Just Keep Them Alive!

Our youngest child is on vacation, so it’s just me and the hubby at home now.  It doesn’t seem so long ago, when the kids were little, and I was expending lots of energy trying to keep up with them.  Here’s a story I wrote back in those noisier days… 

Seeking reprieve from a long, difficult week with the kids, I found refuge in the study and began blissfully tapping away on the computer keyboard.  It was Sunday, my husband was home, and he could have kid duty for a while.  After about thirty wondrous minutes of uninterrupted thought, an eerie feeling crept over me.  Something was wrong.  It was too quiet out there.  If I had heard screaming, I would have played deaf.  But to hear nothing… something was definitely wrong.  I ventured out of the study into the kid jungle.  I found my husband snoring on the couch in front of the TV. 

I don’t ask for much when I leave him in charge of the kids. 

Just keep them alive!  

I had to take a quick inventory.  “Matthew!” 

A muffled “What?” floated out from the bathroom.  

Good, the middle one—the wild one—is safe!  


“Yeah?”  The easy chair swiveled around and there was my oldest, right under my nose.  

Uh-oh, that leaves… “Stephanie!  Where is she?” 

“What’s up?” asked my husband as he started coming to. 

A clattering bang sounded from down the hallway.  

“You left her in the kitchen alone!” 

I darted in to find our two-year-old standing on a chair up against the pantry.  With a frenzied look of guilt, she shoved something back into the pantry and scurried to floor level.  She commenced screaming, her usual ploy to evoke pity after wrongdoing.  When I reached the pantry, I found an empty, overturned little glass bottle of Cracker Barrel pure maple syrup lodged in the crevice of a high shelf.  The thin, brown, sticky syrup was oozing through the wire shelving, glazing food items all the way down. 

“Oh, that’s OK,” I said.  “It could have been worse.” 

Then, as if in an out-of-body experience, I observed myself calmly fetching a dish cloth and beginning to wipe up the mess.  

Gee, I wonder if my crisis tolerance level increases in direct proportion to the number of kids I have. 

As I wiped off the graham cracker box, I recalled the day Matthew dumped a whole quart of pure maple syrup into the living room couch, saturating the cushions.  The big kicker was that the couch had just been cleaned.  

Why did we just have it cleaned?  The week before, the little rascal confiscated the honey bear from the pantry and squeezed it out all over that couch.  

Yes, it could have been worse. 

I picked up a sticky can of mushrooms, surprised that I had a can of mushrooms in there.  

Yeah, maybe I’m finally learning how to handle all this. 

My thoughts drifted to a few weeks earlier.  I handled it rather calmly the day after we got our carpets cleaned, when we found Stephanie holding an empty coffee can in the middle of the living room, surrounded by mounds of coffee grounds.            

Oh, well…I needed to vacuum anyway.  

I didn’t go nuts.  Just went for the vacuum cleaner. 

I recalled another time when our oldest was two years old.  After a rough, sleepless night with him, I made one of those brilliant, first-thing-in-the-morning decisions.  I let him crawl around the bedroom while I tried to get a few more precious moments of sleep.  I woke up in a fog, only to find him covered in bright red.  In one screaming leap, I reached him on the other side of the room.  I frantically held him up, searching for the wound.  Then I smelled lipstick.  Bright, red lipstick.  I looked down at the white carpeting, which was now filled with red drawings…all the way down the hallway.  I had my day’s work cut out for me. 

The paper wrapping on the shredded wheat in the pantry was saturated with syrup.  

Oh well, it’ll give it some flavor.  And yes, I did handle the coffee grounds incident a lot better than the lipstick day. 

I pulled out the bottom pantry shelf with gusto, reveling in the thought that perhaps I was finally getting a handle on this thing called motherhood.  

I do believe my tolerance level for crises is growing.   

I smiled and sopped up the remaining puddle of maple syrup.  

Who am I trying to kid?   

I enjoyed typing this story the first time…and was about to save it, when Stephanie walked into the study, reached up, and pressed the reset button on the computer, erasing everything. 

I went berserk.  

So much for my Increased Crisis Tolerance Level theory.


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