MTO Becky Marr

Being a mom, it’s been called “the most difficult job on the planet” by Oprah Winfrey and contradicted (hilariously) by Bill Burr, who maintains that bleeding-out soldiers, broiling roofers, and Appalachian coal miners just might have it a little harder than moms.

Fine. Maybe it’s not as hard as getting shot and killed, but momming six kids in eight years requires Olympic courage, organization, and stamina.

And Becky homeschools. So when kiddo #1 started sounding out vowels and conquering addition and subtraction, kiddo #2 was finger painting with marinara sauce in the high chair, and kiddo #3 was clawing her way down the birth canal. By the time Ben and Becky had their sixth child, Becky was clocking less sleep than a POW. Her nightly prayers began with gratitude for six healthy, beautiful children and finished with a plea for a quiet, drama-free evening, for an hour or two of unbroken REM sleep.

One night she was so tired, she forgot to pray.

The baby–#6–woke up screaming. Just as she got #6 fed and changed and cozied in his bassinet, #3 needed a drink of water. #4 saw her deliver it and asked for a Bible story to allay his fears of the bad dreams. Fears of bad dreams?

But what parent says no to a Bible story?

Twice Becky’s head lulled, and #4 touched a chubby little finger to her lips to get them reading again. Becky’s head barely touched the pillow when a quavery voice–#4–reminded her she’d forgotten to leave the hallway light turned on and the door cracked open. “Just an inch. No. Too much. A little more closed. Almost. There. Perfect. Thank you, Mommy!”

Becky blew a kiss and trudged back to bed over a gauntlet of dolls, trucks, Transformers, and Lego bricks, cupping her feet against the digging plastic corners. She pulled back the covers and yearned for her soft sheets.

“Mommy, I threw up.” #2

#2 “slept” in the top bunk. He’d tossed his cookies over the bedside and into the plastic bin of legos. Actually, it was mac and cheese in a chocolatey-brown goo, edged in foam. Many of the noodles were fully intact. She’d distinctly remembered telling #2 not to eat an entire box of chocolate chip cookies. Did she have the energy for a midnight lecture on sugar consumption? No. The consequences paid by #2 were lecture enough. He–okay, mostly she–would be washing Legos for a good part of tomorrow. She set the plastic bin in the kitchen, high on the counter so the dog didn’t try to eat the puke and ingest enough Legos to warrant a midnight trip to the vet. A mom had to think strategically, had to catastrophize because…well, these things had happened in the past. Only a fool didn’t learn the lessons History taught.

Becky’s eyes stung. Every nerve fired the command: sleep.

And she did. For five minutes. She woke to the unwelcome sound of untold gallons of water splashing onto the floor. “Mooooooom! Toilet’s overflowing!” #1 shrieked. It was probably not his fault. Probably, one of the other numbers put a stuffed animal or a Lego creation into the toilet, and in the dark it was missed by #1, flushed by #1, and voila. Disaster.

Becky shook her husband awake and flicked out his earplugs. “Need you to take a shift,” she said as sweetly as her zombified lips would allow.

Ben looked at the time. “Rough one, huh?” He rose, kissed her forehead, and assured her he had it under control. “Sleep now, babe.”

Oh, she would. Becky reached for her own set of earplugs and jammed them in, was out before they’d even finished expanding.

She dreamed the toilet couldn’t be stopped, that it pumped a pond’s worth of sewage into her home, down the carpeted stairs, into the dining room, the kitchen, that it soaked into the couches and even the kitchen cabinets, warping the wood.

She shot upright, alarmed. Ben hadn’t returned to bed. There was a bad smell in the house. She looked over the bedside, expecting to see her nightmare all over the carpet. It wasn’t. She got up to a quiet house. Ben had fallen asleep telling a Bible story to #5, the book still tented on his shoulder. The bin of puke wasn’t on the counter where she’d placed it but was clean and full of Legos beside the bunk bed. Everyone, including the baby, slept soundly. Becky made a cup of coffee, awed that coffee was the first thing happening to her.

Everything was fine.

The sun rose bright and beautiful, burning away the nightmare.

A momming, no-sleep nightmare, was all.

But what about that smell? She searched all day for the source and found nothing out of the ordinary. The kids, all of them, were weirdly, perfectly compliant.

That night, Becky read not one but two Bible stories to keep the frightful dreams away, one for her and one for the children. The smell came and went and stung like a terrible, long-forgotten diaper and raw flesh. Maybe an animal had died behind the drywall? Under the floorboards? As she lay down beside Ben, she asked if he smelled it, too.

“Oh that,” he said. “I couldn’t get the kids to sleep no matter how hard I tried, so I filled them with sugar and spice and everything nice. But don’t worry. The yucky stuff is in the basement. I labeled the bags one through six, so we don’t mix anybody up.”

Becky shot upright and clutched her heart. “What!?”

Ben laughed. “Babe. Joking. It’s probably from the toilet, water under the flooring or something. I’ll check it out tomorrow, first thing. Get some rest.”

All the children were quiet that night, and still, Becky couldn’t sleep. In the morning she found herself sniffing as she kissed their little heads, inhaling and searching for the smells of sugar and spice and everything nice. Everyone behaved again, like angels. Becky’s mind kept drifting to the basement. Ridiculous. Yet, she found herself trembling as she took the stairs one by one.

Becky IS a mother of six gorgeous kiddos, all born within eight years. Yes. She is Wonder Woman.

True: Becky had her kids in rapid-fire succession. I am honestly in awe of the elegance she brings to momming and homeschooling. She and Ben can be found cheering on their kiddos at various sporting events.

Also true: I’ve had the pleasure of teaching #1 and #2, and they are filled with sugar and spice and everything nice.

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2 thoughts on “MTO Becky Marr

  1. This one is brilliant. Becky’s husband sounds like a problem solver, albeit a twisted one! Just taking care of six children is horror enough. So I guess you can fit this story under horror realism if there’s a genre like that. Great write Kelly

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