I’m in the kitchen doing my little morning dance when the familiar sounds of battle come hurling out of the front room.
Look, I don’t need this crap right now. I really don’t.
I’m still asleep from last night, man. It’s like 6:20 in the morning, and I’m out here spinning around in the old familiar whirl of trying to do too much at once. I’m trying to make Henry’s lunch for school and squirt the wrinkles out of Violet’s shirt, with only occasional pitstops to my mug of coffee (it’s ice cold now/yay!) to grab a quick slug before I get sucked back up into the chaos of 6:30 in the freaking morning. And so the thing is: I am teetering on the cliffs of my own crumbling patience even before the kids’ latest troubles start.
Once they kick in though, I shoot myself out of my miserable cannon.
And call me crazy, but as soon as I start hollering this one ancient, surefire thing, I start feeling both powerful and wonderful at once. I hate to admit this, but I get off on yelling the same thing my mom yelled at me, the same exact thing her mom and dad yelled at her.
“YO! That’s enough!” I blast. “You wanna fight over a stupid old flamingo? Well guess what? Give it to me. Because that’s MY flamingo!”
A jolt of satisfaction shoots up my arms like lightning. I feel myself Hulking out on my own goofy words. Oh, does it feel good, too. Within seconds I’m neck deep in laying claim to every single thing in my little kids’ lives. Sure, it’s probably the most ridiculous reaction any parent could possibly have, but then why does it feel so great?
“This flamingo (I have it now and I’m waving it around like a battle flag), this … this … this bowl of cereal you hardly ate, Henry! This … this … this kitchen table and this carton of OJ and this (I’m really finding my groove now!) school bag of yours, Violet!”
They stand there watching me wave a smallish pink bird around, and they know that I am off to my races.
“You see these things?! All of these things?” I continue. “They’re all MINE! I own them all! I bought them all and I paid for them all and I worked my tail off to get them all and so I can take them all back whenever I want, do you understand me?!”
They never answer me. They just stand there and snicker. I can’t stop though! I’m addicted to the rush. I am now perfectly puffed up by being able to lay claim to all the stuffed animals and the lunchmeat and the TV remotes.
It’s a fool’s folly, of course. But when things get dodgy on weekday mornings before I’ve had my second cup of coffee, well, anything goes. I take my solace any way I can. Thus practicing the ancient art of reminding my misbehaving kids that everything in their midst somehow belongs to dear old dad sustains me in my moment of not-so-quiet desperation.
“Do you see that lamplight shining off of your eyeballs, Henry? You see that lamplight, Violet?! You see that?!” I take a breath before I launch into my big ending. “That’s MY LAMPLIGHT!!! That’s right! I own the light shining across your little bratty morning faces! I am the King of the Lamplight! This whole house is my kingdom! Hahahahahahahaha!”
Okay, I know what you’re thinking: This is all pretty pathetic. I can’t disagree with you there. But look, I don’t even care. Because nine out of ten times, it works. It gets the job done. My kids stop fighting AND I have the extra added bonus of having suddenly reminded myself — once again — that I am doing a pretty damn fine job at providing my spawn with everything they actually need in this world, from light to food to flamingos.
So it’s a win-win, right?
Ha. Who knows? There’s a chance I’m going off the deep end here, but I figure that’s more or less what parenting is all about. You take the good with the bad. Then you try to warp human nature, you attempt to reshape certain juvenile atrocities. As parents, we need to manipulate the situation to our utmost advantage whenever we possibly can. Otherwise, it’s a house of rogue trolls you’re looking at. And I say “No, thanks” to that.
So next time your kids are tearing down that flimsy wall of semi-tranquility you spend most of your life re-erecting for them, don’t be afraid to shoot from the tried and true hip. Your mom and dad knew what they were doing, and so did theirs before them.
I can’t promise it’ll break up the cat fight or settle who gets the stuffed flamingo, but that’s not even the point in the end. This is about us, about you and me and every other mom and dad. We’re trying to do 50 things at once while the living room explodes with youth gone wild. We need to feel better in the heat of the moment. We deserve the right to shout it from the proverbial mountain top.
“LISTEN. TO. ME. These are MY LEGOs! And these are MY Fruit Roll-Ups!”
Oh man. It feels so good to say that. It feels so right somehow.
Probably because it’s true.More On