My Child, My Mirror

My Child, My Mirror

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There is no question that I like things to go well.  I also expect things to go as planned.  I am recently divorced and work from home.  Having two young boys to take care of is no snap.  Babysitters are often late, or are only interested in doing what they want, forgetting that the children are mine, that they work for me, and should comply with my requests.  I don’t want impromptu, spontaneous plans to enter the picture.

Todd is two and Elliot is four.  They are not particularly challenging and yet, I often wish for more quiet blank time.  My former husband, Dan is not much help.  He recently introduced a girlfriend, Jill.  They have developed the annoying habit of dropping in unexpectedly to see the boys when they are in the area.  I have told Dan several times that I would prefer a regular schedule of visits, and that he should take the boys out with him, rather than hanging here, but the unannounced visits continue.

I have always loved vintage things, from housewares to clothing.  In the last six months, I began a little business, purchasing from eBay, thrift shops, flea markets and tag sales and reselling to some retro shops in Greenwich Village.  I am doing very well, and I like doing it.

One Saturday morning, I happened to see a Cartier Tank watch on eBay, that was getting bids way below its value. There were only seven minutes left in the auction, and I had just entered my bid when Dan and Jill showed up.

“Daddy!”  Elliot exclaimed happily.  “Great!  Let’s play something.”

“Take them to the park,” I suggested, knowing it would be a relief for me, and fun for them.  “They need fresh air.”  I went back to the screen.  Five minutes left in the auction and my bid was still high.

Just then, a kid’s tennis racket came sailing through the air, knocking over an Italian candlestick that was on the dining room table.  It fell to the floor, breaking into a dozen pieces.

Jill shook her head at me.  “I’d rethink having candles on a table where children sit.  Maybe in a decade or two.”

Dan was halfheartedly trying to clean up.  “Hey, Addison, sorry about that.”

“I didn’t do that,” Elliot said.

Todd was saying, “Uh oh” over and over.

I glanced back at the screen and realized in just 90 seconds I would own a $5000 watch for $900.  I was thinking, “Keep it?  Or sell it?”

“Dan maybe you should take this game outside.  How about it?”  I wasn’t asking for much.

Jill leaned over to smell some limp tulips on the windowsill and smirked at Dan.  “Time to toss the blooms.”  I couldn’t stand her.

I looked again at the computer.  With one second left, another bidder had slipped a $1000 offer in.  Auction over.  My watch was gone and I was stunned.

Then I saw Todd holding my lipstick.  Elliot was shoeless.  I had really had it.  I grabbed the lipstick.

“Go outside now!”  I told Dan.  “This is ridiculous.  You pop in, destroy the morning and the house and require more help than the children!  Remember, you don’t live here!”

“Okay, Adds.”  Dan sounded sheepish.  “Let’s go out, guys.”

“Bye, Mommy,” Elliot said, and Todd blew me a kiss.

Jill poured her cup of coffee down the drain.  “I never did like tar.”

I went back to my desk.  A pair of 1949 Salvatore Ferragamo loafers came on the screen.  I stared at the computer, still angry with myself for not having stayed on top of the bidding for the Cartier.

I suddenly heard loud crying from Elliot.  Dan came rushing in, carrying him.  Jill followed, pulling on Todd’s hand.

“Adds, Elliot went for the ball and tripped over a rock in the back.  Will you get a cold cloth?”

Running to the freezer for ice, I wrapped it up in a striped dishtowel.  Elliot had a bad bump and was bleeding too. After a while, he stopped crying.  “I almost caught it, right, Daddy?”

“You were this close.  The rock just got in the way.”

“Maybe the rock could go,” Jill mumbled.

I was thinking, “Maybe you could,” but let that thought just ramble around with the hundred other negative ones I had reserved for Jill.

Dan clearly felt terrible that Elliot had gotten hurt.  He knelt down and said, “Next time we’ll go right to the park.”

Todd asked, “Me go too, right?”

“Of course, Toddy, you too.”

“Well, maybe we should push off,” Dan offered, looking apologetically at me.

“No problem there,” I said flatly.

“Well guys, see you soon.  I love you two.”

The boys hugged their father.

“See you, Addison.”

“Bye.”

The boys waited for the honk that Dan always blasted and then they looked at me.

I was suddenly remembering a conversation yesterday with Mrs. Brindell, the head of their nursery school.  She told me that both of the boys’ teachers felt that they had been very tearful lately.  Elliot was grabbing toys and crying without much provocation.  Todd was sucking his thumb more than ever and crying too.

As she told me, I thought, “Lady, you are a nice person, and what you say is probably true, but you have no idea of my life and my time juggling.  All I ask is that you take my children out of my hair for a few hours every day and care for them.  Do you really have to add to my load?”

As I played back her message in my head, Todd dropped a small green ball at my feet, like a dog that hopes to be played with.  Elliot was still sitting sadly.  The ice had melted and the striped cloth was soaked and dripping on his shirt.  He began gently, but definitely to kick the table leg in front of him.

I looked back at my screen.  The loafers were still at their opening bid but I closed the computer and picked up a book both boys loved.  “How about a story?”  I suggested.

I suddenly realized my part in their problems.  How had I been so self-absorbed?  I had transferred my sadness and anger to them.  I could feel their aches and wanted to soothe them.  As I began to read, both boys leaned into me.  I knew this was a priceless time.  I looked at my boys’ hands on my jeans, and felt new insight into my life, both as Addison and as a mother.  I was about to become the highest bidder on what I already owned.

Miracles do happen.  Addison was so wrapped up in her own resentments.  She was starving for an opportunity to feel her self worth again at all costs.  By having the great fortune to understand the cheerless impact she was having upon her very young children, she reopened her heart and life, and theirs.

Written by: Anne Martine Cook, Managing Partner & Mom, with 35+ years experience teaching nursery school children.

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