My son spat in the house yesterday. Maybe I shouldn’t have shared that, but I know that my son’s behavior, though wholly unacceptable, still falls within the realm of what is normal for a kindergartner testing the boundaries. I know he is truly a gentle soul. But when the saliva hit the floor of our family room, I hit the roof – and nearly smacked my kid.
“Did you just spit?” I cried. “To your room! No treats for a week!”
As Griffin ran upstairs sobbing, I realized that I had been expectorating in my fury. And when my son later begged for mercy, asking, “Do you still love me?” I felt like crying.
This incident followed what had already been a delightful morning, the likes of which I have previously documented in entries such as, “Doctor,Please, Some More Of These.” My son’s twin sister’s register of perceived injustices is still expanding; my 2-year-old is still pitching fits.
This particular morning Jane incessantly demanded that I repair the broken strap on her hand-me-down rain boots, an impossible task even if I had the will or time to pursue it. Her nearly 6-year-old sister vacillated, as usual, between wanting to play with her young protégé and wanting to maim her.
“Jane drew on my paper!” Georgia screamed. At another point, she shoved her little sister perilously close to a coffee table. “To your room!” I yelled for what felt like the 13th time that day – and it wasn’t even 8:30 a.m.
Then, after depositing the twins at kindergarten, Jane and I were headed toward the grocery store when my husband called. “There are like one or two spots left in the basketball,” he said. “Do you want me to mail in the form, or would you rather go sign Griffin up in person?”
“I thought you had already signed him up,” I bristled.
“I just found the envelope in my backpack.”
So I turned the minivan toward the township building and filled out paperwork for dual sessions of “Tot Basketball,” forking over a $140 check, while Jane fussed on the floor that she couldn’t make her parka zipper work. At the supermarket, she shed her boots from her perch in the cart. She nipped a box of Crunch Berries when I paused to consider the overwhelming variety of cereal brands. Jane insisted on “helping” me bag the apples, grabbing one from the bottom layer and tumbling several onto the floor. I stooped to retrieve the bruised fruit and added it to our sack.
Once home, Jane demanded chocolate milk. She cried for “Caillou.” She wouldn’t keep on her hat in the yard, although it was 36 degrees. So as soon as Jane hit her mattress for a nap, I headed to the cellar to pound out my frustrations on our 9-year-old treadmill.
On the way I noticed that the door that separates our semi-finished basement play area from the utilities section was open – and that a large and sharp saw my husband had been using the past weekend was resting in a laundry basket on the floor. The mailman came later bearing my MasterCard bill with the charge for the charming but overpriced farm table I couldn’t resist buying myself as a desk. I also received a notice from Blue Cross rejecting a claim because I had reached the “maximum for that type of service.”
I was in the fog of these irritations, waiting for my twins outside the elementary school, when a friend told me that our children’s dentist had died that same day. He was a charming man. Although we did not know him well, my kids instinctively responded to his jovial warmth. I understand that he made a brief but valiant battle with cancer and that he died in his mid-50s. My friend related how on her last visit with him, this man had shared how he awoke each morning since his diagnosis, looked at his wife, and told her that they had another day. I almost burst into tears.
We all know that we should shove aside our petty stresses to live each day to the fullest. But few of us are able to do so. Much of the time, I find myself incapable of savoring the moment. I love my family and enjoy the comedy and accomplishment that attend their development. I love laughing with my friends and watching our children play. But I allow the hassles of raising kids and daily life to pull me away from a full appreciation of the present – which should be all the more precious since I know it is fragile and fleeting.
But this morning when Jane came into our room, I thought of our dentist as I cuddled her in her footy pajamas. My husband snuggled her, too. Georgia put ballet slippers on herself and her sister, and they danced in the upstairs foyer. My twins sat on Griffin’s floor, looking at pictures from nursery school. I know that tomorrow morning may not go so smoothly. But I want to try to live more deliberately in the here and now and to remember just how lucky we are – even as the spitballs fly.