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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 2 – Intermediate)
Topic: The Game of Life (09/11/08)

TITLE: Less Than Perfect
By Leah Nichols


This is not going well.

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.”

“What's that?”

“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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This article has been read 890 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Robyn Burke09/18/08
Aaaawwwwhh! Cute! Good visuals and a nice revelation of what is really important in LIFE!
Verna Cole Mitchell 09/18/08
Delightful story, fun with a good message as well. Very well written.
Shelley Ledfors 09/22/08
Very cute! I think the mom got closer to being the (non-existent) "perfect mom" after her revelation rather than before. When kids grow up they won't treasure memories of perfectly clean cars, but will remember the fun and laughter. The resultant messes can be cleaned. Nice entry!
Shelley Ledfors 09/22/08
I just noticed the extra note on your hint and came back to look at your entry again. Very clever! I had wondered about a couple of your word choices but had missed "why" you had chosen as you did until I saw the extra note. Cute!
Celeste Ammirata09/22/08
This is great! Wonderful writing. You hooked me right away and kept me involved. Wonderful imagery. Great message. Very nicely done.
Valarie Sullivan09/23/08
Oh,the terrible twos! How we know those so well!
I liked the way she figured out about 'good enough' and how to pick her battles. Excellent work!
Marlene Austin09/23/08
I thought it was okay to "yell"/"snap" once DRIVEN to it, ;), just make sure the LOVE is always louder. :) Accurate realism appropriate to all who have/had children. Well done.
Joshua Janoski09/24/08
Haha. You took the topic and ran with it in a unique and somewhat literal sort of way. I've seen kids play the game of cheerios before, but not LIFE. Just one question though. Was it plain or cinnamon Life? My favorite is the cinnamon. :)

Good job with this fun entry. Very well written with truth that every mother can relate to.
Karlene Jacobsen09/24/08
I've been on both ends of the spectrum. (lol)
Caught your play on the game names. Great job. Raising kids and keeping sanity is a game all in itself.(hehe)
Chely Roach09/24/08
Oh, what we moms will do in "survival mode"...very cute story, I loved it!
Joshua Janoski09/25/08
Great job ending the quarter with a highly commended award! I can't wait to see what you have in store for us next quarter! I have a feeling it's going to be good. :)