Why is it always the little things that throw us over the edge? We can survive days of abuse (read: parenting), and then fall apart in a glorious fashion when the smallest of things sets us off?
I should really only do things last minute, because it’s the best planned out weekends that go up in flames. We were supposed to be in Portland this weekend, visiting M’s delightful grandmother, staying in a hotel right near her house in what has become the hippest neighborhood in town. Despite some hairy trips to Portland (our lifetime ban from Sushiland comes to mind), it’s one of my favorite places to go. Instead of being there, on Friday night I could be found hiding in a corner of my kitchen hastily slugging a pina colada out of a Peter Rabbit mug, hoping nobody would find me, bug me or ask me to share. How did I get there?
Thanksgiving dinner at our friends’ was cancelled because one of her kids was sick. I am, as some friends will attest, hardly a germ freak. I’d expose my brood to the bubonic plague if it means getting out of the house, and I’ll eat food off of any flat surface — indoors or out. But we were scheduled to drive to Portland on Friday and there really are few things I dislike more than sick kids in hotel rooms (La Jolla: sheepishly asking the cleaning staff to change all my sheets every morning because Sidney had explosive diarrhea, and then finding said diarrhea later in the day in Fiona’s hair..). Still, we did the best we could and instead of Thanksgiving Dinner, M took four of the five kids to the Muppet flic and in a miserable twist of fate came home with a feverish, cranky Fi. So, we cancelled our hotel reservations and had our very own staycation. This term may be meant to refer to a low-cost holiday spent close to home, but to parents it has only one meaning: unsuccessfully fight off insanity while being trapped in the house with your kids (hence the covert kitchen cocktail, which a good friend brought over to lift my spirits). I spent the next day in an urgent care clinic with her (doctors’ office closed on Black Friday), and the rest of the weekend nursing her stomach flu/strep. In the middle of all of this, the dryer (which, thanks to the stomach flu has been working overtime) starts to make a sound like there’s a dead body banging around in it. There wasn’t; I checked.
But I was holding up. Until this morning.
I think we can handle sick kids, and whatever they throw at us (literally), because we know they can’t help it, and they are so wan and helpless. And not-so-secretly I feel like my own little ones are often easier when they’re feverish and feeble. It’s the other stuff that throws me over the edge. So, when Fi was finally on the path to recovery last night, when I had done a final load of laundry and pulled the house out of the pits of disrepair, I went to sleep thinking I’d finally get a full night and maybe even a bit of a lie in. But I made a fatal mistake before bed: I left my incredibly indecisive 5 year old select the American Girl doll she wants for Hannukah.
She has been negotiating for one for a while, and I, pulled into the lure and thrill of doll-buying (I still suffer through Lego, the Clone Wars, and a continual bevy of sports crap, so I really can’t be blamed for squealing with delight at all those delightful dollies) , let her convince me that together we could pick one out online. But as M reminded me when I was done, this is the girl who regularly leaves an ice cream store empty-handed because she can’t decide on a flavor (which may explain why she weighs 36 pounds soaking wet). We’d been talking about all the different kinds of dolls for weeks. I assumed she’d want one that looks like her, but she has other ideas. Finally she landed, I thought, on the Hawaiian doll. I love Hawaii, but I couldn’t figure out why she’d want the doll. It couldn’t look any less like her, and, pina coladas aside, our connection to the Aloha State is rather tenuous. Still, I let her lead, and together we bought it. Done and dusted, or so I thought.
At six o’clock this morning. Francie woke both her sisters, and then us, in a complete fit of hysterics: Between sobs, and gasping for breaths she revealed that she didn’t want the Hawaiian Girl anymore. She wanted the one her friend has. The Molly doll. M, who has surprising reserves of patience, did not kill her. And instead wisely removed her from my sight (but not before giving me a little I-told-you-so speech) while I made some coffee in this, my beloved, trusty years-old Bialetti coffee pot:
But after three days of togetherness, sickness, and the final early wake up, I made the fatal misstep of putting the coffee in the pot, and forgetting the water. I recognized it as soon as the handle and top, both made of plastic, began to melt off, and the smell of burning Italian plastic sailed through the kitchen. I knew what I’d done instantly, because as my friend Sarah will attest, I’d done it once before, soon after I’d gotten my very first Bialetti. But that was in 1996 when I was young and foolish. What’s my excuse now? The kids? Exhaustion? I can’t blame them for everything…
Oh yes, I know who I can blame for the death of my coffee pot, and for sending me over the edge after I’d gamely survived the long weekend: Effing Molly, the American Girl, who woke me up at six a.m., and who, when she arrives at this house, will be damn lucky if she isn’t immediately dismembered. Happy Thanksgiving Molly, wherever you are. And if you’re a wise as you look, you’ll steer clear of me when you get here…