B oy, will Mommy be surprised to see me home so early today! Usually, after taking my time packing up, I join about ten girls for a rather lengthy gab-fest of a walk home. My mother claims to be shocked at how long a supposed ten-minute walk home from school took; then I catch her eye, note her smile, and marvel at how my mother understands, remembers, and appreciates the social mores of teens, even when she definitely and desperately could have used my help with the little ones.

Four-year-old Nachy is the cutest kid in the world but his behavior is a bit, um, erratic. He can be the sweetest, most helpful boy most of the time, but his self-control flies right out the window when he starts to get tired.

Then two-year-old Rickie picks up on the tension and morphs from an adorable, independent, “I do it myself” toddler into a clingy, whiney 28-pound baby and my mother’s two arms seem woefully inadequate. As soon as I enter the house my mother gives me an exhausted, relieved grin as I laughingly fend off the attack of the munchkins.

We work together until my father, Mr. Patience personified, rushes in at six and immediately takes over with Nachy. My mother then focuses on the now-delighted Rickie, getting her ready for bed with lots of cuddles and stories of her own and I’m free to start my homework or chat with my friends over the phone, often both. When my parents finally have the kids in shluffy-land, we sit down together to share our day over supper.

I’m actually pretty embarrassed about always coming home so late. I know what a difficult time my mother is having and how anxious she is for my help. On non-school days, I willingly jump into the fray when Nachy starts losing it, usually around four. From then until bedtime he and the suddenly-needy Rickie are my complete focus and I’m happy to help. Really.

My family is kind of different from the typical, large, frum brood. I, a 14-year-old ninth grader, was an only child for ten years. Nachy was born after many intense tefillos and a stretch of bed rest for my mother. All our friends and relatives were thrilled for us, but my delight was total and absolute. When Rickie was born two years later there was much less excitement in town but my joy was till the moon and back. I love those two to pieces! My friends tease me about how I’m always schlepping them along whenever we do anything. Now that things are a little difficult with Nachy, I’m especially proud of how good I am with him. So why can’t I get myself home earlier?

Neatly filing this question in the back of my mind with all the other topics I find uncomfortable to think about, I quickly packed my briefcase in a rush to follow through on the firm resolution I had made to GET HOME QUICKLY TODAY and bring my mother some much-needed relief. Despite the love and devotion I had for those two cutie-pies, I had yet to succeed. Today, though, would be the day. (Excerpted from Teen Pages, Issue 675)