Imagine the scene this morning. The early morning light barely filters into the north-facing apartment, leaving the kitchen and hallways cast in deep shadows while a light blazes in the living room and the bathroom. Daddy is organising his work bag in the living room. Mommy is staring at the mirror in the bathroom, trying to come to terms with the idea of it being morning. Hair is sticking out in all directions, bleary eyes, rumpled pyjamas, she’s trying to prod the sleeping brain cells into figuring out the chain of tasks that will make the morning run as smoothly as possible. Quiet, private time in the bathroom in the mornings to gather together those sleepy, scattered wits is priceless.
Suddenly there’s a loud, deliberate knock. Mommy’s shoulders tense and she turns around, frowning at the door. Oh please no. I canNOT deal with an audience this morning. No no no no no. With trepidation, mommy pulls the door open. The three year old is standing on the other side. He’s wearing only his socks, underpants, and pyjama top. Mommy looks down with resignation.
The three year old looks up and grins. “Mommy! I’m an owl!” He flaps his arms around to demonstrate and begins hooting, running around the apartment. “Whoooot-whoooo! Whooooot-whooooo! I’m an owl! Whoooooot-whoooooo!” Mommy leaves the door open to avoid provoking a tantrum, but turns back to the sink, trying to pick up the tenuous thread of earlier thoughts on what it was she was supposed to be doing. Was it time to brush her teeth or wash her face? Or did she wash her face already before being interrupted?
In the background the three year old continues his avian impersonation. “Whoooooot-whooooo! Whooooooot-whooooo!”
“Are you getting dressed?” Mommy calls out from the bathroom pointlessly. The answer is obvious.
“Hey! I need you to go pick out a shirt! We have to get ready for school!”
“Whooooooot-whoooo! Whooooooot-whoooo! I’m an owl” flap flap flap.
In frustration Mommy steps into the doorway and catches the three year old’s eye on his next circuit around the hallway. “Come on. I need you to go to your room and pick out a shirt for this morning.”
The three year old skids to a halt in front of mommy and gazes up at her, his face suddenly all serious.
“I can’t,” he replies quietly. Mommy inhales sharply, preparing for a possible battle. “Why not?” Breathe in, breath out, breathe in, breath out. Inner peace…. inner peace…..
The three year old’s gaze sharpens into a spark of defiance as he answers steadily, staring Mommy straight in the eye.
“Because owls don’t have hands.”
Three seconds of complete silence prevail before there’s a choking sound from somewhere off stage. It sounds like someone trying and failing to surpress a snigger that’s despreate to escape and turn into full throated laughter. In the bathroom doorway, all the trains of thought in mommy’s brain have come to a screeching halt, crashing into one another like marbles. The I-Finally-Brushed-My-Teeth train has collided straight into the back of the Where’s-My-Makeup carriage, while the Remember-To-Grab-Work-Clothes engine is hanging perilously off the Bridge-of-Remembrance, right over the Chasm-of-Forgetfulness in the bandit infested territory of Things-That-Screw-Up-Your-Whole-Day.
Daddy, still chuckling to himself, comes out from the living room to take in the scene. The three year old is still staring up at mommy, face full of that contradictory wide-eyed innocence and mischevous expectation. Mommy is staring down at the three year old, her mouth open and jaw working, but no words are coming out. Rage and frustration are warring with amusement and surprise, preventing any coherent combination of words to come together into a semblance of a response. Mommy’s hair is practically standing on end now from a combination of I’m-Going-To-Pull-My-Hair-Out car being coupled up to the Crap-Forgot-To-Brush-My-Hair freight train. The situation is clearly volatile.
With great effort, Daddy wipes the smirk off his face and takes command of the situation. “That’s very accurate,” he says to the three year old with an impressively straight face. “Why don’t we go into your room together and I can help you pick out a shirt.”
Barely perceptible, both Mommy and Daddy brace themselves for resistance but are surprised to discover there isn’t any. Without any fuss, the three year old whils around and skips behind Daddy into his own room. Mommy withdraws back into the bathroom with a sigh of relief, trying to pick up the tattered threads of her morning routine. In the background she can just about make out the chatter from the bedroom.
“I want a dinosaur one!”
“Ok, how about that one?”
There is no tantrum. The child is willingly cooperating with Daddy. And he’s getting dressed. Mommy stares into the mirror again.
Breathe in, breathe out. Breathe in, breathe out. Inner peace.