Nothing warms my heart or makes my soul glow more than getting off work and knowing my next stop will be to see my girls.
I smile as I drive to the baby-sitters, visualizing Katie running up to me and yelling "mommmma" as she jumps into my arms. I can see Nikki trying to beat her sister to me and falling over because she's going too fast.
I can see their smiles already and hear Katie jabber about what she was doing before I interrupted.
It even happens that way sometimes.
The other times, I build myself up for that big welcome only to crash and burn.
I walk in the door and Katie doesn't even turn her back on Barney. She barely spares me a glance, so I look for Nikki. Nikki always has a smile for momma and doesn't turn down a chance to be carried.
Except when Barney's caught her attention, too.
I tell you. They break my heart.
Katie does further damage by telling me she doesn't want to go home.
Of course, that all changes when I pick up Nikki and duly administer a hello tickle.
Oh, yeah, then Katie notices me. Then I warrant more attention than Barney.
Only then it's too late. The two have progressed beyond the weight at which I could comfortably tote them both around, so it's first-come, first-served.
Katie, I'm sure you guessed, doesn't respond too well to that.
Nikki is exchanged for the tamper-throwing child, giving me two tamper-throwing children, though Nikki's tantrums aren't based in anger, they're based in sadness, thus, are that much more effective.
I've not found the power to turn my back on that quivering lip and those big, hurt-filled, liquid eyes.
If they would've done this right in the first place, there would be a lot fewer tears. Mine included.
What's worse, though, is when they run from you when you come in the door. The good thing is that you know they're happy and well taken care of where they're at. The bad thing is, well ... they ran from you.
No matter how much fun they're having, no matter how much sugar they're being bribed with, no matter that the baby-sitter has a swing set and a tree house, they should come running when they see you -- for the good times, not just when they're hurt.
It's a thin line, I tell you, and children always seem to cross it in just the opposite direction you're hoping for.
"Could you go play for just a minute and give mommy a chance to do some things on her own, like go to the bathroom?"
Not a chance.
Children are born, I think, to make your heart swell in pride and love, but to only return those emotions in much smaller doses than you think you deserve.
The minute Katie learned to give hugs and kisses, I thought I'd reached the zenith of the love I could feel for her. Then she learned to say "I love you, too." My heart ached it sounded so beautiful.
I wanted her to say it about 37 times a day.
She gives me one. Maybe two if I catch her off guard.
She knows what I'm lookin' for too.
I say, "I love you, Katie," and she smiles -- very deliberately -- before slowly looking the other way.
When ... how do they learn to manipulate that way?
Nikki does the same thing. I say "kiss" and pucker up. When I'm about three inches away she turns her head and laughs.
Evidently, it's a game to them.
I have to admit it makes me laugh, too.
They don't wear the paint off their affection and make it something you expect and take for granted.
I guess I respect that.
I know it makes each hug, each kiss, each cuddle special and heartfelt.
But, darn it, when I'm looking for a kiss, I think I should get a kiss!
Luckily I'm an advanced parent. I know who's in control. And I know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that it's not really me.
That's kind of heartbreaking, too.
But, with enough hugs and kisses, I'll get over it.