There are some days in a mom’s life when it all comes together: a hot breakfast on the table at seven a.m., after a soothing early morning run around a quiet town. Lost socks, tangled hair, broken shoe laces – these minor hiccups are no match for me on days like this. In one swift pass around the house the sock has a mate, pony tails are installed, and the laces are replaced. Tears after school? Not a problem. My reassurance that “It will pass,” is met with no resistance or argument. Days like this are capped with dinner on the table promptly at 6 p.m., before the whining starts, and backs are scratched as the little and medium-sized people drift off to sleep at precisely the right time. Just enough time for a glass of wine, a few kisses and another day in paradise is put to bed.
On those nights, I try to remember to fall asleep with my fingers and toes crossed.
However, sometimes I forget.
That’s when I wake up the next morning, and before my feet have even hit the floor, there is a totally different vibe going down.
“What?” my husband says as he staggers to his feet.
“I forgot to put J’s wash in last night. I promised him his jeans would be clean. Shit!”
On days that begin like this, the kids fetch their own cereal because I’m doing last night’s dishes and yesterday’s laundry. The ones not emerging from their darkened rooms are treated to the sound of “Are you going to school today or WHAT?!” at a level even they cannot sleep through. Not only that, but St. Mom, Finder of Lost Things and Slayer of Evil, is lacking in both compassion and patience.
“Mom, where is my new beanie? I left it right here!”
“Must have grown legs and walked away. Probably went to live at some kid’s house who actually cares enough about her stuff to put things AWAY!”
From the other side of the house another tune springs to life:
“MOOOMMMMM, there’s a HUGE WEIRD LOOKING SPIDER IN THE SHOWER! I think it’s a Brown Excuse!”
“Is it wielding an ax?”
“Then I think YOU CAN TAKE CARE OF IT!” I holler from the kitchen as I scramble to make an inside out sandwich so my oldest daughter won’t figure out she’s eating the heels. How I can’t manage to forget to bring a loaf of bread home from not one, but three trips to the grocery store in one week is beyond even my understanding.
On days like this, sensitivity is not my strong point. It is also on these days when I contemplate the possibility that perhaps, this time, I’ve gone too far.
Usually, those moments happen late into the days from hell. Did I need to point out to my daughter at bedtime that the world can finally stop looking for those elusive Weapons of Mass Destruction as I navigate her bedroom floor trying to avoid landmines? Was it necessary to taint the moment of the goodnight hug and kiss with a lecture? I get all mad at myself as I leave her room. Why can’t I just keep my big mouth shut? Just then I step on an empty hermit crab shell. I stomp back in and let her know that her crab ran away from home with the beanie.
I had a brainstorm the other day, one that will finally put my mind to rest, and relieve me of the constant worry of wondering which of my four kids will be the first to haul my butt into a therapist’s office someday. Once I get them to “sign” on to my plan, I can finally relax, knowing it will be narrowed down to only those with access to an expensive, high-powered contract law attorney.
I began putting Operation Safety Net into play with the second youngest, knowing she’d probably be the toughest sell. I knew that if I could get her to sign on the dotted line, the rest would follow, especially the thirteen year-old, who could be convinced of just about anything, especially if he sees it in a TV commercial. (It started when he was four. He saw an advertisement for the Perfect Pancake Maker and came sliding into the kitchen in his fuzzy slippers, eyes big as sauté pans and said, “Mom! Thereisthiscoolthingontvthatmakesperfectpancakeseverytimeand itonlycosts14.99canwegetit?!”)
Another time, more recently, as I searched my purse for my keys for about the tenth time in one day, he gave me his sales pitch for The Organizer.
“Mom, you need to get The Organizer. It has three zipper pockets on the outside and a large, dual-sided inner compartment with special pockets for a cell phone, clip-on key ring, pens and even a notepad,” he said, with all the earnestness of a late-night infomercial host who only has to sell one more widget before he retires to the Bahamas.
“What, no fresh produce compartment?” I queried, knowing he wouldn’t get it.
“Mom, why would you take fruit in your purse?”
I tilted my head back and laughed, swinging my formless, pocketless, bottomless sack of shit over my shoulder after finding my keys in the fridge.
Back to my brainstorm.
“Here, sign this,” I said to my ten year-old, as she shuffled into the kitchen one morning, with her chlorine-infused mass of hair that would have made Medusa proud.
“What is it?” she said, head cocked, peering with her one open eye at the sheet of paper I held out to her.
“Um, nothing really, just a little thingy releasing me from any liability as a mom.”
“What does that mean?”
“It means I didn’t make you cry every day for no reason and I served vegetables almost every night.”
“But I’m only ten.”
Now it was my turn.
“What is that supposed to mean?” I shot back, wondering where she was going with this line of questioning.
“It means, I’m still a child. I’m barely half done. Maybe you’ll start making me cry every day next year,” was her retort, with all the negotiating prowess and bad hair of a pint-sized Donald Trump. I didn’t let on that I was impressed.
“Oh, for god’s sake. Fine. Here, sign this other one.”
“It’s a document stating that I encouraged you to keep your room clean, bathe regularly and not eat off the floor.”
“And why am I signing this?” she said, both eyes open now, with a look that told me I had missed my window.
“Because when people see how you live someday I’m not going to be held responsible. I tried.”
“Mom, are you crazy?”
“Probably, but I’m not stupid. Sign.”
“No. But if you make me some eggs we can talk.”
Thus began the stare down. She was Kruschev. I was Kennedy. The Cuban Missile Crisis had nothing on us. Between us lay my unsigned documents. I swiftly tried another approach.
“Remember the time when you were four, and you came and told me you washed the sliding glass door all by yourself and you were practically peeing your pants with excitement because you did it as a surprise for me right before Grandma and Grandpa were coming over for dinner?
“Yeah, I remember.”
“You used Pledge instead of Windex.”
“But you said it looked great!”
“It did look great.”
“No. The look on your face when you told me you were done.”
I’ll just keep my fingers crossed.