Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Of Mice and my Kids

Lately I've been all over my kids for all sorts of things. They whine about the smallest things. They fight with one another over who uses whose brush... who did what to whom... and who didn't do what they were supposed to do.

For the past six months I have been working close to eleven hours a day, six days a week... plus getting our greenhouse in... and recently readying the berry farm for the season. Yet, when I come home, the dogs, cats and goats aren't fed. Bicycles lie everywhere... and things that anyone could have picked up in the yard are left for poor old dad.

This morning I had a bit of a meltdown when I woke up to a screaming seven-year old because she didn't want to wear her pink jacket. I don't know why suddenly this jacket wasn't in fashion... and I didn't really have the patience for a seven-year old's explanation. I just stripped it off her and told her to go to school in the blizzard in her short sleeves.

More crying! More screaming! Then I lost it and started screaming back... which sort of got all their attention. I know... I know... a parent who screams isn't a great parent. I felt bad about it all day.

But tonight all three of my kids were more contrite than I have seen them in a while, and our home was calm, peaceful and cooperative (like the family I dream of having). It was so nice that I even made everyone Masala tea before bed and we sat down to read the last part of the Steinbeck novel "Of Mice and Men."

When we got to the part where George kills his friend Lennie... and he does it while soothing Lennie that everything is all right, my eleven-year-old daughter and fourteen-year-old son both got very emotional. I did too. I can never read that part without my voice quavering. The youngest daughter (seven) didn't really get it... and she'll probably wake up tomorrow morning whining about something trivial, but two out of three ain't bad.

Yet with the eleven-year old in tears and the fourteen-year old with red eyes pretending not to be affected, I saw something wonderful in my kids that this morning I could not have imagined. They are reachable by great literature and the vulnerability of human frailty.

I loved them for loving a piece of literature that lives deeply in my heart. I felt close to them because I they share something with me.

I hope I remember this tomorrow when I trip over bicycles on the way to feed the animals they ought to have fed.

Had anyone told me being a father was this confusing and difficult... I suspect I never would have chosen to have three of the little anchors. Yet, there are moments... like the one tonight... when I understand these anchors tie me to something solid, real and wonderful and aren't just anchors holding me down.

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