My head pounded. For the love. Can we just please not fight about chairs this early in the morning?
“No. Go sit over there. Opposite sides of the table. You can’t sit at the heads of the table,” I sighed.
“Whyyyy?” They cried, the injustice of my simple parenting directive obviously cutting quite deep.
“Because,” I said, still trying to even focus my eyes. “You’re in the baby’s chair and she has to sit there,” I said, pointing at my youngest. Her booster seat was positioned at the end of the table for ease of cleaning. “And then if only one of you is at the head, the other will whine.” And it’s just too early for fighting, I thought to myself.
“I hate this rule!” My oldest yelled at me.
“Well, do you have a solution?” I asked, fully aware that my idea was the only good and logical one.
“We can both share this chair,” my oldest suggested, scooting over. “It’s big enough for two kids.”
I sighed. “Okay,” I said skeptically. “As long as you realize this will just end in fighting.”
But my middle child was already cheering.
“Yay! Yay! Yay! Yay!” He grabbed his bowl of cereal and ran over to his brother. “And maybe later, we can play together at the playground?” He said, beaming up at him as he climbed into the chair.
They sat there, happily munching on their cereal, for the rest of the meal.
Later, at the playground, they did play together. But my oldest son, the ever adventurer, had his eyes on the nine year olds shooting baskets. I stood nearby, chatting with my friends when I suddenly felt a head slam into my hips. Two arms wrapped around my waist. I looked down.
These tears were not from a scraped knee. This was a hurt much deeper.
“They said they didn’t want to play with me! They told me to go away!”
When we are adults, we package our anxiety so nice and neatly we can savor it for days. We stare at our phones, wondering if she didn’t return our text because she was busy, or because she secretly despises our very presence. We replay our awkward comment in our heads, relishing each and every poor word choice.
But when you are a kid they are laid out for you. There is no wondering if he doesn’t like you. He told you that he didn’t. We suck them down, barely able to breathe.
Within minutes, he had recovered, and was once again swinging on the monkey bars. My own heart, however, kept aching for him, all of it breaking except the small piece which delighted that he was not too old to run to me.
The sky, still drunk with solstice power, is glowing tonight as we tuck ourselves in. The baby clings to me, hoping I will spare her the indignity of sleeping in the crib. Because at the end of the day, all we want is to be loved. All we want is to be held. All we want is to hear someone say, yes. Come sit with me.