Previous Challenge Entry (Level 2 – Intermediate)
Topic: The Game of Life (09/11/08)
TITLE: Less Than Perfect
By Leah Nichols
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I try to ignore my two-year-old, but the piercing screams threaten to break my concentration. If my husband had not called on the telephone during naptime to have me deliver these documents, Jayden would not be carrying on like this.
Calmly I look into his eyes through the rear view mirror. I believe parents should speak reasonably to their children. “Please sit quietly, Jayden. We are almost to Daddy's work, and then we can go back home again.”
Unfortunately, all reason escapes my two-year-old. “NO!!!” More screaming ensues.
I hate seeing other mothers' vehicles strewn with toys, broken crackers, juice stains, etc. I have prided myself in my ability to keep my child calm during car rides without leaving a mess in my car. Now, desperation drives me. I dig through the diaper bag, seeking for anything that might distract him.
Ah! I find a Spiderman action figure hidden in the bottom of the bag. “Look, Jayden! Spiderman!” I hold it up to catch his attention. Within seconds the wailing ceases. “Do you want to play with Spiderman?”
“NO!” Jayden resumes screaming, louder this time.
I cannot believe how difficult my child has become. In my memory I can see him just four months ago when I could make him do anything by making it sound interesting. Now he wants his own way. My vision of perfect motherhood has waned into the reality of dealing with someone else whose own will remains diametrically opposed to mine.
As we pull to the next stoplight, in frustration I grab the first thing out of the diaper bag – a plastic baggie filled with LIFE cereal. Great. Just what I need – cereal crumbs all over my car! If I do not appease him, however, my patience might stretch too thin, and the perfect mother does not snap at her child. Sighing in resignation, I open the baggie and thrust it into his hands just as the light turns green.
Crying continues a minute longer, then silence ensues as he ponders the object in his grasp. Please, God, don't let him spill it, my silent prayer rises.
Just five more minutes to Gig Harbor. In the rear view mirror I glance at him as we begin crossing the Narrows Bridge. He reaches into the bag and takes a piece out. Praise God. Peace and quiet!
With the flinging of his hand, the piece lands in the passenger's seat. I glance at his face in the mirror – eyes fixed on me, waiting for my reaction. The mess....
I grab the piece, and on a sudden impulse I pop it into my mouth. A pause, then giggles erupt.
Another piece flies over the seat and onto the floor. “Oops! That went too far!” I'm encouraging this?
In my peripheral vision I see a third piece coming, and my right hand reaches to catch it. Giggles intensify as I pop it into my mouth.
We continue this “game” all the way to Jared's work. LIFE squares gather on the floor, the dashboard, and the seat. I keep up the charade as the less-than-perfect mom who does not care about the mess, and my son delights that I let him throw cereal all over the car. He continues to laugh hysterically every time I eat one that falls within my reach. This is actually kind of fun! Have I been too hard on everyone, including myself, in my efforts to be the perfect mom?
I pull up to the office and see Jared waiting for me. He approaches the door as Jayden throws another square into the seat. “What – why is Jayden throwing cereal in the car?”
“Um, well, we're playing a game – of sorts. He throws; I catch.” In demonstration, I grab the piece and eat it.
“You actually dared to give our son cereal? In the car? I thought –”
“It's the only thing that's keeping both of us sane right now. Besides, cereal can be cleaned up later. Let's just say that I had a revelation.”
“I realized that life is short, and it's okay to make a mess if you're having fun.” I smile as I hand him the papers. “The truth is, I'm turning in my 'perfect mother' costume for 'good enough'. You think that'd be okay?”
Grinning, he affirms me. “Yes, dear. If you're having fun, I'll take 'good enough' any day.”
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