This morning I almost lost it.
Both my son and daughter were up early - this prevented a morning run as the running stroller only accommodates one. My wife had been up late with my son and I didn’t want to wake her until I had to leave. I was alone ... and the kids wouldn’t stop.
“Eeehhh!” my son sounds like a hybrid old man baby when he does this. He was in a mood where he did not want to be put down. The sound came out like an alarm clock every time he was put on the floor or left alone in his chair.
My daughter was dragging her Thomas the Tank Engine toy around the first floor. The MUSICAL one. The one that has permanently seared the Thomas MUSICAL theme across the top of the theme library in my brain. Sometimes, I admit, Thomas feels like a friend - this was not one of those times.
This was just the beginning. The two of them were off to a fabulous start. I was not.
I was trying to keep an eye on my email from work - lots of things going on - do some laundry (I was out of socks), pack a lunch, feed my kids and try to find a clean shirt. My kids were doing everything they could to prevent these activities from completing.
“Daddy! He took my toy!” my daughter whined every few minutes.
I’m afraid I didn’t sympathize much. I interceded only when it looked like trouble would escalate further.
I feel, when I’m caught between the kid's needs and a timed deadline, like a man running out of a fire and into a pool with pirana. My head just reels with frustration and I want so, so much, just to let it fly.
“But sweetheart, you asked me for Cheerios,” I pleaded with my daughter some time later, who was refusing to eat or get out of her pajamas and into school cloths. She was more interested in scooping her brother’s toys out of his hands.
“Eeehhh! Eeehh!” came his little siren of anger and bewilderment.
I looked up at the clock periodically and watched as my DROP-DEAD-LINE-IN-THE-SAND-CANT-GO-A-MINUTE-LATER-THAN-TO-BE-NO-MORE-THAN-TEN-MINUTES-LATE-TIME crept up and passed by.
When I next looked down my daughter was plucking the Cheerios out of her milk and trying to feed them to her stuffed bear.
“Okay,” I said and heard my voice start to get sharper, “More Cheerios for YOU please.”
I wanted to shout. Not at the kids per se - even when I’m frustrated, I know they’re just kids - but at the ceiling.
“How did I get here,” I asked myself in little less bewilderment than my son has when a toy is taken out of his hands, “What has happened to my life?!!!”
And I know as I say this internally that there have been tougher days. That today is a much tougher day for someone. That today may be one of the toughest days of someone’s life somewhere.
I thought about it. I accepted. I tried to make the best of it.
“Eh,” I said into the voice mail that I addressed to all my peers at work, “This is Dave. I’m... um ... running a little late. I can be reached by cell.”
I wrapped up as quickly as a could. I held it together. I didn’t yell. I may have threatened to pack broccoli as a lunch for my daughter if she didn’t eat her Cheerios - but that’s as far as it went.
Finally, we were ready. I woke my wife and got ready to leave.
“I love you Daddy,” my daughter had the nerve to say when I finally picked up my bag and made for the door, “Daddy, I love you.”
I looked down at her - that little cute face - and knew that God made kids really, really cute for a reason. I tousled her hair and blew her a kiss. I said goodbye to my son and my wife and fired up the car.
I stopped at my favorite shop for some strong coffee and put on City Folk morning on WFUV and let out some big sighs on the car ride in. I was on my way, a half hour late, but on my way. I felt better.
This morning I nearly lost it. I’m glad it was only nearly.