Monday began as days around here are wont to begin. Toilet, blinds, diaper, cups of milk while Mommy pulled out the remains of Sunday’s pancake mix and set about making breakfast. “May I watch?” Zachary asked.
“You know what, Zach? Not today. If you get on a chair to watch, Benjamin is going to want one, too.” Score one for Mommy. Not yet awake ten minutes and I had already made his face fall. Not content with that, I got angry with him for crying about it. “Fine. You bring a chair over and you can watch. But I’m not going to help you. You can’t watch every time. When Daddy is here, we have more time, but when it is just me, I have to get you breakfast and I don’t have time to be pulling chairs all over the kitchen.”
Zachary, all 25 pounds of him, tried to lug over one of our heavy wooden chairs. Now, he was crying in earnest. And I was annoyed in earnest. Some little voice inside of me realized the sweetness of his request, so I reached over, grabbed the chair, and pulled it over for him. Of course, Benjamin had to get up, too, and they pushed and shoved each other the whole time I was cooking.
Fast forward ten minutes to breakfast. Everyone was seated at the table, with my butt in the chair the boys had used to watch the magical transformation of liquid to pancake. The little voice inside of me was getting a little more air time, now that the masses had been fed. And it told me I had been a grade A, class one bitch. Zach had asked nicely, he had wanted to participate in making breakfast, and for no good reason, I had shot him down. “He’s three, you jerk,” the voice said. “You think maybe you could wait a year or two to make him feel like a nuisance?”
Like I said, Monday began as days around here are wont to begin. Toilet, blinds, diaper, cups of milk, Mommy feeling guilty because her kids deserve someone nicer. My kids drew the short end of the stick, ending up with a rather crappy mother. The next step is Mommy getting even more unpleasant because she feels so guilty.
But, this was where Monday was a little different. “I’m sorry, honey. I got frustrated, but you did not do anything wrong. I shouldn’t have yelled at you.” Silence, sucking on the milk straw. “Did it upset you that I got angry?”
“Yes,” Zachary said. “You hurt my feelings.”
“I am sorry, baby. Mommy was wrong to get angry. Of course I should have let you watch me make the pancakes.” All of a sudden, little Mr. Bright Eyes was back.
An hour and a half later, I was standing in front of a group of fifteen three- and four-year-olds. One of them was Zach. The rest were his partners-in-crime. I was the guest lecturer at P-xies Nursery School.
Zachary’s school has a nifty little tradition that each Monday is Letter Day. The children bring in an item starting with the letter of the day. Our item is usually related to Thomas: Cranky the Crane, Harold the Helicopter, Emily the green engine. We are learning to read steam-train style. This week was M. We brought in the little book about Mavis, who I believe is a cheeky young engine, but I am not sure since I totally tune out every time I am forced to read one of these books.
It’s a darned good thing that this was M day, because I was there to teach those children about Hanukkah. Yeah. ‘Cause I am just the person you want teaching your kid about religion. What I bet you did not realize – and what I did not realize until this week – is just how many M words there are in connection with Hanukkah. Miracle. Maccabee. Menorah. And it’s a good thing, too, because I am pretty lousy at lesson planning for three-year-olds. I lit the menorah and talked about Maccabees and taught them about miracles (not so easy) and read a book about latkes, which leads me to think I would have been OK had I come in last week on L day. Zachary identified the shamesh and giggled with Timmy, who had decided for the moment that Zach was his best friend.
Fast forward five hours. After nap found Zachary perched on a chair, helping me prep dinner. He turned bread into breadcrumbs by using the much-coveted food processor. He measured olive oil. He dumped in beans. He stirred.
Casserole completed and tucked in the fridge for later baking, we went into the living room. Benjamin, we knew, would be asleep for at least another hour. “What would you like to do now, honey? Play with your trains or make a picture?”
He stopped and contemplated a moment. Zachary contemplates like a statue by Rodin. “I want to make a picture.” I hesitated, not sure I had heard him correctly, because I thought I heard him choosing art over trains. “For you,” he added. And so he used his brother-free time to make me a Hanukkah gift. A rather abstract drawing of trains going in and out of Tidmouth sheds.
Ben woke up. We took a little walk, returning in ten minutes when the cold was too much. I read them a book together. Each boy read a book to himself while I read a page in my book. They played. They watched Bob the Builder. (Actually, Ben watched half of Bob the Builder, after which he decided that playing with trucks is more fun than watching them. Ben has only recently started showing any interest al all in television, now that Zach is not using his 20 minutes of TV time to watch Thomas and Friends. Apparently, even the one-year-old finds that show mind-numbing.) The casserole, baking in the oven, filled the house with the smell of garlic and beans.
We sat down to eat. The boys, quickly deciding that their palates were not sophisticated enough for bean and vegetable casserole, asked for some peanut butter on their toast. J came home. We lit the candles.
“How was your day?” he asked.
Had you told me at 8:00 AM that I would answer as I did, I would never have believed you. Because Monday, you see, ended much nicer than it had begun.