I think the day after an illness is the hardest. When they’re sick, they want you. They want juice. They want crackers. They want their blankets and stuff animals. They just lay in front of the TV, watching with a dazed look as you worry about the fever, the vomit, their clothes, their hunger strike. You worry you’ll get sick. You get nothing done during the day, so you stay up late trying to finish the chores, scolding yourself over how you should be in bed in case you get sick.
Then the morning comes, and the children are awake and well, healthy and happy energetic and robust. The techno-colored birds are singing. Big-eyed squirrels run, gathering nuts. The sun shines in the windows and waves at the healthy family. Everything is right. Until they realize you are not going to cater to their every whim like you did yesterday.
No, you can’t have a sucker for breakfast. No, the muffins are not in the box. No, the muffins are not ready; I just put them in. No, you may not have a Popsicle, even if you had one for breakfast yesterday.
Then they whine and cry. They fight and bicker. They scream and yell. They make ridiculous claims and ridiculous requests. They throw temper tantrums when they don’t get their way. They whine “mom” with every sentence. They hang on you like lead weights in your arms or a ball and chain around your ankle. They are whining, whining, whining.
No, don’t push your brother. No, you can’t have juice; drink your milk. No, that’s hot. No, you can’t play with the dish sponge. No, don’t hit your brother. No, don’t drop your plate because you don’t want to eat.
Today you have to go to the grocery store because you didn’t yesterday. You didn’t want your children to be sicker, and you didn’t want to make other people sick. But now you’re out of milk, bread, cheese, eggs, and ohdeargod juice. If you want to make any kind of dinner, you have to take your whining, crying children to the store, where you will be judged for breeding such brats.
No, we don’t touch that. No, we don’t run in the parking lot. So help me God- No, we don’t hit our brother. No, we don’t kick our brother. No, we don’t touch the fruit. No, we don’t touch the GLASS JARS. No, we don’t touch the candy.
Because today is today, you have to go to the bank. You need to do a few deposits. You need to visit the coin machine. You need to go to Target because you have a baby shower to go to next weekend. You wonder if you can wait another day on buying more laundry detergent because you don’t think you can handle another store, another parking lot, another check out line. You look on the list and wonder if the library books need to go back today. Why the hell don’t they stamp them any more?
No, we don’t take his toy. Please share. No, you’re not watching any more cartoons. No, it’s time to get dressed. No, don’t hide. Brush your teeth. No more TV! Don’t dump all the toys out. Don’t dump all the Legoes out.
The family room is a mess from the blankets and the stuff animals. When did we last eat popcorn? There is a load in the dryer waiting in a wrinkled mess to be folded. At least the kitchen is clean. But you have to empty out the dishwasher. Dishes, welcome to your new home, the dishwasher. Can I take a shower now? So you take a quick shower to become human and to have five minutes alone without whining, but you hear them whining outside the door.
No, no TV. Go outside and play. Get some fresh air. Remember fresh air. Oh, wait. It’s raining. How about play dough? Don’t eat the play dough. Don’t take his play-dough. Share. No running off with play dough; that’s why we only have two colors left. Is it naptime yet?
Then you run into the office and shut the door behind you. You lean your body against the door, blocking any entry, taking deep breaths. The boys are whining and crying and fighting. Your husband is on a business call, selling his product, making sure you have electricity and car for another month. You grab a pen and a sheet of paper. You write in big bold letters:
Let’s Trade Jobs for Today!
The whining has stopped, only to resume at a louder pitch. Some one has drawn blood. You take a deep breath and duck out of the room.
Ok. Let’s put this away. Here. Let’s get out the trikes. Evan, here’s yours. Seanny, here’s yours. Yes, you may have Viper. Good job, Seanny. Good sharing, Evan. Look at my boys! You guys are good at this. Evan, try to pedal. You can do it!
You sit and watch the living room biking. You are showered and dressed, thinking about that wonderful new invention of caffeinated hot chocolate and the Hershey bars your evil best friend “accidently” left behind. No one is crying or whining or fighting or yelling. They’re actually laughing, having a good time and being nice to each other.
The husband comes out of the office to say he’s ready to trade. There’s no shoe to throw at him.