The boys have been outside, in the sandbox all morning. They’ve been building roads and cities, digging, and getting a ridiculous amount of sand in inconvenient places. It’s been peaceful and quiet in the house, relaxing even. I folded laundry in peace, and then? I dared to pick up the phone.
The sudden screams coming from the corner of the backyard were epic. I ignored them and prayed that no one was bleeding while I finished my phone conversation. The screams came nearer. Soon, they were right by my ear, but I still desperately tried to organized the evening’s tri-tip pick up.
It turned out, someone had “accidentally” smashed someone elses sandcastle. Retribution soon followed, and an entire road was wiped out, a vendetta against clumsy/inconsiderate four year olds. The world was filled with wailing. Some of the citizens were indifferent and continued about their business wearing sandy diapers. There was no law.
I comforted the architect who could not stop sobbing. Sandcastles are always better the second time. It’s a fact of life.
I corralled the vigilante who had taken justice into his own hands. Somehow Grandma was blamed for the whole incident, but I managed to keep my head despite the strangeness of the defense. Grandma was thrown out of the court, she doesn’t even LIVE here.
Eventually peace was restored and the sandbox was abandoned. Too many bad memories I suppose. However, the toddler remained, as he always did, a stoic with a sippy cup. I looked at his diaper again. It was dusty and bulging with a fine trail of sand lining the edges of it. I thought about changing him but decided to take my five minutes peace instead. I went back inside and locked the door behind me because frankly, the contents of that diaper o’ sand had the potential for ruining my day. It’s amazing how fast a two year old with a bottom full of sand can smuggle past you unless you take precautions, and sand has a way of haunting you for weeks no matter how much you sweep.
I left the situation feeling defeated. Sometimes I think my one all-consuming job is a failure. Days when entire sand civilizations are destroyed make me worry about the future, because adult men can destroy so much more than sand if they choose.
I’ve made it my goal not to parent out of worry. It’s a tough goal. So I stood there, folding more shirts, praying and thinking and pushing worry away from the corners. I felt the creeping panic mothers feel when their children fight or hit or lie or generally act like maniacs.
A few deep breaths later I’m ready to parent again. Sometimes, despite everyones best efforts, the children are naughty. Impossibly naughty. It’s tempting to treat one’s offspring like the criminals they seem to be. I squint a little, looking for that fine line between discipline and grace. It’s there, near the sand trail in front of the couch. It shimmers a little bit, like hope.
The guilty party is sobbing in a bed filled with action heroes and spare lego parts. He’s asking for a hug. I smile a little as I walk down the hall. A mother can go in there, ready to hug, because a mother has hope if she squints hard enough.