The boys had demanded spaghetti and meatballs for dinner tonight. A most unfortunate choice given it was a parent-helper day at school and also it’s too hot for me to use my oven. I, however, capitulated to their demands, purchased the necessary ingredients and had a plan to make it happen. Little boys have no appreciation anyway, but whatever, I felt good about it. Until, of course, it all fell apart.
Rushed because of a picnic lunch that expanded beyond the time I’d set aside (don’t feel too bad for me: I got to chat with a new friend and bounce an adorable baby on my lap. Not a bad way to spend an afternoon), I decided to fry my meatballs instead of bake them, resulting in meatballs ranging from burnt beyond repair to crumbly greasy mess.
“My dinner has fallen to pieces,” I declared to my husband on gchat. “and there is no plan B.”
I think he was actually delighted to get take-out instead.We’re sick of meatballs.
But I had to break the news to the little boys. Two little boys who were playing with their matchbox cars and the big wooden blocks. I took a seat on the playroom doorstep and broke the news.
“So there won’t be any meatballs?” Major asked.
“There won’t be. I’m sorry,” I replied. “I’m sorry to disappoint you. What would you like instead?”
I rubbed my eyes as the boys listed all the things they knew they couldn’t have for dinner. As I rolled my eyes and waited for it to end, I noticed the electrical socket. It took a minute to register what I was looking at. It was only then that the cold realization came over me. How? When? Who? Could it shock? Can I get it out of there?
“What is this?”
The boys were still playing. “What’s what?”
“This. In the electrical socket?”
“The… electrical what?” Minor started to giggle. He often diffuses by making a joke.
But I wasn’t laughing. “This is unacceptable. This is dangerous. You know better thank this!”
I kicked them out of the playroom. Closed the door. Said the words that used to bring about a particular level of fear in my heart when my mother used to say them to me: “Your Father will be hearing about this when he gets home.”
I saw the little eyes go wide, but only for a moment. I rarely use The Husband as the ultimate disciplinary in the house. Generally, the buck stops with me. However, I knew that my shrieking at them wasn’t going to work. They needed something else. They needed baritone, they needed height, they needed solid presence and hairy fingers pointed at them. That is a certain type of fear, a certain type of discipline.
Saying the words brought up my own anxiety. It was always the waiting. The icy dagger when I would see his car park in front of the house and hear his keys in the lock. Usually, the smell of his cologne and his call from the kitchen would make me and my sister excited but, on certain days, on the days when we were in trouble, we wanted to hide.
Don’t get the wrong idea. I’m not writing about violence or anything. Father’s punishments were philosophical lectures followed by significant prohibition on things that we loved and, worst of all, a sort of cloudy, brooding silent treatment… the cold shoulder. We were shut out of his ebullient energy that we loved and craved for days, sometimes weeks.
Anyway, waiting for my husband to get home, I wondered what the boys were feeling. Did they feel how I felt when I was a little girl? Did they wonder just how angry their father would get? Would they hope I’d change my mind, not tell on them after all? I thought about it… I thought about sparing them.
but I didn’t, because they needed to learn this lesson. They have to learn this lesson. I thought they’d learned this lesson!
The husband used his deep man voice, used wide-armed gestures, stood tall and firm. He pointed at the socket, at them. He was firm, but wasn’t yelling. He never yells… well, he sedomly yells. He explained to them why he was angry, why it was dangerous, what could have happened, why they could never ever do something like that again. He made them swear they’d never do it again. Did he believe them when they did so swear? I hope he didn’t. I don’t.
I’m reminded that risk-taking behavior is a real thing and it’s something I’ve got to be better at anticipating. As little boys learn how this world works and start to put more concepts together, things are going to happen. It’s sort of a rite of passage, tempting The Fates. My flirtation was with a lighter and some candles when I was 7. Nothing burned down, just a candle that left some wax on the floor… enough evidence to get caught and earn my punishment. The boys are too young for any sort of grounding, but the talking-to that they got from their father seems to have been enough for now.
There will be more moments like this. I got lucky this time. Thank God they put that thing in the grounding socket instead of one of the others. Thank God, also, that our electrical sockets are up to current code, “childproof” and difficult for a child to be shocked by. I feel like I got away with something. I may not be so lucky next time. The wire has been removed and we put the baby plug covers on all of the plugs in the playroom. Something we thought we didn’t have to do anymore.
Miracles are big and miracles are small. Sometimes they are silent until you happen upon your good fortune. Dinner disaster turned out to be a revelation instead. I’m grateful for my good fortune.
See you Friday for Quiet Thoughts.