I walked the boys to school yesterday, which makes me feel virtuous, what with readying their minds for a day’s worth of learning without consuming even a smidge of fossil fuels. Et cetera. It was only -19°C out, otherwise known as downright balmy — the school herds the kids inside only once the temperature hits -25°. We are hardy souls. So there I was, feeling downright virtuous as we walked along, the kids all adorable in their matching snowsuits. And I tried hard to feel virtuous. Really, I did. Except that the entire walk to school I was instead consumed with feeling anxious and irritated as my sons played what is fondly known as “The Shoving Game,” which — loosely — involves running full force into each other and knocking each other into the piles of dirty, rotting snow along the sides of the street. The Shoving Game also involves a certain amount of sitting on top of your opponent/collaborator, perhaps occasionally sprinkling his face with snow, hacking away at large ice boulders and hurling them into the street to see them explode, using my body as a human shield, maniacal laughter, and walking along the top ridges of said rotting snow banks, any moment liable to crash skull-first onto the unyielding pavement below.
Also, there is screaming.
It takes maybe five minutes to walk to school when you just walk. Longer, obviously, when you play the shoving game. It felt like an hour. An hour, in, say, stirrups, during which time I tried to remember that this is normal — even healthy — behaviour, that these kids need rough-and-tumble, outdoor play, that they are, by and large, quite good at negotiating the boundaries of their bodies. And even when Rowan momentarily (and not entirely innocently) shoves him too hard and Isaac bursts into sudden, over-reactionary tears, those tears are gone in moments — especially if I don’t intervene.
And I tried not intervene. Really, I did, but it’s almost physically impossible not to find yourself spouting aphorisms like “Careful!” or “Watch the road!” or “If I have to tell you again…” when all you can see is — when you can practically hear — your child’s head splitting open like a ripe cantaloupe on asphalt. I was trying to be cool, trying to be Zen, but mostly I found myself wishing that this city’s blighted urban planning program had seen fit to install more goddamn sidewalks in residential areas here in the 1960s, and occasionally trying to subtly frogmarch Isaac a few steps forward to gain a little bit of distance before the next onslaught.
This is my current, ongoing parenting challenge: maintaining serenity in the face of justified chaos. I tried again last night, when I desperately needed the kids to play in the basement and they just as desperately insisted that they would play in the basement only if one or the other of their parents stayed down there with them, because the Basement Is Scary. So I sucked it up and went down there with them and decided to quilt while they played the “Use the Couch As Leverage to Hurl Yourself over the Spare Bed, Coming Precariously Close to the Edge of the Cupboard Game.”
I had a bit more fun than I had that morning, which just goes to show what an awesome parent I must be.
P.S. I have a new gig! I'll be blogging weekly at Today's Parent Canada, as "The (Other) Mother." Please check it out!