My three year old experienced a significant personal setback earlier today. His special treat after a swimming lesson was a baggie of rainbow goldfish, perhaps his favorite food of all time. As we braved the frozen hellscape the weather forecasters referred to as a wintry mix, he was engaged in what amounts to gleeful multitasking for young boys. While munching his brightly hued salty snacks he was pelting dad with ice rocks and splashing through each and every puddle in his path.
As he became fully engrossed in demolishing a rather deep pop-up pond on the sidewalk, he neglected to notice the precarious position of his goldfish and they escaped the confines of the baggie and returned to the sea. A great horrified howl arose behind me and I saw the smiling little piscine shapes bloating in the cold dirty water. He cried bitter tears of great suffering and loss as if there were no consolation for his disintegrating snacks.
It was a bittersweet moment and it is easy to laugh a little at his plight. We’ve all lost an ice cream cone in the dirt or seen our freshly jellied toast land delicious side down on the floor. Yet, his pain was intense and very real. For a few moments he grieved with such profound sadness. There was no future. Everything was gone.
Despite his disbelief, there was another serving of goldfish waiting at home. Once we ditched our boots and warmed our hands he had a small bowlful to feast upon. With renewed joy he shoveled them into his gullet moments after we returned.
His predicament provokes comparison to my own horror when faced with setbacks and challenges. There are times when my suffering is very real and I shed tears and see no light in the darkness. This is the end. This failure is the ultimate failure. All possibility has been crushed. This loss ends everything.
I’ve learned the only answer is to stand up, dust myself off and move on. There is an ample supply of goldfish waiting in the cupboard. I can’t save those who drowned in the puddle, but I can accept their loss, grieve for the snack that could have been and make my way back home.
The following is based on a true incident. This could be your life. It might be mine, but if you have kids it’s happened to you.
A paralyzing silence permeates the house. It’s silent treatment time for the grownups. The weekend has been looong and tensions are running high. A couple of hours ago the teen and the tween refused to go to bed. The toddler and the baby were howling in solidarity.
Mom and dad had words. Anger can be a drug and perhaps we both overindulged. Our simmering cold war escalated quickly. The kids who could walk sprinted upstairs and the baby knew silence was the winning strategy. Go team!
Nothing like a little drama on Sunday night to cap off two days of juggling playdates, swim practice, spills, errands, dirty diapers and finding the goddamn TV remote for the 17th time. The adults can’t wait to get back to the comparatively relaxing pace of the 9-5. We’ve both retreated to our corners, but the bitterness remains.
Relationships are hard. Kids make them harder and long weekends can be brutal. All either of us want is a little quiet without whining, squabbling, crying or any other soul sucking time consuming interruptions. You’re never off the clock. It’s the little things that kill marriages and relationships. Everyone needs to be themselves and stop being parents. Life becomes a pitched battle over minutes of free time and nobody gets what they want. Compromise is the only way to avoid a neverending argument.
It is easy so see the other person as the enemy in this situation. Their very existence which once was the whole reason you fell in love and wanted to live with them has now become an assault. Their face, their voice, their habits are all an attack. It is friendly fire masking malice and evil intent.
A few extra minutes at the gym or spent watching tv or getting home late while the other is struggling with the kids is grounds for rage and hostility. Everything seems a capital crime committed brazenly with a giant middle finger in added defiance.
And the truth is, it’s not. We want our time. We want our lives. We want a few seconds to read, maybe shower, maybe just go to the bathroom in silence. And we don’t get it. Someone wants something or another one demands something else. Every opportunity for a moment of peace is shattered and stolen by tiny grasping hands and demanding young voices.
So we turn on one another. It must be their fault because they got extra time sleeping or snuck off for the entire morning or dared to be themselves for one goddamn minute.
But that’s why we like them, why we love them, because they like to sleep in or go to the gym or read a lot or listen to music or eat like a king. We love them because they are funny, wonderful, creative, sexy, adults who have goddamn children and just need a fucking minute alone.