“Kids! Supper!” Jenna called up the stairs. She didn’t have to holler twice. Two pairs of feet were already stampeding down the hall; the squabbling started when the children jockeyed for position on the stairs. Jenna didn’t have the energy to deal with it. She rolled her eyes and returned to the kitchen, being careful to move out of the way as Jeremy and Alicia flew past.
“Mom, Alicia shoved me.”
“He kept stepping right in front of me.”
Jenna placed one hand on her hip and kneaded her forehead with the other. “Please just drop it, okay kids? Can we try to have a pleasant meal together?”
“Where’s Dad?” Jeremy asked.
“He just called to say he’s stuck at work. He said to start without him.” Jenna eyed the lasagne, garlic bread and Caesar salad on the table. If she’d known that Rob was going to be late, she wouldn’t have bothered with such a big meal. The kids would’ve been happy with grilled cheese sandwiches.
After a quick blessing, all three of them dug into their food. It had been a long day, and Jenna was eager to get the kids to bed so she could have some peace and quiet. She didn’t know when Rob would be home, but she hoped he’d at least arrive in time to help her tuck the kids into bed. Lately Jeremy had been refusing to say his prayers with her, insisting that his dad be the one to tuck him in. Jenna knew there would be a battle if Rob didn’t make it home in time.
Looking at her son now, she noticed that he was picking through his salad. “Jeremy, you need to eat the lettuce, too. Not just the croutons.”
“Lettuce is gross.” Jeremy stuck out his tongue.
Jenna reached across the table and grasped his hand to get his attention. “That’s not acceptable behaviour, young man. You know better than to make faces at me. Now eat your lettuce.”
Jeremy yanked his hand away from her and knocked his cup over. He gasped and watched as the juice spread across the table.
“Don’t just sit there,” Jenna ordered. “Get some paper towels and clean it up.”
Alicia snorted. “Way to go, Germ.”
Jenna saw her son’s lip quiver and tried to summon some sympathy for him. But if he hadn’t pulled away from her so angrily, he wouldn’t have bumped his cup. The spilled juice wasn’t a big deal, but it was his own fault.
Jeremy wiped up the mess with the efficiency of an eight-year-old boy, and the enthusiasm of an annoyed little brother. Alicia nudged him with her elbow when he moved to close to her.
“Watch out, creep! I don’t want you spilling my juice, too.” She warned, none too pleasantly.
At that, Jeremy’s tears started to fall. Moments later, he stood sobbing, with the soaked paper towels dripping on the floor.
Jenna’s palm hit the table with more force than she intended. “You don’t need to stand there and cry! Just put the paper towels in the garbage and then finish your food!”
He walked slowly to the trash can, dripping all the way, then returned to his chair. He heaved a couple of sobs and wiped his sleeve across his nose.
Jenna seethed. “Jer!” She was careful not to yell, but her voice conveyed her anger. “You don’t need to have a hissy fit every time something goes wrong. If you had just obeyed me and eaten your salad politely, then you wouldn’t have spilled your juice. Now look at the mess you’ve made. And your crying is not helping anything either, so just stop it and eat your supper!”
His sobs grew louder and his shoulders shook.
Alicia sneered at her brother. “She didn’t say, ‘Cry louder’. She said to stop, moron.”
“Enough!” Jenna ground out. “You can mind your own business, Alicia. And Jeremy, you need to pull yourself together. You are both old enough to start practicing some self-control. There is no other way to learn; you just have to practice. And you better start now, because I’ve about had it with you two!”
With an extra pound on the table for emphasis, Jenna scraped back her chair and stormed out of the room.
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