…And Everything Nice
My little girl, clad in her Sunday’s best, spins proudly in circles in front of the mirror like a graceful ballerina and pauses occasionally to smile contentedly at herself. Not feeling my eyes admire her confidence and encourage her self-esteem, she steals kisses from her reflection. Her hair, neatly corn-rowed and dangling with beads, shows none of the signs of struggle that left us both in tears last night. Her shoes, with the ever so slight, but so significant, heels tip-tap rhythmically on the pine floors. She’s happy, and I need to immortalize the image by snapping a few pictures. I quickly run to the basement to retrieve the camera, and enter the living room sure to capture the cutest picture ever. This is the epitome of “sugar and spice.”
“All right, Baby. Smile for Mommy. Say ‘Cheese.’”
Surely, I didn’t hear that. Let me try this again.
“I said say ‘CHEESE!’”
“POOPY!” She giggles heartily, grabs the bottom of her dress, turns around, and shakes playfully at me.
“No, Baby. Put your dress down! Ladies don’t do THAT! Let Mommy get your picture.”
“POOPY!” She giggles again. This time, though, she lays face down on the floor, simulating jumping jacks.
“Look, Mommy. I’m exercising.” She laughs at her own silliness, and I toss the camera onto the couch, frustrated that I’ve lost the shot.
The dog, knowing an opportunity for a rub down when he sees one, plops down next to her on the floor. He places a paw gently on her back, and she jumps up ready to play. Her leg flies up, eager to mount the dog like a pony, and I scream, “No, that’s not a horse! Get down!”
“Giddy up, horsey!” She sings as I pull her off the scared dog.
As I brush dog fur from her tights, she rubs my face. “I’m sorry, Mommy. I love you.” Her lips perfectly puckered for a kiss melt away much of my frustration, and I lean in trying to give her my forehead. She grabs my face hard forcing my lips to land squarely on hers.
“Not on the lips!”I jerk backwards, and she laughs. I kiss her on the cheek, trying to ensure that she knows that I love her too, and force her to sit on the bed with her sister, who is already engrossed in an episode of Dragon Tales, while I reapply my smudged lipstick and turn off all the lights before we head out to church.
My husband goes to take out the trash and warm up the car. As I lean in toward the mirror to get the best lighting, I hear a pop, then a scream from my oldest daughter, and finally the obligatory, “I’m sorry, Sister.” I burst into the bedroom, and my youngest is rubbing her sister’s head affectionately with one hand and clutching a flute tightly with the other hand. Tears are streaming down her sister’s face, and I instantly know all I need to know.
“You are going into time out, Young Lady.” I pull her hard to the corner of the bathroom as I finish applying my makeup and move systematically throughout the house picking up errant toys and turning off lights. As I dump an armload of toys into the box, my oldest wraps her body around my legs. “She hit me with the flute, Mommy.”
“I know, Baby.”
“We don’t hit people, Mommy.”
“I know, Baby. That’s why she’s in time out.” I plant a kiss on her forehead and hug her tightly for one second too long before I hear splashing in the bathroom. “What are you doing?” I yell as I peel her body from the sink.
“I’m thirsty,” matter-of-factly falls from her lips, as water cascades down the front of her dress. I drag her to her bedroom, keeping one hand tightly around her arm, while the other searches through her dresser for a dress that doesn’t need to be ironed. Of course, the only one I can find is green and brown, which clashes tackily with the pink and white beads in her hair. I’m unbuttoning, stripping, redressing, and zipping when my husband bounds through the back door, “What’s taking so long?”
“Your daughter!” I yell. He stands at the bedroom door, seeing the trail of water from the bathroom, understands completely and takes our oldest to the car.
“What’s the matter with you today, huh?” I question.
“I’m a busy body, Mommy.”
“Do you need some attention or something?”
She shakes her head in approval and throws her arms up in the air. I pick her up and look into her eyes. “Are you going to behave in church?” I half ask, half beg.
She gently places her head on my shoulder and hugs me tightly. I’m neither comforted nor pleased by this gesture, for she hasn’t really answered me, but I resolve to take my chances and pray like mothers throughout history have prayed.
Lord, first of all, thank you for my children, but I am asking you to PLEASE give me the strength not to lose my mind or my religion. I need you right now.
I strap her in the car seat and slam my door. “You okay, Babe?” My husband questions. I shoot him a what-do-you-think look, and he grabs my hand, kisses it, and pulls out of the garage.