I heard the line click when my mother picked up the phone. “Hello?” She answered in her familiar, warm voice. It put my fried brain at ease straightaway.
“Mom?” I cried out.
“Oh, honey, what is wrong? Are the children all right?” Her voice was dripping with a combination of sympathy and fear.
“They are physically fine, but mentally, they have hit some kind of wall,” I explained.
“Well, you have Mae, a three-year-old girl and Josh, a five-year-old boy. That is when children start to develop their own personality. It will be like this for a while until they find their own unique personality. You will know when they do. Your sister figured hers out pretty early. She has always been introverted and quiet. She takes in everything she sees and has a creative imagination. You, on the other hand, didn’t find your place in life until you were 11.” She paused and seemed hesitant to continue with what she was saying to me.
“Give them time and let them figure it out. It won’t be easy; remember that kids make messes often, but if I had taken away the markers your sister scribbled on the wall with, maybe she wouldn’t have grown up to become the incredible artist that she is now. They are figuring out this big world and everything in it. Food, noises, emotions, everything is new to them and it takes time to adjust.”
I slumped against the wall I had been leaning against in the kitchen so the kids couldn’t hear me.
“I understand what you are saying, Mom, but I don’t think you comprehend the magnitude of the situation. All she does is whine.” I took a brief pause before I began my rant.
“Her grapes were cut the wrong way, so she refused to eat them. Or Heaven forbid a single pea touches her potatoes. She would not stop playing outside to come in for lunch. I finally went and carried her in. I had to give her a bath because she was filthy. She cried when I chose a dress with dogs on it because she wanted to wear pumpkins. As a result, I had to dig through her drawers and find a pair of leggings with pumpkins and black cats with a matching shirt so we could go to the store, but she literally whined the entire trip. In the car, whining, in the store, whining, and then when we got home, there was more whining. It is unbearable. I am about to lose my mind! It never ends.”
I slid down the wall and sat on the floor, feeling defeated. My mother was quiet for a few minutes.
“Mom? Are you ok?” I asked.
“Yes, I am fine. That whining all day and night and throwing temper tantrums doesn’t remind you of anyone?”
“No, should it?” I asked.
“You really can’t think of anyone that whined incessantly?” she asked again.
“No, your father is annoying in different ways.”
“Then I give up, Mom. You stumped me. Who was annoying, whined all day and had to have their meals served just the right way.”
“It was you, in fact,” she said.
“I don’t believe you. Maybe once in a while I was annoying, but I can barely remember a day where I was anything but helpful,” I told her. I heard a muffled sound against the sleeve of her shirt. Was she getting sick? Were her allergies bothering her? It sounded like a sniffle.
Barely composed, she took the phone and held it to her ear. “Wait. Was that sneezing or were you laughing?” I asked, kind of pissed off because I had called for advice, not to be mocked.
“I am sorry, honey,” she said. “It is just hysterical that you seriously don’t remember a single time where you whined or were annoying. You had plenty of those days. In fact, when you were in a great mood and helping everyone out, it was odd, actually.”
“You can keep thinking that, Mom. Listen, I have to go. The kids are calling for me but I want it on record that I was not a whiny or bratty child. I was an angel and a complete joy for everyone.”
“If that is what you want to believe, Caillou, then you go ahead and do that. I love you.” She hung up.
Was I annoying as a kid? I thought to myself. “No way,” I said out loud. “Besides, someone would have told me if I was annoying, right? No one did, though, so I am in the clear. I definitely never whined; she surely must be thinking of someone else.”
Finally, I took a deep breath before going into the living room where the kids were screaming. If I had any hair on my head, I probably would have pulled it out by now, I thought to myself. “At least I have that to be grateful about.”