It was quiet. My twin 3-year-old girls were playing “Elsa” in their room and my second-grade son was sitting next to me building a new world in Minecraft. I tolerate extended Minecraft sessions because it must be educational in some way, like fostering creativity or visual perceptual skills. At the very least it prepares him for the zombie apocalypse. Either way, both good skills. And it keeps him quiet.
I was dying to see the final 10 minutes of last night’s movie. What could go wrong in 10 minutes? Surely I could sit and watch TV without the world falling apart. I started the movie, hoping that I finally reached the parenting stage where I wasn’t needed every 5 seconds to wipe a butt or explain why red isn’t blue or peel the paper off a crayon stub.
About 2 minutes in, it was still quiet. I started to panic a little. My house isn’t quiet. Quiet means imminent disaster. Shoot. Do I check on them? Am I willing to deal with disaster later, or should I just take a peek? I pushed pause.
I cautiously stuck my head around the staircase, on the off chance they would be quietly playing and I could go back to my movie unseen. I should have known. I should have been prepared for the scene before me. I wasn’t.
Both girls were in the upstairs bathroom. One girl, let’s call her Thing 1, was standing on the toilet. In a pull-up. I’m not sure where that came from, because she had been fully dressed, with panties, a mere 5 minutes before. The pull-up was so saturated with liquid that it looked like a little swimmers diaper after a day long session at the beach. My other girl, let’s call her Thing 2, was standing in the bathroom doorway in the oldest pair of training underwear that we own. Dripping wet, of course.
I couldn’t understand the wet factor. I crept a little closer and the bathroom floor came into view as I advanced up the stairs. The floor was shiny. What? That didn’t make sense. Thing 2 wiggled her toe, and the shiny floor MOVED. What? How did she do that? Little ripples in the floor…it was drowned in 3 inches of water. And so was the hall carpet. Oh My God.
Then a cup materialized in darling Thing 1’s hand. She scooped water out of the full sink and rained it down on Thing 2. All to a chorus of giggles and squeals. I momentarily lost my mind.
ME: “WHAT ARE YOU DOING? THAT IS NOT OK. YOU ARE BREAKING THE HOUSE. THE HOUSE IS GOING TO GET SOGGY AND FALL APART AND WE WILL HAVE TO MOVE. I CANNOT BELIEVE YOU ARE DOING THIS! GET IN YOUR ROOM UNTIL I TELL YOU TO COME OUT!”
THING 1 (big wide eyes): “I say sorry Mama.”
THING 2 (very excited): “I don’t want to move! The water come down. The water go everywhere in the closet and we lose our clothes and we have nothing to wear!”
Thing 2 might have inherited her momma’s flair for drama.
I put them in their room and went downstairs, feeling ashamed for yelling like a lunatic. I leaned into the downstairs bathroom to get towels, and something landed on my head. I thought it was a fly, so I smacked myself. It was either the juiciest fly I have ever killed, or there was water in my hair. I said a silent prayer, pleading to God that water was not dripping from the ceiling.
I looked up. I saw a drip. There was a drip in the downstairs bathroom. The vent was leaking. The vent was leaking into the cat box. My children flooded the bathroom, causing it to leak through the ventilation system, into my damn cat box. Contaminated water was splashing out of the box into the air I was breathing. I forgot any shred of sympathy I had been cultivating, and lost my mind a second time.
I pounded up the stairs, flung open my daughters’ door, and screamed.
ME: “YOU MADE WATER GO THROUGH THE FLOOR AND DRIP INTO THE BATHROOM DOWNSTAIRS! WHAT WERE YOU THINKING? WHY DID YOU THINK THAT PLAYING WITH WATER IS OK? YOU BROKE MY HOUSE! DO YOU UNDERSTAND THAT THIS IS BAD? YOU DID A BAD THING!”
THING 1 (intake of breath, hand to her chest): “I clean it up.”
THING 2 (glance in closet): “My clothes ok.”
ME: “WHAT? YOUR CLOTHES?? NO! YOU STAY HERE UNTIL I AM READY FOR YOU TO COME OUT!”
I was close to hyperventilating. I collapsed on the floor and attempted to recall how to calm myself down. All I could remember was the Lamaze class I took one time 8 years ago. That helped a little. What helped more was the bottle of wine in my fridge. I drank (guzzled) a glass and felt calmer. I cleaned up the mess, and guzzled another glass in preparation for the nightly bedtime struggle.
Pull-ups and pajamas went on with a minimum of words, and they willingly got under the sheets. I was surprised to avoid the nightly whine fest. I must have really scared them. I was still steaming, but tried to maintain a consistent bedtime routine and picked up their favorite bedtime book.
ME: “TWINKLE TWINKLE LITTLE STAR! HOW I WONDER WHAT YOU ARE! I DON’T KNOW THAT THAT MEANS! I ALREADY CALLED YOU A STAR, OF COURSE I KNOW WHAT YOU ARE! UP ABOVE THE WORD SO HIGH LIKE A DIAMOND IN THE SKY! TWINKLE TWINKLE!”
ME: “OK GO TO BED!”
THING 2 (small voice): “Mama. But you didn’t use your quiet voice.”
ME: “That’s right. I am still mad. If I find my quiet voice, I will come back and read it again. Go to sleep.”
I did not find my quiet voice that night. I was too worked up about potential repair bills and the back of the house rotting off, or mold causing us to die horrible deaths due to respiratory failure.
I went to bed, and my last thought before I drifted into a nightmare populated with tiny mold men building palaces in my lungs was this: Baby girls, I didn’t find my quiet voice tonight, but tomorrow I will make that quiet voice come first and we will read TWO stories. Maybe three. Sometimes, quiet is the best way to make it right.