She walked off the bus first. She is the baby, employee C, and a big girl in kindergarten. It is always this way; her two sisters(employees A and B) holding up the rear, picking up the lunch bag she forgot in the seat. Her head is hung low. I think there may be a smile underneath that grin; she is too far away to tell. I am waiting on the front steps, like I do everyday. This is my big moment. It will set the tone for the rest of the evening. Sometimes, I wish I had more wiggle room with their emotions. I get one chance, to navigate their mood, adjust my mood, and try to proceed forward. But the reality is, those first few minutes off the bus, when they adjust to the home, is the climax of their day. Everything else is the falling action. It is at this turning point, I cross my fingers, hoping all three employees will be smiling. I always smile when I see employee C. The oversized, big white sweater, colorful tube socks,and her basketball shorts peaking out from underneath her Catholic, school girl jumper. She is marching to her own drum beat. Regrettably, my smile does not last long. I know where this is headed.
It all starts with the proverbial whine. She looks up at me, and says, "Mummy, the big boys at school said something mean to me!", as she wipes her nose, rubs her eyes, and throws the back pack on the ground. There has not even been a hello. I try to display a big, happy smile, say hello, and tell her how adorable she is, but I am waylaid by A and B, who also have 10 different things, they need to tell me, that they need to do for the next day. "Wait, this is not at all how I planned it". I stand there, with a deer in the head lights kind of face, and turn around to chase after C, who has run in the door. I see her as she throws herself on the sofa, and says, "This is my worst day, ever!".
I look at her for a few seconds, trying to gather the right approach for this moment. Do I coddle her? Do I just listen? Do I act silly and try to get her to forget about it? How do I keep the other girls busy for a minute, or two, so I can give her my undivided attention? All these thoughts, and more, in those two seconds. I opt for sending A downstairs to play piano, send B into the kitchen to make a snack. "Okay, now I should have at least 90 seconds of no Mummying", I say to myself.
I walk with hesitancy into the living room, not exactly sure of the approach that I am about to take. For me, this is the most difficult parenting skill: the little things. I think to myself that it is never the big stuff that I have trouble navigating, it is the mundane decisions that perplex me. There are too many choices, and too many philosophies. Every parenting book has a their own version. This is what I do. I approach her, I pick her up and put her on my lap. I listen as she tells me about the 8th grader, who said she looked liked she was dead, while she and her friends were in the lunch line. She explains to me, how her little friend Kira, confronted the boy by saying, "you look like a big, fat, meatball". This was a six year old being mean. Sounds like a good friend to me. I try not to laugh, but I am confused about why the death comment has upset her. She looks cute and perky to me. She tells me this, "My tongue was not hanging out, and my eyes were open". Big crocodile tears stream down her face. I attempt some words of wisdom; at this point, no words will comfort her.
My next thought: I offer her ice cream. This is a common Italian parenting strategy. Anything and everything can be solved vis a vie the stomach. It is worth a try, right? She gobbles down the bowl of chocolate chip cookie dough ice cream, while being polite enough to offer me a few cookie dough clumps. God, I love that she understands the concept of sharing the clumps. Things, appear to be headed in a better direction, so I send her upstairs to change. Unfortunately, the next time I see her, she is crying even harder, and to the point of uncontrolled weeping.
BING! BING! BING! BING! Finally, I get it. She is so tired, she is going to collapse. Not that this discovery will please her. Believe me, a six year old who needs a nap is worse than the two year old. They have better manipulation skills. And, they have had four extra years of figuring out your quirks. I lay her down on the bed, get her "e e"(blanket), cover her up, and place my arms around her. She loves to hear me sing, so I do my version of "Mommy's Gonna Buy You A Diamond Ring", while I run my fingers through her long, silky curls. Inevitably, in 5 minutes, she is fast asleep. Her eyelashes look so long, her lips are sucking on the air, and her warm breath brushes by my cheek.
In 15 minutes, I went from smiling, concerned, stressed, to smiling again. Kids will do that to you. In the end, it is the ability to be resilient that saved me, going with the organic flow (I learned this from my blogging friends). No words of wisdom were required, and thank God, because I had none to offer. Before the troops arrived home, I had planned a fun filled evening of riding bikes, swinging on the swings at the playground, and a walk to eat dinner in our neighborhood. It was a perfect plan. Hard to imagine it would be a flop. Why would anyone refuse it? Alas, there is a brilliant saying, "if it can go wrong, it will". That was the theme of my afternoon.
Life comes at us fast, with curve balls and strikes. The only way to cope with it: a good sleep. A pleasure, that I need as I write this. I want the same luxury. When the world is crashing in on me, and I start to cry; I don't need a drink, I don't need a friend to talk to, I don't need a bowl of ice cream, or a cigarette. What I need is: someone to put me to bed, tuck in the covers, and sing me to sleep. Parenting reminds me, that life does not have to be complicated. After all, it was Dr. Seuss that said, “Sometimes the questions are complicated, and the answers are simple”.
Do you complicate your life when the answer is simple?