It is about ninety seconds before the children need to be out the door to go to school. I find myself in conversation with my eldest.
“Where’s the item that you take to school every single day?” I ask.
“In the room that’s a mess because of my sister and I and the animals,” she replies.
“Okay. Grab it please, we need to get you out the door.”
“No. There’s a reason I won’t,” she says, voice rising. “In fact, I’m upset about it, as you can tell by the volume and tone of my voice.”
“Yes, I can tell, but I’m tired and feel gross as well, and I need you to get the thing now.”
“But there’s a reason that I don’t want that thing, and I am angry because of that reason.”
“What about,” I say, “this other thing that serves the exact same function?”
“No. I don’t even need the thing, so it doesn’t matter.”
“Then why are we arguing about it?”
“Because I’m angry about the reason I can’t take the thing.”
“I thought you just said you didn’t want this almost identical thing?”
“I AM ANGRY ABOUT THE REASON AND NOT ABOUT THE THING SO I AM NOT TAKING THE THING.”
I sigh. “Listen. There’s a very valid reason you should take the thing.”
She stamps a foot. “That’s not a good reason, and I’m not taking the thing.”
“It is a good reason and I think you know that.”
“My reason is more important than your reason.”
“BECAUSE I AM ANGRY ABOUT MY REASON, PEPPER.”
“Listen,” I say, my own voice rising. “You’re yelling about your thing, which is bugging me so much right now that I can’t even focus on the thing that you’re actually mad about. And this morning my parenting capacity is somewhere between I-don’t-wanna and remedial class, so take the thing and go out the door.”
She does, and I say my usual little affirmations as they walk away, but I know everybody feels like trash.
It is about thirty seconds after the kids see me when I come to pick them up.
“Hey Pepper,” says my littlest.
“Hey kiddo,” I say.
Eldest is silent, a little apprehensive as she turns and looks at me.
I hold up a thing – not the thing we argued about, but another thing that she forgot in the heat of our argument. A peace offering, and she knows it. She brightens.
“Hey Pepper,” she says. She grabs something and gives me a hug. “This is for you.”
She has her own olive branch. It’s an early Father’s Day card. It says Thank you for being there for me.
“Even when we…” she starts. Looks at me. Bobs her eyebrows knowingly.
“Yeah. Even when I…”
“And when I…”
“Even always,” I say. I give her a tighter hug. “It’s great. Love you, kiddo.”
“Love you, Pepper.”
The reason I wanted her to bring the thing happens like twelve seconds later. And we know. We share a look. But by that point, we’re back onside, and reasons and things have stopped mattering quite so much as they did this morning.