Our witching-hour antidote

I always thought the witching hour was just for brand-new babies. Maybe because when I was reading about it, I was trying to quell a squalling infant at 5 p.m. every day and had no space to think of anything else at all. 

But my kids are 6, 4 and 2, and the witch still visits. Walking in the door from school/daycare, making and putting dinner on the table, trying to fit in some fun and getting ready for bed — it’s a tough schedule for adults, let alone small humans missing significant chunks of developmental growth in their cortexes. 

Logically, I can appreciate that. 

Still, sometimes it feels like I’m fighting a state of constant exasperation. Why do kids seem to thrive on routines, except the ones you really care about? If kids are such suckers for daily repetition, why is this stretch of time — every single ever-loving day — such a mess? 

My husband and I have many faults, but we’re good about routines. Why must we herd cats — or, more apt, squirrels — every single night? I don’t like that exasperated version of myself at all. 

However, we have found an antidote that works (sometimes): If it’s warm enough, if all the kids have both shoes on, if we all ate our dinners and the small people aren’t punching each other, sometimes we can scoot outside for a bit before bedtime. 

With all my children fully aged out of the infant phase — another column for another day — we can even start to play some organized games. Though little Roro is always toddling a few steps behind, he’s game to keep trying.

I have seen some of the best of my children during this time — taking turns, helping each other out, cheering each other on. I have seen them stretch for a goal, extend a hand, fall down laughing in the grass. I’ve seen them brush off their wipeouts and add their own creative spin to our entirely made-up games. 

Sometimes there’s a fight or a tantrum when it’s time to come in, but often even they seem to realize that they’re tired — though they’d never admit it aloud — and that snuggling in footie jammies while being read to sounds pretty good after all.

I wonder if they’ll look back and remember exasperated parents shuffling them here, there and everywhere, always referencing the ticking clock. 

They’re too young to feel it now, I think, but I wonder if they’ll look back as adults with memories tinged by lavender-gold light, magical fleeting moments that we can (sometimes) grab and hold onto — moments we wish we had 300 percent more of as parents. 

I wonder how I can feel driven straight to the edge so frequently, and yet wish so fervently for time to just hold steady, to encapsulate them in my bubble, for as long as I want. 

I wonder how it’s possible I can constantly feel awash in that wistful, nostalgic feeling in real time: When we snuggle into bed, I inhale the tops of their heads, smelling of fresh air and sunshine, trying to keep it for forever. 

Katie Dohman is currently living in the midst of a total full-house renovation with her three kids, two pets and one husband. Follow her adventures at instagram.com/dohmicile.