I am in Tampa. My under-caffeinated brain is trying to order my morning joe, but I can’t seem to put words around what it is I’m after.
“I’d like a cup of regular coffee, but can you make it…”
What is it I’m looking for? Not weak. I like full-bodied coffee.
“Mild?” the helpful cashier offers. Yes, mild. Full-bodied minus the bite, minus the bitterness.
Minus the bite.
I’ve been thinking a lot about bite these days.
I’ve done more than my share of biting of late. In point of fact, I am wondering if I ought to get a rabies shot, wear a collar, and post a sign that reads “Beware of Mom.”
While these are pretty much constants for a family of six, in the past few weeks Ainsley has become a force to be reckoned with. She is formidable, relentless, nothing short of unstoppable.
Remember those cartoons that showed an army of ants marching into a picnic area and then marching away leaving only a tablecloth in its wake?
This is Ainsley in reverse.
She stomps through the house – you can hear her coming from three rooms away. She exits each room leaving an epic mess behind. Every item in a bathroom drawer flung in four directions. Twenty feet of aluminum foil unfurled. Trash can? Emptied! Board game? Strewn about? Clean, folded laundry? Not any more!
My tactic is to keep all doors shut and preferably locked, but I seem to be the sole member of this household who thinks this way.
My sister and I were laughing about all the cool toys from decades past that have been deemed dangerous and pulled from the market. Remember Johnny Jump Up? Walkers that actually walked?
“All those idiot mothers who left their kids in walkers next to stairways,” my sister lamented, shaking her head. I immediately came to the defense of idiot mothers everywhere. In fact they are not idiots at all – they simply have older children.
When Tim was a baby I could have invited The Today Show to shoot a segment on child-proofing your home. So uncomplicated when the ratio of adults to kids is 2:1; not so simple when the ratio is 4:2 and the older ones have free run of most of the house. For every door I shut and lock, a game gets left out, a drawer left opened, or – worst of all – a screen door left unlatched.
Yesterday was nothing spectacular, but the repetitive, seemingly pointless efforts of constantly! constantly! constantly! picking up the same messes simply got to me.
John had two near misses of the bathroom variety. Ainsley got her hot little hands on the foil – again. Our babysitter called with a conflict tomorrow. While we were talking, I noticed smoke billowing out of the oven. I doused the six inch flame with a cup of coffee. I tried to drum up a new plan for dinner.
I found Pit cards flung about the boys’ room and toothpaste and tooth brushes littering the hallway. Ainsley walked out of my bedroom carrying an IPod. I surveyed the rest of the damage. She had pilfered through my nightstand and emptied a bag or two of hand-me-downs.
As my agitation grew, I heard John playing with his drill. Rummm! Rummm! This is technically a toy drill, but it actually drills, as in it makes real holes. Dave called with Cub Scout information that required phone calls on my part. I still had no plan for dinner. Tim suddenly remembered he had an essay to write. I felt like the ball in a pinball machine.
I began to clean up and found myself stuffing drawers with angry shoves, closing them with a bang, stomping off to the next mess, slamming doors in between. In the middle of my stew, I spotted someone’s church clothes crumpled in ball on a chair.
When we arrived home, my instructions had been clear – hang up your clothes.
My slow boil instantly dialed up a notch or two. In fact, I was nothing short of enraged. The baby is the baby, but the big guys? No excuse. No quarter.
I bit – I bit hard – I bit everyone.
What followed was just as inevitable as the messes – overwhelming regret. I hate myself for being this way. I hate that I can’t seem to channel my frustration into cooperation. Most of all I hate that my children so often see my bite.
I tell myself that somehow the mess gets cleaned up everyday. I remind myself that the older boys – while not apt to take the initiative to clean up – really do everything I ask them to do and with reasonably good attitudes. I point out that Ainsley’s messy stage won’t last forever.
Somehow all this – true and reasonable though it is – never seems to stop a rant in progress.
I don’t know why tonight was different, but I said, “Enough!” I am done letting my temper get the best of me. Like a drunk who wakes up so disgusted he is motivated to quit, I am ready to be done with the chronic pain my foul temper causes me and everyone else.
I have a plan – a humble plan, but a plan nonetheless. I’ll share it later.
Most of my small readership consists of dear friends and relatives. This morning I ask for your prayers.