According to European folklore and Wikipedia, the witching hour "is the time when supernatural creatures such as witches, demons, and ghosts are thought to appear and be at their most powerful, and black magic at its most effective. This hour is typically midnight or the time in the middle of the night when magic things are said to happen."
When, I would like to know, did this term start to apply to the last hour of the day when moms are home alone with their kids and trying to get dinner on the table? I'd like to find the person who first re-appropriated the phrase and congratulate her on her profound understanding of life with children. I'd define the witching hour as the time when temper tantrums appear, hunger pains are most powerful and whining is at its most effective. It seems no matter what kind of a day my kids have had, and how efficient a house manager I have been,at 4:30 the children are irritable, I'm ineffective, and the kitchen is a mess.
It's at this time that I often call up a neighbor and fellow mommy and say, "Can you come outside with me? I need a witness."
I find the most effective tool I have in my arsenal at witching hour is my desire to be thought well of by other people. So even if my neighbor mom isn't available for an outdoor romp, if I'm out in the front yard with the kids, where every word I say will be echoed into the living rooms of all my neighbors, I'm a much more patient and sweet mommy. It's good for the kids, too, because they can climb the trees, collect leaves, and generally make noise and messes that are much more appropriate outdoors than they are in my 12-by-15 foot living room. But mainly I do it because I know I won't commit any crimes against my own sense of right out here with all these people watching.
Recently one of my neighbors told me she looks up to me as a role model, because I'm so calm and deal with my daughters so intelligently. Which proves the system is working, and also proves that the insulation in my house is much better than I thought it was. She's obviously judging me based solely on what goes on when I know I'm being observed.
I have another group of witnesses in my evening ritual. Across the sidewalk from my condo, my neighbor runs an at-home daycare center. Often, around five, I'm sitting in the doorway of my house, with a cup of herbal tea in my hand, or even a glass of wine (it shows I'm not abusing alcohol if I'm drinking right there on my porch, right, because if I had a problem, I'd be drinking in secret). When the beleagured working moms are walking up to retrieve their kids, they probably look at me and think, "What a life that stay-at-home mom has, lounging away while I'm just getting home from work!"
This is funny from my perspective, because in actuality, this might be the first time I've sat down all day. And I'm not necessarily soaking in the beauty of the fading winter sunshine so much as trying to take deep breaths and not yell at my savage daughters as they decapitate all the association's blossoms with a soccer ball.
On the other hand, seeing myself in the daycare clientele's eyes actually works better than the deep breaths when I consider it. I often feel slightly sorry for myself around 4:45, when the works of my hands have been drown in a sea of clutter and my kids' behavior is at it's most challenging. These hard-working women walk by, and I start to feel better, realizing how much of their mommy duties are going to get squeezed into the next two hours, while I have had the luxury of pacing myself. I have all kinds of little freedoms in my days-- from going to the park with friends, to popping into Old Navy on a whim, to actually seeing my little girls in daylight.
I suddenly feel less like a woman escaping her padded cell for a few brief minutes, and more like the person I actually I am: a blessed woman with two healthy daughters, dinner simmering on the stove and a husband who loves and provides for me who is about to walk through the door. And just like that, I find there's magic in the witching hour after all.