I have corralled my screaming child in the church bathroom. We are finishing up a weekend of family camp, and not only is camp done, but so am I. And then some. I now prepare for inevitable misery that is the stage we call “packing up and heading for home.” Everyone loves to see a party end. And so it is, I must also round up the clan, gather up all their dirty odds and ends and then clean my otherwise unrecognizable children’s dirt-encrusted bodies before we start the unravelling of the rest of the afternoon.
Let the good times roll.
So here we are, at the sink, screaming and cleansing. A purification ritual of sorts. The immediate purpose of our visit to the restroom is to clean sticky little hands and feet. The greater purpose for me is to stall for time, cleaning feet here rather than trying to round them all up at home where the mood will be even more dismal. Littlest One screams another ear-piercing trill that echoes thunder through my head. I don’t realize this yet, but this screaming will continue long and hard as we prepare to drive for home, and will relentless follow me into the van and on down the road as I drive to our house in Mill River East. More tears, more pleas. I think an extra-strength Tylenol is in my not-so-distant future.
I ask my child where her shoes are. Of course, she does not know.
The screaming abates for a moment as I try to figure out what could possibly be so wrong that she must need lose her right lung and both my ears for it. She spits out her answer, the rage evident in every word. She is upset because…wait for it, she wants a balloon tree. A bunch of balloons on a stick, people. I scrub the brown bottoms of little feet while I try to talk some reason into her. To no avail. Thankfully, my friend comes to the rescue with the diversion of a funny story, and thereafter produces one small smile and in due time, the missing shoes. The lost are found, thankfully. But there is still the minor issue of the balloon tree.
I leave the bathroom, still screaming child in tow, and I meet up with a second friend. She is talking to another, but as soon as I approach, she stops chatting and turns to me. And this is what she says:
“These times are precious. Some day you will look back on this and you will remember that this was a precious moment.”
I am still inwardly fuming from the exchange in the bathroom, the struggle and the meltdown. I am in no mood or state of mind to concur that yes indeed, this is pretty precious. Exasperating? Yes. Infuriating? Sure. Precious? I think not.
But I cannot help but consider these sentiments given to me in a gesture of goodwill. It was meant for good, and that is how I will take it. But I will agree to disagree.
As the afternoon rolls on, and the predicted unravelling of emotions, patience and kindnesses indeed occurs, I am reminded again of her warning to me. To consider even this to be precious. Even this? This undoing of my mind even as I listen to the four in the backseat of our van laying into one another? Even this? The teasing of one at the expense of another? That too? The whining? The crying? The boredom? The general malaise?
But yes, even this. For there must be some good found in even the worst of moments. After all, it can be the best of times while also being the worst of times. And I am determined to not let it unravel me any further.
What is precious? That which is rare and lovely and sought after. I do not see these frequent blow-outs as coming anything close to rare. Nor is a meltdown even half-ways lovely. And I am certainly not seeking ardently for an afternoon spent in misery. But precious can also mean fleeting. And this is true. These moments of childhood, these rites of passage are momentary. They are fleeting, and in and of themselves, they are strangely precious in their own little ways.
I hold Little One close tonight, drawing her into a mother’s breast, snuggled under arms of love. Arms that cradle and hold, soothe and protect. And she leans in to me as I read a bedtime story. And I know the wild preciousness of it all.