Friday, May 1, 2009

Twenty Minutes of Torture

I'm a mean mom.

Of course I've been told that numerous times over the past nine and half years of my mothering career, but the other day I did something that proved the point even further.

I locked my kids out of the house.

Just for 20 minutes.

It was a beautiful day! Birds were singing, the sun was shining, the bikes were calling, and I needed some space. After spending a half hour trying to teach my four-year-old how to ride her bike without training wheels, my back was aching, I was sweating, and my kids were all whining they had "no one to play with and nothing to do."

I looked from one kid to another, decided they each had at least three other children to play with, and marched inside, explaining I would open the doors in 20 minutes. Summer is right around the corner, I reasoned, and I am not spending every waking minute listening to healthy, able-bodied children whine and complain that they are bored when there are plenty of wonderful kid-things to do, if only they would use their imaginations a little.

So I decided to set the standard.

One minute went by. Then two. I was smiling from ear to ear from the bliss of starting dinner with complete peace and quiet.

This is fantastic, I thought. Why didn't I think of it sooner?

Three minutes.

My bliss ended. One child was ringing the doorbell; another was pounding on the door that leads to the garage; yet another was knocking on the back door, insisting she needed to go to the bathroom.

"Sorry," I said unsympathetically. "You'll have to wait for 17 more minutes--or, if you get really desperate, you could go behind that bush over there."

I thought I was pretty funny. She didn't.

Another two minutes went by.

"Mom, it's been 20 minutes, hasn't it?" I heard a voice from inside the garage ask.

"Not quite," I mused. "Just a little longer."

Four more minutes. I heard footsteps in the basement and realized these clever little children were not going to go down without a fight. Someone had snuck through the basement door and climbed over all the building debris just to get into the house.

"Back outside," I demanded. I must have sounded like I meant business because my four-year-old disappeared as quickly as she had appeared.

Another three minutes went by. By then, all four kids were on the back porch, pressing their little noses up to the window pane like sad little puppies. My nine-year-old was bawling, sitting on the steps with her legs crossed in an effort to not pee her pants. I doubted very seriously that she even needed to go to the bathroom. It was obvious my children saw right through my tactics to force them to play together and were determined to make me pay for my abuse.

Three more minutes. "Mama!" my two-year-old yelled through the door. I was beginning to feel sick inside, realizing I wasn't only mean, but terribly selfish as well. Still, I was close to the finish line, so I ignored him.

Finally, four-thirty came, and I unlocked the doors.

"You did it!" I shouted with enthusiasm. "You stayed outside for twenty minutes, and some of you even came back in with a smile."

Unamused, they all looked at me as if I had a screw loose. I wasn't sure I didn't.

Still sobbing, my nine-year-old glared knowingly at me. Feeling certain I knew where she got her drama from, I ignored her by saying, "I thought you had to go to the bathroom." I couldn't help but gloat, wanting to show her I was smarter than she thought.

"I do," she mumbled as she trudged down the hallway.

She reappeared only moments later. I could feel the daggers in my back as she was determined to make me feel guilty for what I'd done.

Thankfully, about the time I thought I would crumble beneath her vicious stare, I was saved by a tomato sauce can. Cranking it open with a jerk, the red sauce splattered from the can and squirted all over the stove and counters, plastering everything within a few feet. A quick moment of silence followed . . .

. . .then we both burst into giggles. Even Hallee couldn't resist. It was all we needed to relieve the tension, and I knew we were okay again.

I don't know what I'll try next week when my children are complaining about the woes of childhood, but I'm pretty sure that, regardless of what I scheme up, I'll at least have them all use the bathroom first.

Maybe then I will only feel selfish, rather than guilty and selfish. Or who knows? Perhaps these four dear children of mine will decide for themselves they have better things to do than whine to their mother about being bored.

Probably not, but it makes me smile imagining it anyway.


Julie Summerhays said...

You make me laugh - I love it!!!

Ange said...

That cracks me up - I can just see the whole thing happening!
Maybe I'll have to try that this week :)

Abby said...

That is classic! :)

Julia said...

Nice, Lori! I hope you had a great Mother's always make me feel more excited about motherhood when I read your great stories. Thanks for sharing.