This past weekend we decided to sit one out. Missoula’s social scene is in full swing and that can mean two birthday parties and four potlucks in one weekend. Trust me, there is a part of me (a big part) that loves seeing and being seen but after a few too many over committed weekends there is also a part of me that wants to hunker down on the farm, stay in my giving-up-on-life pants until 2 p.m. and make entire cities out of cardboard boxes with Lucille.
So last weekend this is exactly what we did: we hung out. At home. Together. I wish I could tell you it was all skipping through the high grass of the pasture, picking daisies and soaking for hours in a wood fire hot tub. There was some of that but there was also sibling bickering that nearly sent me to town, the cat-and-mouse game of make a mess, let mama clean it up, and the constant reminder that my children are always teaching me something.
I remember when I had children I thought I’d certainly learn a lot of from them and from the experience of having had them. I imagined deep life lessons, heartwarming tales of how they’ve changed me and how I’ve grown by just having known them. What I didn’t anticipate were the lessons I’d learn on the fly by a sideways glance, a well-placed back-attcha comment straight from the lips of one of my cherubs directed at me, their adoring mother.
“Well, duh,” Eliza said Friday evening. It was the first official “well duh” in our household. It felt like a monumental moment, a milestone in parenting right up there with the first knock knock joke or the first time one sister farted on the other on purpose. She said it with such emphasis and command of the language that I’m sure it’s the first of many such remarks and it’s only a matter of time before Lucille catches on. And by matter of time I mean mere days. Lucille is a quick study and our reaction piqued her intrigue, I’m sure.
“Wow, Eliza, where did you learn that?” I said.
“A lot of people at my school say well duh,” she said. This is what she says when she wants to show she knows something we don’t. Well, at my school…
My next lesson came on Sunday when Eliza made her sister a sandwich. A kind act, for which I was deeply appreciative, until Eliza delivered it to Lucille who was sitting on the top bunk of their bed.
“Let’s eat in the kitchen,” I said.
“But Lucille wants to eat in her bed,” Eliza said, speaking for her sister who had yet to be truly consulted.
“Friend, I’ve clearly asked you to both eat at the table,” I said.
“I’ve clearly asked you to stop calling me friend,” Eliza said.
“You’re right Eliza but still don’t eat in bed!”
She stomped away. So did I.
As Sunday evening rolled around we were all eyeing the Prius and plotting our separate escapes when Seth walked past me after cleaning up one more mess and said in passing, “you know the only difference between our children and monkeys is that our children don’t fling shit at us as we walk by.”
“Only if you’re not speaking in metaphor,” I said. We laughed and moved on to the next mess.
Not twenty minutes later I met eyes with Lucille who was squatting near the lilac-in-full-bloom by our front door.
“I really had to poop,” she said. “I couldn’t make it to the bathroom.” A sly grin swept across her face and I knew she was messing with me.
“Did you really go poop right there?” I said.
Sly grin still in place she nodded yes.
“Go wipe your bum,” I said.
“Monkeys!” Seth said over the top her head.
When we moved back to Arlee a few years ago I kept saying I wanted our kids to go feral. Well, I think we’ve accomplished our goal.
About an hour later we finally loaded ourselves -- clean butts and all -- into the car to go to Lucille’s ballet recital. I loved the juxtaposition of our farm life, reminiscent of Lord of the Flies, and the prim, poised ballet world.
Sitting on the front row I thought about how unpredictable this parenting gig can be and how the lessons aren’t always wrapped in Hallmark moments and tied nicely in bows. But they are there, everyday, and I’m still learning them.