I haven’t been the mom I wanted to be this week. But, hey, that’s okay, because I haven’t been the PERSON I really wanted to be this week, either. This entire week got away from me, somehow, and became less about doing or even being and more about just surviving.
Which is a fairly cruddy way to live, and a crappy way to parent.
Fortunately, the children, they are sproingy. (Monkey picked up a Slinky at the doctor’s office the other day and said to me “What does it do?” and I said, “It walks down stairs, alone or in pairs” and then the doctor and I laughed and laughed while Monkey looked at us like we were crazy.) (What does that have to do with this? Very little. But sproingy, like a Slinky.) They go about the business of tearing up the house and tormenting each other and once I’m back on my game, they’ve forgotten I was ever off.
Me, I’m old. I don’t spring back so quickly.
As the ratio of “stuff to do” to “hours in a day” grows larger, my patience thins and eventually dissipates. And when I reach the breaking point, the children are NICE to me (possibly because they understand that 6 and 8 may be too young to care for a mentally deranged parent) and then I am immediately sorrowful at being such a grump.
For example: SOMEONE—and I am not saying who, because no one will fess up, and I am weary of trying to crack them—thought it would be a good idea to, I don’t know, perhaps use the little washcloth-hanging bar at the top of the shower’s soap dish as a swinging handle. Or possibly as a foothold. I don’t know, and imagining the possibilities makes me feel faint. The end result is that I hadn’t looked into the kids’ shower since the last time I cleaned it, which was… ummm… well, it’s possible it was a few weeks ago, and for some reason, possibly because a child had been in the shower for over 30 minutes and I wanted to make sure she was still alive, I poked my head in there this week.
And I saw:
1) An oblivious child, singing in the spray (infuriating, but cute).
2) Shampoo bottles scattered along the bottom of the tub (mildly annoying).
3) Two cracked tiles on either side of the soap dish, which was now dangling off the wall at a 45 degree angle while the water drummed on the wall behind it (child, stay in that shower, because if you make it out alive I need to KILL YOU).
I turned off the water and scooped up what little brain matter hadn’t just exploded skyward and glued the top of my head back on and assembled my offspring in front of me.
“WHO. DID. THIS!”
Well, you know, NO ONE did it. Why would they do that? They know better. In fact, they’ve never once even TOUCHED that soap dish. We use body wash! They didn’t even know that thing was there! And they didn’t notice it hanging off the wall there, because these are the same children who can walk past a silver (reflective! shiny!) pop-tart wrapper in the middle of the floor for 3 days.
To say that I became incensed would be something of an understatement. Because, you know, it is AMAZING to me that the ONLY TWO PEOPLE who use that shower have ABSOLUTELY NO IDEA how this major structural rift occurred. It’s a mystery! Search them! And so after my standard “You get in less trouble if you come to me right away so that we can fix it” and “do you have any idea how much water damage this has probably caused” and “why are you TRYING TO DRIVE ME INSANE” lines of rhetoric, I found myself wildly expounding on the possible scenarios if, in fact, neither of them had anything to do with it.
Maybe someone BROKE INTO THE HOUSE and RIPPED THE SOAP DISH OFF THE WALL because they are a serial shower-breaker. Maybe the MOLES did it. (Yes, they are back. They sneer little sneers at my ineffectual smoke bombs.) Maybe one day while they were at school, I decided to practice my ballet in their shower, and while standing on pointe ON THEIR SOAP DISH my big butt broke it off the wall.
“I didn’t know you did ballet… with your butt,” commented Chickadee.
I still don’t know who broke the shower. (But I do know who broke the spell of me ranting and raving about it.)
Another example: Today is school picture day. That meant that last night we had to have showers (in my shower, of course) and pick out photo-worthy clothes (being a parent means ironing a church shirt on a Thursday night even as you know that it will be covered in food or paint by the time it returns home), and Deal With Hair.
(I’d given Monkey a haircut a few days ago. He squiggled and squirmed and I applauded myself on the decision to just clean up the sides and back and let it go longer on the top; not because of any preference on my part, but because it meant a shorter stint of scissors battle. Although as he whined “WHYYYYYYYY do I need a HAIRCUT?” and I trimmed, I felt a pang of nostalgia for a happier time. Anyway. Other than helping him to brush his hair down in the back, he was set.)
But Chickadee. Oh, Chickadee. Chickadee loves it and hates it when I blow-dry her hair with my big round brush. She wants me to do it, she loves the way it flips perfectly this way and that, but she hates suffering through it. And it probably didn’t help, last night, when I became increasingly snippy with her antics.
She danced her feet around and kept touching everything on my bathroom counter despite repeated requests that she keep her hands to herself. And we were about halfway through drying when I heard something clatter to the floor. “What did you drop?” I snapped.
Chickadee swore she hadn’t touched a thing.
And my treasured Smashbox multi-colored blush lay on the floor in pieces.
Now, I don’t wear very much makeup. In fact, many days I go completely without it. I am not a makeup hound. But around the time I cut all my hair off, I decided to wear makeup more often, and I invested in some new stuff.
If you don’t know Smashbox, let me put it to you this way: It’s the most expensive thing in my makeup bag, even though I bought it on sale. I may have had a small anxiety attack while purchasing it, as I am unaccustomed to spending Real Money on cosmetics. And it is worth every stinkin’ penny.
I stared at the pieces. “Well,” I blurted out in anger, “that’s that. I guess I just don’t get to have nice things. That’s fine. Why should I ever get to have anything nice without it being ruined? Clearly I shouldn’t.”
Chickadee began to cry and I felt like joining her. But the absurdity of having just turned into every bitter, martyred woman I’ve ever known coupled with the shame of having made my kid cry over an accident had me doing a long, slow exhale, instead.
“It’s okay, honey. It’s just a thing. Things aren’t important. I’m sorry I got upset.”
“But, but, but,” she blubbered, “You’re MAD at me! And I didn’t even touch it!” Hmmm. Maybe she didn’t touch it. Maybe it was just close to the edge and the cord of the dryer hit it. I am such a heel.
“Nonono, I’m not mad at you, honey. I’m just tired and frustrated and I’m sad that it got broken. It’s okay.”
“You think I broke it! I didn’t!” I murmured “no” a few more times while wiping her tears and hugging her close, then resumed drying her hair. “I didn’t break it,” she offered—one more time—about a minute later.
“I know, sweetie.” I finished her hair and put the dryer and brush away. She smiled at her reflection in the mirror, and I shooed her off to bed.
This morning was chaos and right when we should’ve been leaving for the bus stop I realized I hadn’t written the checks for the pictures, and then I couldn’t find one of the picture forms, and I found myself declaring that I would have to drive the kids to school because we were going to miss the bus. They were thrilled.
I sat down at the kitchen table in my pajamas to write the checks and thought about everything I have to do today and how much time I would lose driving them to school and getting back home and covered my face with my hands for a minute to try to compose myself.
When I felt little hands on my back I looked up. Both kids had come to stand on either side of me and pat my back. “Don’t be stressed, Mama,” said Chickadee. “It’s okay!”
“Yeah,” added Monkey, “cuz you could take us to school and then go SHOPPING!”
I had to giggle. “Monkey, I’m not going shopping. I have work to do.”
“Well, you’d rather go shopping,” he observed.
“That’s true, buddy.”
I loaded everyone into the car and while I pulled down the driveway I saw the bus. We caught it, so I didn’t have to drive them after all. Phew.
Maybe I’m getting sick. Wouldn’t that be nice, if I was coming down with something and not just a really cranky person? A cranky person who periodically does ballet in the shower with her butt, sure, but still.