Perhaps it’s the general mellow I am still floating through today after three nights away from my children, but I haven’t needed to raise my voice at my children at all today. Not as Lila refused to be obedient and huffed and puffed at me from across the front yard. Not as Evaline shrieked and shook her way through lunch and a diaper change. Not as Asher spilled his third cup of orange juice…and left it as a sticky stream across my kitchen floor. Nope, not a quiver.
Feeling pretty much like I am now the epitome of grace and charity and perfection as a parent, looking down on my earthly body from the Nirvana of parenting, I decided to go to the post office and grocery store.
Each child came with their pockets stuffed with money, so that they could buy themselves their “we didn’t embarrass mom in public” reward vanilla cone from McDonald’s after all was said and done. Evie fell asleep on the short ride and so I sighed (okay, huffed a teensy little bit) as I unstrapped her from her seat and slid her dead weight over my chest and tried to prop her chin on my shoulder.
Okay, so, post office and grocery store with three children and one sack of Evaline in my arms. We can still do this, with patience and grace and without fuss.
Asher’s flip flop fell off. And he panicked. In the parking lot. In the ten minutes today when the sun has been at it’s brightest and hottest. Asher, you’re fine, just put it back on and stick with me here, Buddy. I was patience personified, though, Evaline was now sliding further and further down my arm and my teeth may have been a little closer to gritting.
In the post office, after we stood in the line and Lila practiced her tap dance/jazz/ballet moves (she does not study dance) Alex’s face fell and he smacked himself on the forehead. Aw, man! I forgot my wallet in the car!
Well, that’s fine, I told him, swiping my debit card through the the machine while tapping Asher on the top of the head to subtly remind him that jumping up and down in front of the counter would not guarantee him a lollipop from the nice postal worker. We’re going to McDonald’s after the grocery store, so you can just get your money when we get back to the van.
But I wanted to get something from the machines at the store, he sighed heavily, shoulders sinking.
Well, Alex, we tell you to be responsible for your things. If you bring something in the car, it’s your responsibility to bring it out, I explained (which, to anyone who as ever SEEN the disaster that is the inside of my minivan, is a gigantic joke/exercise in hypocrisy.)
Waiting for the receipt to print, Evaline dripped some sleepy drool down onto my collarbone. While exhaling my deep, self-soothing, breath, I turned back to see Alex now very clearly fighting back his tears of disappointment (probably at my response to his wallet story, but probably also at himself, for forgetting.)
My thoughts, in a nutshell: I really, really don’t want to go all the way back to the van just to grab that toy wallet stuffed with a sticky mixture of Funworld tokens, Chinese food fortunes and small change. My life would be WAY easier if we could just go next door and get things for dinner and THEN go back to the car. He’ll still get his ice cream and those stupid fifty-cent toys are SUCH a waste of money. I’ll probably just wind up throwing it away by the morning or finding bits and pieces of it on my floor, drooled on by the dog. All around, not worth it (for me!)
Oh my son. Oh myself.
What am I doing? What have I been doing here, as a mother?
I thought of Alex at lunch this afternoon and how he and Lila fought over who got which plate of chicken salad and who got which spot on the bench at our table. I thought of how I had said things like, can’t we work on putting one another first here? It doesn’t really matter where you sit, it matters how you treat each other.
As Alex held the door open for all of us to walk out of the post office, conviction struck. Uh, Melanie, it doesn’t really matter if this is a tiny bit inconvenient for you. It’s a small thing that will make someone else happy.
What’s that old adage? Charity starts at home?
Turns out that somewhere along the line, somewhere in all of my attempts to help my children realize that life isn’t all about them, I’ve somehow managed to make it all about me.
Of course, I’m happy for the revelation and how I can now try to grow from it and be a better parent because of it, but I would have been just fine with feeling a little more enlightened and in control for just a couple more hours. (Especially as Evie decided to wake up as a miniature banshee as we walked around the store…and then chewed a chunk from Alex’s straight-from-the-grocery-store-fifty-cent-machine Angry Bird’s eraser, not even five minutes after we got home.)