Let’s begin with a little background, shall we?
There’s this book called “Three Stories You Can Read to Your Cat.” Clever title, very cute book, my oldest loves it and tries to “read” it to our cats. This is amusing to everyone except, of course, the cats.
The third story in the book is entitled “A Good Day” and details the (mis)adventures of a cat who is left alone by his person-friend with the instructions, “Be good while I’m gone, kitty.” Let’s just say that kitty has a much different idea of goodness than his person-friend. Kitty tears up the curtains (“It is good to climb”), rips through the garbage (“It is good to find a chicken bone”) and ruins the rug (“It is good to clean my claws”), all the while congratulating himself on having such a good day.
My children also have good days.
One day last week when this particular book had been returned to the library and completely forgotten (by me), our children and our housemate-children were outside. The boys were playing loudly, but the girls were quiet. This fact should have set off alarms in my brain, but I was mostly and thoughtlessly pleased that they weren’t screaming.
By the time I checked on them, the neighbor’s poor kitten had already received her bath. My youngest was holding her while my oldest was drenching her with cupfuls of water. It was late in the day, and the poor, matted thing was shivering.
I did not react well. Ignoring their startled expressions and explanations (“But Mama, she was dirty!”), I yelled something, grabbed the kitten and ran for a towel. My husband looked up from the dishes and saw fire in my eyes–“You,” I sputtered, “The girls. Did this. You. You deal with them.”
I was one angry cave-woman.
About an hour later the kitten was dry, consequences were experienced and the kids were all playing quietly upstairs. It was getting toward bedtime, and I went up to give the 5 minute warning. It took a minute for my brain to register what was all over their bedroom floor.
Mulch. A bucketful of mulch with its accompanying dirt. Mulch and dirt ground into the carpet, mixed in with the toys. Mulch and dirt, and it was almost bedtime. “Mama!” my oldest’s eye were glowing, “We have a surprise for you!”
Yep. Surprise, Mama.
“These are presents for you!’ she waved a sticker-laden stick of mulch in front of me, “We colored them and decorated them! The wood is beautiful now!”
I reacted much better this time. No yelling, no grabbing, no sputtering, but inside I wanted to scream. I called in the reserves–the rest of the grown-ups–and together we cleaned. I was glad, very glad, to turn them over to daddy-bedtime. Good. Night. Girls.
Sometime later after my husband had already gone to bed, I walked past the girls’ room and heard crying. “Honey, what’s wrong?” “Mama…” she could barely get the words out, “Daddy forgot… to hold my hand… to say my prayer… to sing Jesus loves me.”
“Can I do it?” Yes, of course. I held her hand and prayed something like, ‘Dear Jesus, thank you for this day. Please forgive us for the ways we’ve been mean to each other (I was thinking of my own behavior here), and please help us to be better tomorrow. Amen.”
I started to sing, but before I could get to the “little ones to him belong”, she interrupted me. “Mama?” “Yes?” “Do you remember that book about the cat, the one we read to Pepe?” “Uh, yes.” “Do you remember when the cat has a good day? Can you finish the song?”
Yes, honey, I can finish the song.