only) or Snoop Dog (if it’s nearing Friday)>
If something is going to break in the house, it is going to happen during witching hour. As you are sweeping up the broken glass bowl full of oatmeal (wondering who even ate oatmeal at 4pm while dinner was ALREADY COOKING) a child approaches you with your phone, which he dug out of the bag of rice in which it had been drying due to having accidently dropped it in an unflushed toilet after your husband sent word that he would be arriving home 30 minutes late.
Your child extends his hand, “it’s for you”.
The TELEMARKETER on the other end begins with, “is this a bad time?”
You want to respond by calling him all the bad cursewords you know, but then you remember that you love Jesus and cannot say the those things to a perfect stranger who is trying to sell you a vacuum cleaner. Plus also you kind of need a vacuum cleaner since yours is now full of glass and oatmeal. So, you try to sanctify your response, but because it is witching hour your voice is shrill and infinitely sarcastic:
“A demonstration where you clean my floors? Sure!!! Come right over! Right now there’s broken glass smeared with oatmeal and also rice. Do you babysit? Because this vacuum will need to work with children jumping around it with scissors and super glue and also a barking, nervous dog.”
Upon being interrupted for the fourth time, you finally scream at a child, “PUT DOWN THE MATCHES AND SUPERGLUE!!!”
The salesman claims to be going through a tunnel and the call is dropped, which is perfect timing because husband is calling again. You switch over and the trepidation with which he approaches this next question is almost comical, except it’s witching hour, so you aren’t laughing: “How’s it going?” (Husbands know witching hour is a thing. They just never know the severity from day to day. And they need to prepare. Mine likes to survey the war zone before arriving, to be equipped with proper armor. Like chocolate.)
But then, somehow, when you gather round the table, with a full plate of food, your voice returns to its normal octave and your kids shed their troll personas. You sweep your hair behind your ear and pull out the last bit of hardened oatmeal. All is back to normal, whatever in the world that is, as witching hour draws to a close.
Mamas – you can make it. You’re almost there. Just a few hours til bedtime and then you can relax. In the meantime, how do you survive your witching hour??