Tonight on our walk, Chica asked me plainly, “Mom, do you know what a symbiotic relationship is?”
I had a pretty good guess, but I wanted to see what she thought it meant. I knew right away this is something she had picked up from Wild Kratts. (Thank you GOD we are occasionally hearing about something other than My Little Ponies these days.) Anyway, her definition wasn’t quite correct (“when one animal picks something else off another animal”), but her example was spot on. She told me about the oxpecker that picks bugs off of a rhinoceros. I had to check it out, but she’s exactly right. Still not quite five, but already smarter than me. Sheesh.
All day I’ve been intending to write about collapsible baby legs and the moment in which I really lost it this morning. Now I’m thinking that symbiotic relationships are somehow related to my mini major meltdown, so let’s see if I can work my way back around there by the time I’m done.
There’s a parenting rule that I forget over and over: Don’t ever start to think you may be early for any occasion, because this will invariably cause something to happen that will make you late. Maybe you’ll have to send out a search party for the left shoe of the kid that only owns one pair of shoes. Or maybe after four passes by the mirror, you’ll admit that the snot on your shoulder (not your own, of course) is, in fact visible, and you’ll have to change shirts. Or, like today, maybe one kid will decide that the best time to have a dirty diaper of epic proportions is the moment you are putting on coats to head out the door. Don’t ever think you’re going to be early.
So I admit I was already angry while changing his diaper. We were going to leave after our goal of 7:30…again. But then he just Wouldn’t. Stay. Down. All my usual tricks (a toy, a book, a song, dirty looks, brute force) weren’t working, and as he cried more and fought harder, my frustration just grew. I somehow managed to wrangle the clean diaper on him, and decided to go ahead and let him stand while I finished with his pants and shoes.
Growing up, my grandma had a giraffe toy with a button on the bottom. When you pushed the button, the giraffe would collapse in a limp pile. Right then and there, after probably three minutes of fighting to stand up, Bubba did a perfect imitation of the collapsed giraffe. “You want me to stand up? Nah. I think I’ll lay down now, thankyouverymuch.”
So the next few minutes are a blur. Chica, get your shoes on. No, for the millionth time, you cannot take a doll in the car because you’ll forget it like the other 17 toys that are already there. Chica, find your coat. Where did I put my phone? Chica, find your coat. No, Bubba, we cannot read a book right now. Don’t take your hat off. Chica, PUT. ON. YOUR. COAT.
All I know for sure is that I was standing at the top of the steps, holding everyone’s bags, trying to take down the baby gate, and Bubba did the giraffe imitation again. I tried to pick him up, and he was still the giraffe. And crying. And I still don’t think Chica had her coat on. (Sorry….way too many ands in a row, I know.)
Three inches from his face I yell scream, “STOP IT!”
Yeah. So I totally know that screaming at a crying, flailing sixteen month old is only going to make him cry and flail even more. Pretty much the only thing it did accomplish was scaring the helloutta Chica and make her get in the car quickly. With her coat on.
But here’s the thing… Often when I get angry at my kids, I take deep breaths, speak (mostly) calmly, and seem pretty composed on the outside. But on the inside I’m screaming mean, ugly, curse word laden rants that I think would fix the problem fast. And make me feel better.
Today when I let that stuff fly, it only fixed half of the problem—Chica and her coat. I still had to carry a flailing, screaming giraffe to the car under my arm like a sack of potatoes. But me? I felt worse. Way worse. And Bubba? He never cries when I drop him off at school. Really never. Today he did. You know it’s connected.
So maybe we’re back to the oxpecker and rhino and symbiotic relationships. I know they need me. They need me to remind them not to run down our sloping sidewalk, or explain what adoption means, or navigate how to make friends and keep them.
But Chica’s crazy, random question has reminded me that I need them too. Today I needed them to help point out an area in my life where I still have a wholelotta room to grow towards Christ-likeness.
Gracious. Compassionate. Slow to anger. Rich in love. I need that.
They need that from me too.
How about you? Any oxpecking happening at your house lately?