Back in January, I wrote that my “One Little Word” for the year would be patience. I need it more than ever this week.
“MOMMA!!!!!” Lily hollered as she pounded on the counter with a wooden block. “I NEED TO TELL YOU SOMETHING!!!!!” Jackson could sense his older sister’s mood and cried louder.
I made eye contact with my husband, who looked as exhausted as I felt. Our kids were wearing us down. Yelling. Crying. Screaming. Pounding on things. It was 4:45pm. What we call ‘the witching hour’ in our house because everybody just sort of falls apart at that time of day. All of us. We get tired, hungry, cranky–and the kids get very loud.
I spoke with as calm a voice as I could muster. “Lily, use an indoor voice please. No need to shout.”
Lily pounded on the counter for emphasis. “BUT JACKSON IS SCREAMING AND YOU CAN’T HEAR ME UNLESS I AM SHOUTING!”
It was true. Jackson was wailing so loudly that I was pretty sure there would be permanent damage to my ear drums. I set him down in his high chair, and he cried even louder.
I let out a huge tired sigh. And just as I was about to let myself collapse on to a stool in exhaustion I saw out of the corner of my eye Lily pulling the stool away, right from under me. There wasn’t anything I could do — I was already falling, hard, onto the kitchen floor. I slammed my elbow on the granite counter top on the way down, and landed on my hip.
Worse, before I even realized what I was saying, I heard myself cry out in surprise, “Lily!”
Instantly, I regretted it. Lily’s face crumpled. “I DIDN’T MEAN TO!” she sobbed. She ran from the room. Jackson’s crying changed from tired tears to the real kind. I am the worst mother in the entire world. I thought to myself. Lily will never forget this. She’ll remember this moment for the rest of her life. The day her mom blamed her for pulling a stool out from underneath her.
I pulled myself up, reeling with frustration, unable to think what to do.
What do I do now? What do I say?
“I’m going to go for a little walk,” I said. I picked up Indie, our dog, and he and I headed out the door.
Indie didn’t want to go. When Lily is crying, he cries and cries right along with her and won’t leave her side. I gave him a gentle tug. “Come on Indie, we’ll be back in a minute.” As Indie and I walked away from the house, I could hear my husband, Brinton, trying to console Lily. I could hear Jackson crying. I heard the kitchen timer on the stove go off, telling us that dinner was finally ready. Indie kept looking back over his shoulder, every ten feet or so, until we got out of the driveway.
It was a beautiful spring evening. Unseasonably warm, sunny. We rounded the corner and walked past our neighborhood park. Everybody calls it the Pirate Ship Park because there is a huge play structure shaped like a ship that the kids love to play on. As Indie and I approached, I saw that there was a group of middle school boys all around the ship. This made me smile. I hoped that Jackson and Lily would someday have a group of neighborhood friends to hang out with at the very same park.
Then I saw that the boys were wearing costumes – eye patches and wigs- and they were filming each other.
I nearly forgot about the craziness at home. There’s nothing that makes me happier than middle schoolers doing adorable middle schooler stuff–like making pirate movies in the park on a Sunday evening.
As Indie and I headed back, he picked up the pace as we got closer to home, eager to get back to Lily. I reached down and scratched the top of his furry head. “Don’t worry buddy,” I said to him, “we”ll cheer up Lily and Jackson when we get home. We’ll give them a big hug right when we walk through the door.”
And we did.