Updated: Jan 16
The boys were awful today.
I'm talking DEFCON 1, psychological warfare, existential crisis awful.
"Siri, call DCS to come take these kids" awful.
The morning started with Mason throwing a tantrum because he was served pancakes for breakfast instead of oatmeal. The horror.
Ezra, not to be outdone, transported the maple syrup from his pancakes to 37 separate surfaces across the house (including our dog).
In addition to bypassing puberty and going straight to becoming a void of angst, Mason also chose violence today by literally Sparta-kicking his brother off the sofa.
Ezra added to his physical anguish by forming an emotional attachment to a piece of Amazon shipping tape. He then promptly misplaced said tape and loudly mourned this loss for half an hour.
Their pediatrician calls this "imprinting" and apparently it's a thing? I prefer to use more descriptive terminology like "hoarding trash" or "reversing daddy's progress in therapy."
By dinnertime, there was an unspoken understanding between Molly and me that we would either A) obtain food through no concerted effort of our own or B) feed the boys Cheerios laced with Benadryl.
Since the former option seemed the least likely to result in a prison sentence, we headed to the nearest place that served chicken nuggets and fries.
Then, something weird happened.
Maybe it was the close proximity, but I swear I could actually feel the tension of the day packed into the cabin of the car. My wife spilled into her seat. There was weariness etched into her face, a heaviness in each exhale.
As we turned out of the neighborhood, I caught glimpses in the mirror of my boys' faces as streaks of pale orange streetlight raced across the windows. Their noses sniffled in unison as dried tears illuminated like matte scars on their cheeks, each revealing pools of exhaustion beneath little eyelids.
A thought crossed my heart, "This day was hard for them too."
We pulled up to the restaurant and instinctively started the unloading process: coats zipped, shoes tied, hands held. I felt the somber weight of my little Ezra as I lifted him from his seat to the pavement below.
Walking towards the building, I stooped down and pulled him close, "Let's bunny hop to the door!" A smile stretched across his face, and we played (yes, in a parking lot).
It was cold and dark and Big Happy Family 101 says we should proceed to the restaurant in an orderly fashion, but we played instead. He giggled and threw his arms around my neck after a few moments of our impromptu game. He felt lighter this time.
Mason and Molly were already inside when we caught up. As is standard procedure, the orders were placed and daddy was beckoned for payment.
I glanced at my six-year-old, eyes glazed over and locked on a tray of cookies freshly pulled from the oven. The aroma was enough to knock him over, but after a day stippled with "no" and "stop", he didn't dare ask.
Queue my inner dad monologue: "He may want a cookie, but does he deserve a cookie? After how he's acted today?"
Heck no, he didn't. But truth be told, I didn't either. None of us did.
"What, if anything, do you want your sons to take away from this day?"
The answer was resounding like a megaphone in my heart: Grace.
So, I bought four cookies for four people who didn't deserve cookies but needed them all the same. And dinner, believe it or not, ended up redeeming an otherwise crappy 24-hours.
On the way home, Molly reached over and laced her fingers into mine. We were breathing easier, and our two little chocolate-mouthed boys were able to put a hard day behind them.
Parenthood...life in general is filled with opportunities to get angry, to harbor grudges, and to feel sorry for ourselves. But time is too fleeting to stay there.
Lean into it, and leave it behind.
Bunny hop through the parking lot, and buy the dang cookie.