Perhaps I feel the way I feel because of the season of life we’re in. Or maybe it’s due to the time of the year. (I’m fairly certain it has something to do with the time of the month). But regardless of the specific reason, there are some days that I think we as parents need to celebrate NOT going insane.
This may sound a little crass, but I’m perfectly serious. There are moments, breaking points where I’m pretty sure that our last nerve, the last straw, and the last word are each cast in turn, and it takes every fiber of our being not to snap.
Last weekend my family and I were headed up to my grandmother’s ninety-fifth birthday party. What should have been a smooth, reflection-filled two hour drive, was instead a test of my will and character. There were multiple times on the drive that I wanted to pull over, get out, and walk –ALONE! Mary Francis Winters once said, “Don’t become too preoccupied with what is happening around you. Pay more attention to what is happening within you.” Well, I’d argue that what was happening around me was in direct correlation to what was happening within me!
Perhaps I sound dramatic, but you know what? Some moments ARE dramatic, and if you don’t share them dramatically you’ll be ruining the whole dynamic effect of the story. So here goes … imagine a Kia (because that’s what we have) filled to the popping point with gifts, coloring books, ninety-six markers (with which to color in said coloring books), driving activity cards, an overly-tired nine-year-old boy, a super-chatty seven-year-old girl, and a husband who has NO desire to talk, at all, even if it is our only chance that day to do so.
The boy is tired, and as such – grumpy. His reply to everything is equal parts mischief and sass. The girl’s conversation is a low flying plane set to circling. She is neither discussing anything of import, nor is she running out of gas anytime soon. I was (naively) looking forward to some mellow music and a bit of brainstorming, but either at the exact moment I was able to form a coherent thought or my daughter actually stopped talking, then SOMETHING would inevitably happen to interrupt my thoughts.
“Where are our snacks?” she asked, starting it all.
“Didn’t you pack any?” I asked my husband (who’d been in the car first, waiting for me with seemingly nothing to do but honk from the driveway to hurry me up).
“No,” I retorted. “I was getting gifts together, why didn’t you?”
“I didn’t think of it,” he said blithely, “and you normally do.”
At this point I could literally feel the blood blush creeping up my cheeks.
“What about water?” my son asked pathetically. “Did anyone remember to pack us that at least?”
“No,” I said again. “Why didn’t anyone else grab it.”
“You usually do,” my kids said together.
So we figured we’d grab some when we stopped to get coffee. Of course that was another debacle. The ever-growing line behind us would just have to wait for him to choose which kind of bread he wanted and her yelling at me to put the whipped cream back on her order because SHE likes it, HE doesn’t, and I needn’t take off her whipped cream just because he doesn’t like it.
“So …” the guy on the other side of the ordering counter droned on. “Was that whipped cream or no whipped cream then?”
About ten miles down the road, my son piped up with, “Hey, didn’t we get any water?”
“NO! We didn’t!” I practically shout. “You’ve got a smoothie.”
“Yeah,” he says unfazed, “but I need water when I’m eating lemon bread.
“Well you’ll just have to wait.”
“That’s fine. I need to go to the bathroom anyway – now,” he said with casual urgency.
This is where I’m pretty sure my deodorant started working overtime. Angry and annoyed, we stalked into the gas station to use the bathroom. The girl’s bathroom was “out of order,” and traumatized as I was, I knew we’d never make it to the party if I started letting my germaphobia take over.
About five minutes later, my daughter, who’d been waiting for my son to get out, came to me with indignant tears, telling me that just when he’d finished and it was her turn, he pushed her out again and said, “I’ve gotta poop.” After another ten minutes of wandering around the gas station that didn’t so much as have a birthday card, (which I still needed for the party) my son came out – a self-satisfied smirk on his face, and my daughter, blotchy-eyed, pushed past him. Ten more minutes, and I quietly knocked on the door, asking her if she was alright.
“I went number two mom, but then I feel like I need to go potty, but not yet, so I’m waiting until I do.”
Now, I actually, physically started to tingle. My heart was drumming inside of my chest with the passing of time … time that was meant to be on the road gaining distance, not taking a museum tour of a dirty gas station while my daughter and son “enjoyed” the facilities.
Finally back on the road, we encountered utility vehicles, Sunday drivers on a Saturday, construction, wrong turns, and a quick stop to purchase candles that said “95” on them. Sweaty and anxious, we dusted off and took a few deep breaths before stepping into the loveliest party I think my grandmother has had to date.
Surrounded by family, friends, and numerous great-grandchildren, her hazel eyes glowed with pride and memories … of which I cannot be sure. The rest of the party was filled with double-slices of cake, cousins reminiscing with bubbling laughter, skipping rocks at the lake, and all the joy that comes with too many kids on a playground.
Perhaps it was the fresh air, or the fresh faces, or the fresh perspective I gained when I saw the product of a life so-well lived. But the ride home was sweet and calm. He was coloring. She was sleeping. My husband was driving, and all was well enough in the world for me to daydream – and just like that, the balance of life was restored. Another day of keeping my sanity. Thank the Lord for that because, as Scarlett O’Hara says, “Tomorrow is another day.”