Some days just don’t go as smoothly as others. Part of anyone’s story is our ‘grace under fire’. Unfortunately that phrase is not necessarily an accurate way to describe how I react to the negative stimulus of people around me. Yesterday, issues and negativity reigned, and the carnage of socks just put me over the edge.
This week contained several days of pure chaos. Now, in spite of being dubbed by a friend as ‘the person with the highest tolerance for chaos’ of anyone she knew, the pandemonium became just too much for me. Never a person with accolades for her patience, I lost mine several times yesterday. Not only did I have two granddaughters running around getting into all kinds of scrapes in between messy projects we did together, but I had their teething baby sister, normally smiley and easy going, unhappy. Plus two barking dogs. The oldest girl walked into the house and immediately took off her socks. “Won’t your feet be cold?” “No.” I turned around and the middle child copied.
When the baby was happy for a minute I went to round up the socks and discovered why everything had been quiet for two minutes. (empty chocolate wrappers in the corner.) I bent down with the now crying again, (heavy!) baby in my arms and scooped up a sock from the floor, one from under a table and one on the chair (only 3?) and stuffed them into my pocket. Before I could continue my search and rescue, I got asked to look at the thermostat in the dining room. Did I mention the HVAC system was not working correctly so there were two men constantly asking me questions as they tried to fix it? And did I say that all this activity was happening, including the crying baby, to the backdrop of three men running noisy electrical equipment outside, trying to do a spring cleanup of the yard and get rid of all the dead tree branches?
I finally got the girls playing checkers, and jammed a bite of burnt toast into my mouth as I fed the baby who finally stopped crying to eat (it was about 11am, I had yet to work my breakfast into the schedule). Minutes before the ‘big’ girls started pulling each other’s hair (literally) about the checkers game, my partner opened the his office door and said, “I’m on the phone. Can you keep it down out here, or go somewhere else?”
I said, “No.”
The middle girl started washing the dishes. (translation: spraying water everywhere in the kitchen and soaping up the china.) I came over with the baby and turned the water lower (we can’t waste this!) just as a heavy soup bowl slipped from her hands, bounced on my broken toe and smashed into too many pieces to glue, onto the floor.
We moved outside.
As much as I tried, neither girl saw the need to put their socks back on before they put on their sneakers. “She doesn’t have them, and we at least have sneakers that don’t need socks!” they pointed out. (The baby lost her socks a long time ago, and I never even noticed.)
The spring sun was too hot for the baby. Her hat kept slipping off. I didn’t want her to get sunburned. The patio umbrella hid, buried somewhere in the garage and in any case, too heavy for me to carry by myself.
The big girls started playing soccer. There was a minor skirmish over who kicks the ball, how the ball should be kicked, and in which direction. I joined the game to help it progress, and the oldest girl promptly ran onto my broken toe. I sucked in my breath and thought, what are the odds she would crush only that toe?
I tried to laugh it off. I wonder how dirty and bloody my sock is now? Suddenly I remembered, when I was a new young mother, an old public service announcement would pop into my head at times like this. Right in the middle of a show, the picture went to a bullseye and the TV emitted a shrill, ear piercing, high pitch tone. A voice intoned –‘This is a test. For the next 60 seconds this station will conduct a test of the emergency broadcast system. BEEEEEP. If this had been an actual emergency you would be instructed what to do next, but this is only a test.
This was a test. Without instructions I had to figure out how to keep my cool and still give my granddaughters the individual love, attention and nudges to growth they needed in facing these every day issues. I quickly reviewed my score. Not so great, really. Ok, I really did not say anything when my broken toe got stepped on, or when the dishwasher broke the bowl on my toe. She apologized right away, and I said that’s what matters, it was an accident. But I barked at the two big girls several times, over this or that, when I could have kept my temper in check and explained more nicely – or even just let something ride. In my mind I thought about all the instructions I had given them – don’t use so much water, clean up the messy project, be careful don’t rip the checker board box, don’t sneak-eat chocolate behind the chair in the living room. Little things really, hardly worth mentioning. If you step on it, it will break… Should I not try harder to set up the environment so they learn those rules without having to be constantly corrected? Or let them realize the consequences…broken toys, hurt feelings, scraped knees and bumped heads? Broken toes.
Time’s up! –Their Daddy arrived. The day is over. A mad scramble ensues to gather all their things.
As they backed out of the driveway, I reached into my pocket and found three socks.
© Jane F. Collen April 10, 2021
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