Presents

Samantha is sent out of the room Josh is working in.

“Oh, wait.  Here, Daddy.  I made this for you.  It’s a “How to Color with Your Eyes Blindfolded” coloring kit.  Oh, look!  It has scissors.”

Ten seconds later, she’s back at the door.  She desperately pleads for re-entry, “But Daddy, I want to see you use your kit!”

“Fine, I’m leaving.  But don’t forget, when you use your kit, you have to be blindfolded!”

Gifts with strings attached.  I can’t wait to watch him use it, either.

Tastes

Josh and I are discussing pizza.  It is a great weekend treat for him, but I have to admit, “I don’t really like pizza.”  It is an age-old debate between the two of us, but this time, someone was listening in.

Samantha pipes up from the room adjacent.  “Mom, have you even TRIED pizza?  I have, and I really enjoy it!”

Mother’s Little Helper

I woke up feeling feisty this morning, daring even, despite nearly a week of severely fragmented sleep, dealing with a toddler made psychotic with teething pain.

I merrily announce that we’ll be having blueberry muffins for breakfast.  Samantha is ecstatic, ready to be my helper.  We’ll have a mother-daughter bonding experience.

My blueberry muffins are a recipe of my own creation, a high protein super food national magazines should feature on their covers.  It is tailored exactly to the tastes of my children, down to their preferred textures and colors.  It is optimized for maximum child nutrition.  It creates only half a sink of dirty dishes.   It doesn’t take long to make.

It doesn’t take long, that is, until the delays begin to slowly rack up.  A spill here.  A tussle there.  An ingredient lost.  The children are getting hungrier and hungrier.  Their behavior is increasingly chaotic and irrational.  With the increased noise and movement, my brain is getting fuzzier and fuzzier.  Each step in the baking process is taking longer and longer.

By the time I’m spooning the batter into the muffin cups, the kitchen is a surreal scene.  Simon is angrily shouting “BUT I TOLD YOU!” about something to do with the muffin cups.  Samantha is walking in tight little circles, repeating, “What’s my next job?  What’s my next job?  What can I do next, Mama?  What now, Mama?”  The toddler is wrapped tightly around my leg.  He is pressing his face against my jeans over and over again, then looking up at me and cackling.  My lack of reaction is making him try harder and harder, until I finally figure out that he is attempting, with increasing success, to bite me.

I am the only adult in the house.

I understand how Valium became known as “mother’s little helper.”

Fleeting

Silence and peace.  Samantha and Seth are eating.  Simon is in the shower.

I am standing over the sink, eating lunch, staring out the window into a beautifully sunny day, pondering the mysteries of life in this tiny slice of mental space.

Seth moves from stuffing his belly to deconstructing his lunch, crumbling his biscuit into the floor, and rubbing the slice of turkey in it on his chest.

Simon appears in the kitchen door, water sluicing down his stark naked little self.

He grins at me, as the water mixes with Seth’s crumbs.  “I left foot prints.”

 

Why?

As I turn the faucet on, Simon appears at my elbow.

“What are you doing?”

I answer cheerfully, “I’m getting a glass of water, because I’m thirsty.  What are you doing?”

He blurts out, cutting off the end of my question, “Why?”

I stare at him, unsure of the answer he wants to hear.

He stares back at me, then gives me a maniacal laugh, and runs off.

I am no longer so certain that his daily, inexorable  siege against my sanity is as innocently unintentional as I had thought.

Rhyming Game

Samantha commands, “Daddy, let’s play a rhyming game!”

Joshua obliges, “Okay.”

Samantha sets the rules, “I’ll go first.”

She starts: “Bliss.”

Joshua responds easily, “Kiss.”

Samantha challenges, “Lipstick.”

Joshua doesn’t miss a beat, “Sedgewick.”

The game pauses.  “Sedgewick isn’t a real word!”

“Yes, it is.  It’s a city.”

Samantha doesn’t waste any time arguing.  She launches back into the game. “Hodgewog.”

The game pauses again.  “Umm … what is a hodgewog?”

Samantha smiles.  “It’s an imaginary animal that lives in that town you just made up.”

Show Down

Christmas threw our carefully coordinated shopping plan off.  I wound up having to take all three children with me, just me, to a Kroger in the middle of a re-model, to re-stock our pantry.  Before we got started, I remembered to get food on the way, so that everybody would be busy eating while I shop, and I snagged a car cart, basically a regular basket cart with a child’s play car bolted to the front.

An early bathroom break threw off the rhythm.  Simon now wants to walk.  He’s four.  He has the attention span and impulse control of a fruit fly.  But I’m feeling saucy,  and I’d rather give it a try than listen to him whine and wail about the unfairness of it all through the rest of the store.  And so we continue our trip, with Simon trying to maintain all the rules of society and grocery store shopping, walking beside me and the cart, in a calm and controlled manner.

With each aisle, he gets antsier, excited by all the people he can get to talk to him, by all the packages on the shelves.  The aisles are getting narrower and narrower, and more and more crowded.  We’re half way through when Simon hits his wall.  He is not staying out of the way of others.  He is touching things he shouldn’t be touching.  And he is wandering further and further away.  Other shoppers are beginning to get wall-eyed watching him, and I can’t get anything done.  I can barely reach him, hopping around the cart.  There’s just enough room for a second cart to squeeze past us, as long as everybody is brushing the shelves on their own sides.  I grab him from the wrong side of the aisle, and try to shove him into the car, smooth and quick.  He resists, and those carts are evil.  Only one set of the three sets of wheels touches the ground, so that when even the most cooperative child tries to get into the front, the car spins away from him, and the cart blocks the entire aisle.  Without Simon’s cooperation, putting him in the car is not a maneuver I can manage with any dignity.

And thus it begins.  The closest shoppers are staring, and moving out of our way.  Ennio Morricone is playing in my head.  It’s a showdown at high noon.  I’ve brought a six shot revolver to the fight.  Simon’s got an uzi under his duster.  The slightest flinch from me, and he could take down the entire town.  Gently, calmly, quickly, I pull him behind the cart, out of the way and into what little privacy I can get.  “Simon.  You are not managing this right now.  You have two choices.  Get in the car cart, or we are leaving the cart right here, and you are going into your car seat.”  He’s fingering the trigger, and not looking me in the eye.    A grandmother nearby attempts to help, “Boy!  You better listen to your mama!”  Quietly, firmly, I repeat, “Get in the car cart, or we leave, and you get in your car seat.”  He  makes his choice.

Docile, cheerful even, he comes around the basket and slides into the car.  Bright and chipper, I lean in, “Don’t forget your seat belt!” and snap it closed.  I duck my head and shove off into a quieter aisle, where I can catch my breath and recover.   Everybody lived.