I’d like to go back to a day several months ago when I was in the zone. I was buzzing about the house, moving as if my feet weren’t touching the ground, appendages holding forty objects, although there’s only really room for about three. But when you’re in the zone, none of the objects fall or even move because your speed and positioning is so perfect that nothing can tip or create imbalances. There is nothing that cannot be accomplished, and there is no number at the bottom of the list that limits you to what you will finish—AS LONG AS the kids keep playing nicely in the other room. It’s hard to tell if you get that groove because of some external stimulus or because you feel that something in the universe is lined up in such a way that you know you will not have this opportunity again for a long time, maybe months, maybe years. So you become this superhuman stay at home mom, this robotic, multi-tasking machine whose clarity is beyond anything Ghandi himself could duplicate. If you were in deep meditation at the top of some mountain in Bali, with only a cloth about you, cinder ashes on your brow and the vow of silence and chastity, it would not be as clear the list of items clicking through your mind. The ability to finish tasks left by the wayside for months parallels the ease with which you used to put on your make-up in the car, on the way to that fabulous job you used to have.
The point is that these moments don’t come very often, and I find if they last more than 30 minutes, my intensity begins to escalate, the hum of my speed buzzes more loudly in my ears. I become less aware of things around me that I usually notice, the air speed quickly and coolly blows through my hair until I hear from my son’s bedroom—“Could you poke his eyes out please?”
Suddenly, my fancy wind-hair flops flatly to my ears, the hum quiets, my list begins to fade from my internal hard drive so that I am having trouble seeing it, as I decide whether I should address the comment or not? My super powers fade, and I feel myself transform into Every Mom once again. Should I keep going until the list is complete—before I lose it? Or have we reached the part of the program where my children begin to beat each other in weird ways, and I’ll still be responsible for the outcome? Were they kidding? Is that really funny? I’m gonna say “no”, but you really should ask for context before assuming a motivation, right??? Ugh. The hum stalls and quits like a broken engine. I decide to investigate. I feel like frieking Sid the Science Kid, investigate, explore, sing… you know the one. My conscience becomes louder than the speed of my success. I sit and listen for a minute and realize I heard correctly. There is, in fact, an eye removal going on in my older son’s room. I yell back, working hard to sound only interested and not accusatory. It’s important for me to remember to always keep that tunnel of communication as clear as possible. Only friek out if it’s necessary, Christine—ask questions, listen and be respectful. So I do. “What’s going on back there? Whose eyes are we poking out?” Add that to the list of things I never thought I’d hear myself say.
Alas, my six year old is always eager to explain his position in life. He’s used to having to do so. There’s a lot to explain. I always have a lot of questions, and I’m usually more confused after I ask than I was before, and this usually frustrates me–more. I’ve never met anyone in my life who could use such meaningful gestures, intelligent words and still provide less clarity than if I had simply asked him to say “gaba suba frambi”. It’s a slippery slope. And although I have several years of experience at this, I still do it time and time again.
“This man here.” I’m assuming there is no real man, but I’ve learned these seemingly obvious assumptions are dangerous. Act calm and think outside the box. They could have, in fact, stolen a man from his walk outside our home. It is possible and therefore, plausible, that there is a man in their room, quietly awaiting his eyes being poked out. Maybe he hasn’t had time to ask the appropriate questions either. But probably there is no man…
“Why are you poking his eyes out?” I ask as my step quickens towards their room. These conversations start while I am far from their room in order not to waste a minute while I walk towards them, all the while calculating if running should begin at any moment. The stealth and flexibility of the FBI was learned from a stay at home mom, I am quite sure.
He replies, “Because he stole a kid from his mommy.”
“And why are you asking your little brother to poke his eyes out?” This seemed logical to me in the moment. Why have your brother do the dirty work? I’m always curious how he decides which deeds should be performed himself and which need to be handed out as tasks to those around him, especially his little brother, who will gleefully perform in order to remain the “right hand man” on the team.
“Because he is helping me.” Why didn’t I think of that? See, more questions. I peek into the room to find that the “man” is plastic and very small. The good news is that his eyes would be hard to expel from his body. The bad news is that I am only confident that the two of them can take on a man of a 3 inch stature or less. Here’s hoping the little people don’t mess with my kids.
So I realize we had talked about people stealing children from their parents on our last vacation because I have lost my children more than a couple times now, and it’s getting embarrassing. I’m a stay at home mom who knows my children’s needs before they speak them. I know what makes them sad, happy, scared and how to solve any of those problems in a quick and sometimes mediocre but somewhat effective manner. But I can’t keep the little buggers from leaving my line of sight in large places, like say, Sea World or a dairy farm. Okay, first problem solved—why eyes are being poked out. But I swear I have no idea why we would need to poke his eyes out? I truly can’t remember using that threat at anytime. In fact, I really try to veer away from physically repellent ideas like eye poking because they seem, well, inhumane. I may have threatened to hang them by their toenails a couple times, but everyone knows that’s just in good fun and if it becomes necessary to follow through at some point—they lose only–toenails. Those grow back fairly easily. And I have been known to use TV time to get other things done, but I don’t think Nickelodeon has done any specials on Nazi Germany lately. I am horrified at a deep level. However, I find that being horrified by the capability of your children to do things you were not expecting, were not prepared for, do not think is appropriate or in any way acceptable is only counter-productive. The point of this is that we all are humans, given the capacity to think and explore the world around and within us. There are reasons that people think of the absurd, the funny, the exceptional and the perverse. It lies within us, even at a young age. And most of the time, a child really doesn’t know why they thought of something, nor do they understand that it’s right or wrong. They are playing with a concept, like kidnapping and finding consequences for the action I explained as very wrong. In a way, I wonder if my son was trying to find a way to punish someone, or find out how someone might be punished for a crime like stealing him, for instance. And when I thought about it in that context, poking out eyes seemed rather kind. I could think of a lot worse to do to said man, in less than ten seconds. Not only that, but he was role-playing the situation with his little brother, who worships him. Thanks to the eye poking incident to the small toy man, who we thank graciously for his contribution to my children’s ultimate safety, my younger son is thinking about kidnapping and possibly finding a way to conceptualize it himself. I started thinking that wasn’t all bad. In fact, there were more than a few positives. I stepped back into the hall and listened for a minute more. And I realized a big thing had just happened here. Something monumental that we had been hoping for, well, any parent hopes for all their lives. My son had said “Thank you” of his own accord, for no reason other than to be kind and without me having to remind him. I really think the context of his hideous deed should not diminish the parental pride I feel knowing that my son said “Thank you” to his brother, no less. And I am so proud. One manner down, 750,223 to go! And as for the trick that all children should learn… At the end of the day, anything followed by a please really loses all power other than the word, PLEASE. Can I steal Bobby’s bike, PLEASE? Yes, yes you can. And thank you for using your manners!