Not 14 Minutes

It was time for Hal to take a shower.

“Are you watching a video or playing a game?” I asked.

“Watching a video,” he replied.

“How much time is left?”

He clicked on the screen and studied it for a minute. “It’s… It’s… not…” He hesitated.

“How much time is left?” I asked again.

“Fourteen minutes.”

“Ok, I’m going to make a deal with you. It’s almost bedtime. You hurry into the bathroom and take a shower. Be quick but make it a good one. Make sure you scrub your armpits and use soap. Take a good quick shower and then brush your teeth and I’ll let you stay up to watch the rest of your video.”

A few minutes later, I heard him talking to his older brother about what was happening in Fortnite at that moment.

“Hal! I said to hustle! You aren’t going to get to finish watching your video.”

A couple of minutes later, he still wasn’t in the bathroom.

“I’m serious,” I said, approaching him from down the hall. “You are using up all of your video time. It’s already your bedtime and you are wanting me to let you stay up for another fifteen minutes after taking your shower.”

“No! No! Not fifteen minutes!” he protested.

Inside my head where he couldn’t see, I rolled my eyes.

“Ok,” I said, barely holding onto my patience. “Fourteen minutes. It’s essentially the same thing, Hal.”

“No! It’s not fourteen minutes!”

Now confused, I said, “You told me it was fourteen minutes.”

“No! I said ‘not fourteen minutes’.”

I waited for him to say more, but he just stared back at me like that cleared up everything.

“What? How is that useful information, Hal? ‘Not fourteen minutes’ tells me absolutely nothing. ‘Not fourteen minutes’ could mean ten seconds, or ten minutes, or fifty minutes, or forty-eight hours. Why would you tell me ‘not fourteen minutes’?”

Jane giggled from her adjacent room.

“Well, you know, you look at a video and think, ‘that looks like it’s fourteen minutes,’ but it’s not.”

“What are you talking about?”

“You know, it shows that the video is fourteen minutes long but you’ve already watched some of it so you don’t have fourteen minutes left.”

“Ok,” I said, finally understanding where he was coming from but not regaining my patience. “That’s when you look to the left and see how much time has already passed. What did that number say?”

“Nine minutes.”

“Ok, then that means you have five minutes left. Now that would be useful information. Hurry up and take your shower and I’ll let you finish it.”

I stopped by Jane’s room after. She looked up from her homework and said, “I just have not ten minutes left on this, mom. Not ten minutes. Ok?”

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Parenthood Summed Up In One Evening

Last night perfectly summed up what day-to-day parenting really is. It’s not staring at a peacefully sleeping newborn. It’s not watching your kid hit the winning home run. It’s not celebrating your kid making first chair, making the team, winning the tournament, or a getting a perfect grade. It’s not watching your kid making friends at the park or learning to read. Those are the mountain-top moments. The Zen moments. The times that idealize parenthood and sell it to those without as an attractive proposition.

No, day-to-day parenting is a grind. Pure and simple.

Parenthood is working all evening to clean your bathroom while supervising your children cleaning theirs. It’s seeing the gleaming white porcelain of clean toilets, glistening floors, mold-free showers, and thinking about which bottle of wine you will open in a few minutes to sip luxuriously while reading your book – a guilt-free relaxation after great accomplishment.

Parenthood is then hearing a sound in the bathroom, followed by “Mom!” Opening the door and seeing that your youngest, who had eaten way too many cookies that evening, had emptied his stomach. And not just into the toilet bowl. Vomit all over that gleaming white porcelain, all down the sides, all over that freshly mopped floor.

Parenthood is wiping his poor mouth before retreating into the hallway to gag and collect your wits and wonder why, why, why tonight while the parent who can deal with this without upchucking himself is not home?! It’s cleaning up the vomit while your vision of a glass of wine fades away.

But it’s also having your heart go out to the poor little boy who looks up from his crouched position with dripping mouth and miserable little eyes and says, “I just cleaned this toilet!”

Parenthood is rough. But sometimes childhood is rougher.

Icy Hot…

My kids are resourceful and self-sufficient, often to a fault. Like this past Saturday.

Hal had taken the dog out on a leash and ended up falling on the gravel driveway when she took off suddenly. He had a mild scrape on his arm, noticeable but not much blood. He pointed it out to me and I said, “Yep. Looks like it hurts.”

Maybe I should have done more but honestly, it wasn’t that bad. And we were busy trying to get some important outdoor work taken care of before the thunderstorms arrived. But he’s nine and nine-year-olds need injuries to be worthy of medical treatment.

So when I later called to him and tasked him with moving some slender yet long pieces of wood, he arrived holding a wet paper towel against his lower forearm. He fussed, saying, “How? How? I can’t. I can’t. How am I supposed to do this?” For emphasis, he waved his elbows around to demonstrate neither hand was available.

“Put the paper towel away so you can use both hands. It’s not that bad,” I responded, glancing up at the darkening skies and pretending I didn’t feel little raindrops.

He did as he was told and then I lost track of him as I went about other tasks. Sometime later, I found myself on one side of the tractor, my husband sitting on it, and Hal and his brother on the other side. Hal had one of those extra-large Band-Aids on his arm but was still holding on to it, wincing and taking in sharp breaths. He seemed to be in even worse shape than before.

“What’s wrong with you?” his daddy asked.

“He scraped his arm on the driveway earlier. It wasn’t a bad scrape though,” I said.

“Well it hurts!” Hal said, “And now it really hurts even worse since I put some Icy Hot on it.”

There was a moment’s pause while we both processed what he had just said.

“Why did you put Icy Hot on it?” we asked. “You don’t put Icy Hot on wounds like that!”

“Yes you do! Icy to dull the pain and hot to relax it away,” he said with complete sincerity.

“That’s for your muscles!” my husband exclaimed, rubbing his bicep and shoulder in demonstration.

“Well I didn’t know!”

“Go wash it off, sweetheart. Wash it off quickly.”

My husband then turned his head to me. We locked eyes, each struggling between incredulity and humor.

Let me rewind to a couple of nights before real quick. Hal had melted down over the quantity of strawberry we expected to be consumed if he put them on his plate. He felt he was done if half the strawberry was consumed. We explained that he should eat all the red parts or he was wasting the fruit. The reaction was so strong and visceral that his siblings had openly laughed as he left the table. Their laughter had been contagious such that even as I struggled to not, I was dissolving into laughter as well. My husband had glared at us all, shamed us for laughing at him, and made us see it from little Hal’s perspective.

Ok, back to the tractor and the same little boy using Icy Hot on his scrape. My husband mouthed wow and we both started the parental silent laugh. That’s the one where the situation is hopelessly funny but it’s best if you don’t laugh. The same laugh I had failed to master with the strawberry incident. I looked to the ground to keep myself in check.

And that’s when I heard it. My husband has a full, loud laugh. When he really lets loose, it’s something to behold. I’m fairly certain that laugh followed Hal all the way back into the house.

Poor kid. Seriously though – funny enough that he had put that ointment on his wound. But knowing the product’s slogan and reciting it back to us put it all over the top.