Putting our ice creams together.
You know how they say that just when you figure out why your kids are acting a certain way, they’ll stop acting that way and you’ll have something new to figure out all over again? That’s our biggest issue right now. For the first time in a long time, nothing sucks. Life around here has suddenly gotten exponentially easier, out of the freakin blue. And it’s kind of really strange getting used to.
For a while there, family life was becoming incredibly difficult to manage. Each one of our kids was wreaking havoc on our home in their own number of ways; pushing us to be better parents in everything that they did to test us. Our marriage went through a real rough patch there after Spencer’s accident (which I’m only confident enough to talk openly about now because it is SO much better). And because all of us were driving each other a little nutty, it was hard to figure out if what we needed was more quality time together or a little bit of time apart. When you’re a family, ‘together’ always wins. But making it happen was a new challenge altogether.
Spencer and I really struggled to figure out how we were going to up the amount of time we all spent together as a family, at the same time we were deciding to make it a bigger priority for us to individually spend one-on-one time with each of the kids alone, on top of continuing to make time for us to work on our romantic relationship, without cutting ourselves off from what little “me” time we were left with at the end of it all to pursue our personal interests. (Pant, pant…) I realize that sounds a little ambitious to take on all at once, but if you knew what kind of damage control we were dealing with, I think you’d understand. We even toyed with the idea of visiting a family councilor because for a little while, it felt like we were in over our heads. We have an incredible marriage, don’t get me wrong. But when you’ve got three kids at the other end of every mistake you make together, you just don’t fuck around when it comes to getting your shit straight. Y’know what I mean?
Then, kind of out of the blue, the winds died down and the clouds parted over us.
Scarlett suddenly learned to do something marginally resembling actual communication, so her temper tantrums have all but vanished into the shadow of this impenetrable force of happiness all the time. She’s finally jumped the developmental hurdle stopping her from being able to color quietly for five minutes without shoving a colored pencil up her nostril or throwing the bucket of crayons at her brother in a rage. She can even eat soup (SOUP!) on her own without spilling but a few, manageable drips. Get this: Matthew, the other day? AT A SALAD. Plus, he’s started meeting his friends (a brother-sister combo who live four houses down, and unlike us, have a swingset and a fenced in backyard) at their house to play every afternoon while I cook dinner in total peace. TOTAL, SCARLETT’S ASLEEP AND MATTHEW’S NOT EVEN HERE AND MARY’S ON THE PHONE, WANTING TO BE LEFT ALONE BECAUSE SHE’S ALREADY DONE HER CHORES ANYWAY PEACE.
The result is that when we’re all together and awake, we want to be. We really, really, run-to-my-arms-shouting-MOMMA!, “oh my Gosh, little buddy, you’ve been gone for an hour, Momma MISSED you!” want to be.
My mom called last week asking if for the first time, she and my dad could just take Scarlett for an over-nighter at their house for some one-on-one grandparent time. I LOVED the idea. We have some lovable kids, but Scarlett stands out as, hands down, the most openly affectionate child we have. Unfortunately because she falls in line as being not only the third of our children, but the fifth grandchild on one side of the family and the TENTH on the other, it was sort of understood that she’d probably get jipped out of having too much one-on-one time with much of anyone, like, ever.
Spence and I took the opportunity to do something with Mary and Matthew we never get to do because Scarlett’s too young to participate and too old to not run away or try to kill herself on something she doesn’t understand. We went bowling, and it was a blast. Matthew was a total crack up; Mary scored hilariously bad but STILL left asking if we could make bowling a monthly thing; and Spencer and I got to meet up with some friends afterward at a restaurant… A real, sit-down restaurant (without having to tend to any busted baby chins or spilled drinks or chicken being tossed into the booth behind us while we were distracted scolding our other two children, wrestling each other across the table -- which is basically what our last outing to a restaurant with Scarlett looked like) where we actually… you know, talked; chalking our rough patch off to each other as a funny, little thing of the past. Something we made it through.
Meanwhile, Scarlett was treated to a Texas Road House lunch, a small shopping spree and Matthew’s top-secret, special stash of Hot Wheels cars my mom keeps locked away for when he visits… and if I know my parents, probably a small drizzle of chocolate syrup in her bottle before bed.
Lord knows I’d hate to chance jinxing it, but dare I say? Making everyone (everyone) happy nowadays actually feels kind of effortless. Like maybe we’re not as entirely bad at this as we give ourselves credit for. After all, true love is like a fart. If you have to force it, it's probably shit. Sometimes though, it's just a really close call.