There’s this thing about a mother’s intuition. We’re supposed to listen to it right?
Not too long ago, a new family moved into JCrewville. They are young with two cute kids. I’ve talked to the mother several times. She seems sweet and church-going. I’ve been careful to watch my language around her.
Other than a little small talk however, I haven’t made the best neighborly effort. We haven’t had them over for dinner or brought them a pie. I’ve felt guilty about this.
So when my older daughter wanted to have their son, Mason, over for a play date, it was probably the guilt that got the better of me. Mason is a sweet four year-old with a round face, freckles and auburn hair. Whenever we walk by, he stands at the window and waves furiously. He sooo wants to hang with my daughters.
On this particular day, I was a bit more tired than usual. I was trying to diet (again) and my blood sugar was low. I was jittery and cranky. Add that to my daily caffeine overdose, the upcoming dinner-making hour, and you have the beginnings of a perfect storm. I should have said “no” more firmly, but the whining wore me down.
“Pleeeeese, Mom” she begged, “Please, can Mason come over?”
“Honey, it’s just not a good day,” I countered, wobbly. “I don’t feel good, and I need to clean up and make dinner. I can’t really keep an eye on Mason right now.”
“Oh Mommy, I’ll watch him, I promise.You won’t have to watch him at all…pleeeeease?”
This went back and forth for a while until I caved. I was tired, worn down, and frankly, thought maybe this could count as a welcoming, neighborly sort of thing.
When I called to invite Mason, his mom was down-right elated. Clearly, she needed a break. “Thank you, thank you” she kept saying gratefully as she stood on my porch, “I’m just going to go for a quick run, if that’s okay – oh, thank you so much for having him”.
“No problem, take your time” I smiled back neighborly. I shut the door and turned Mason over to my daughter Elizabeth.
All went well, for the first couple of minutes, than the “wanting” began. Mason wanted a snack. Mason wanted to use the bathroom. Mason wanted to watch a movie. Elizabeth came to me for all of this and I started simmering. I was growing increasingly shaky and behind schedule. I needed them out of the house. I told them to go outside even though it was a cold March day, piles of half-melted snow dotting the muddy backyard.
They went outside, and I began trying to get dinner started. Now, seriously shaking and running behind on things, I tried to keep an eye on them, but I was scattered and distracted. I don’t know how much time elapsed before I noticed they were missing.
“Elizabeth!!!!” I yelled out. No answer. “ELIZABETH!! Where are you???!!” I yelled out. Nothing. I started to panic. What if I had lost the new neighbor boy?
I couldn’t see them out the back windows, so I went out the front door, unknowingly leaving it ajar. As I turned the corner to the back yard, I spotted them. Elizabeth had the garden hose running in the 30 degree March air. She was squirting the icy water on Mason’s bare feet and up his pant legs. She was trying to wash the three-inches of mud caked up to the thighs of his pants. He just stood there shivering in the foggy vapor, one little bare foot in a pile of snow. Elizabeth had thick, dark mud up to her thighs and was barefoot as well.
I completely snapped.
“ELIZABETH, What the ????? Get inside, NOW!!!” I hissed. Mason jumped, wide-eyed and confused. I scooped him up (gently) by the armpits, took him inside, stripped off his jeans and told him evenly to “go play, Elizabeth will be with you in a minute”. He scurried off in his Scooby Do underwear.
I grabbed Elizabeth by the arm, yanked her inside and wrestled her long, heavy eight-year old body onto the kitchen counter. I was incensed and out of control. She started sniveling.
“DAMMIT!!!” I yelled as I put her muddy feet in the sink, “Do you see why I DID NOT WANT MASON OVER HERE??!!, I seethed uncontrollably. “I told you I did NOT WANT TO BABYSIT MASON right now!! We should NOT HAVE INVITED HIM. I have too much to do!! This is UNACCEPT—-“
“Hello?” I hear behind me. Shit.
I turned around and there she was, in my kitchen. Obviously, I hadn’t heard her knock. But there was no way she did not hear me. Her little boy was all alone in the living room in his Scooby undies, probably climbing up an un-bolted bookshelf or something.
“Oh, hiiiii.” I said. Shit. Shit. Shit. “Um, just having a bad mommy moment” I stuttered. “I, um, was trying to —“
“Oh that’s okay”, she cut me off swiftly and gently without looking me in the eye. “Come on, Mason, let’s go home now!” She sang out. She swooped up her half-naked son and in one single movement, gathered his muddy pants and wet shoes and said, “Thank you, again, for having him.” She smiled quickly and before I could say more, she ran out the door with Mason balanced on her hip, his bare feet flopping as she sprinted across the street.
Yeah, my mother’s intuition tells me a pie would have been a better call.
Postscript: Happy Mother’s Day to my Mom – who laughs with me about so many things – especially the crazy moments of motherhood. Could it be that she’s had a few as well?