“Let’s go for a walk,” I said to my freshly awoken daughter.
“Okay,” her boots slipped on over the jeans she slept in.
The door opened quietly, closed quietly… one long finger held over my lips… “shhhhhhh…”
The morning was OURS. The singing birds, the cloudless sky.
“Reach your hands over your head, stretch! Take a big breath in and FILL your body with all this fresh air!”
Our shadows danced next to each other. She giggled. I breathed in ALL in.
It was magic.
He’s barefoot, rubbing his eyes.
“What are you guys doing?”
Going for a walk with one child is enriching and refreshing. Going with two?
But at this point, do I have an option? I could send him back inside where he’ll cry and wake the baby up and be scarred for the rest of his life and only dredge March 25th, 2014 up twenty years from now when his therapist puts down his pencil and asks, “Now. Don’t you think it’s time we addressed your Middle Child issues?”
“Get your boots on, buddy!”
“Don’t leave me.”
“I won’t, but I DO have to go to work… so… hurry.”
“But you’ll leave me.”
“But I don’t -”
“Buddy. Choose. I only have a few minutes, so I DO have to start walking. If you’re going to come, hurry and get your boots on.”
“Don’t leave -”
“I won’t leave.”
“But I don’t have time for socks.”
“Okay, that’s fine. I’m going to start walking, and you can make your own choice. You’re welcome to come if you want. Or stay with Daddy.”
“I don’t want to stay with Daddy!”
I realize socks matter. I do. But he never seems to care about socks until there’s really no time for socks. I imagine our house burning down and Trenton tugging on my robe, “Um, I need socks…”
The kid isn’t exactly known for consistently wearing undergarments of ANY kind, unless he’s wearing them on his head.
“Your choice, buddy,” I say and start walking.
The screen opens, slams.
The screen opens again after a few seconds, slams. The boy comes running down the driveway in his boots.
“I will ride my BIKE!”
“This morning, we are walking,” I say, unwilling to start the argument of “if he gets a bike, why can’t I get a bike?” and “my legs are tired of pedaling” and “my bike is stuck” and “GET OUT OF THE MIDDLE OF THE ROAD!”
“But I want to ride.”
“You don’t have to walk this morning, you can stay and help Daddy make breakfast.”
Tears. Shoulders slumping.
Tick tock, tick tock.
“I don’t want to STAY.”
“Awesome, then let’s go!”
“I want to ride!”
“We are walking. You can make a choice.”
Trenton hates it when I say that.
Within 49 seconds, he’s stopped crying and is full on running, gleefully.
We reach the stop sign (a quarter of a mile -maybe -from our house). I start making my way around, Lacy takes a different way. I try calling out to her. Trenton falls into the gravel and screams.
The magic oxygen I inhaled on my lawn has been completely usurped in my efforts to simply endure.
But then she slows down.
Hands in pockets, sighing.
“Come on, Lacy!” I cheerfully coax her, “Let’s get some oxygen in our lungs! Breathe in and fill them up like a balloon! Swing your arms! Let them feel the oxygen too!”
She deliberately stiffens them next to her side.
“Let your arms swing,” I show my daughter by example how good it feels to let loose.
“Trent, don’t run. You’ll fall again.”
“Can I take a short cut through the short cut?” Trenton asks -wanting to know if he can plow through two of our neighbor’s personal driveways on his way back to our own.
“No,” I said, “We just have to make it home. I have work. Lacy! Come on!”
“Can I just swing ONE arm and use the other to hold my pants up?”
And in one swift questions, she summed up my entire life.
One arm swinging, the other holding my dignity together.