All of this happened in less than ten minutes.
“Come on in for dinner,” I called out the front door. Andy and the kids began picking up the baseballs speckling our yard. Then in went the bats and in went the mits. They heaved the tub back to the garage. Everyone crowded around the bathroom sink to wash their hands.
I put the last water glasses on the table. Little did I know this would be the calm before the storm.
“I DON’T WANNA EAT THAT!” Sam, the four-year-old, shouted the minute he saw his plate. He threw himself into his chair and folded his arms.
“Mmmmm, this is my favorite! Meatloaf!” Hannah said.
Sam swung at her. She dodged him.
“Mine too!” Stephanie said.
Sam stuck out his tongue at her.
We prayed. Sam sobbed. “I want to pray. This is no fair. You always pray without me.” Andy caught my eyes across the table, I’m sure he was thinking the same thing as me: Sam prays every night.
We pray again so Sam can lead.
“I don’t like this!” he punctuates his last words by shoving his plate across the table.
Stephanie catches it before it hits the floor.
And shoves it back to him.
I stop it mid-way. Sam continues ranting. He finally leaves the table to spend some time in his room.
Stephanie decides to get seconds. Because she must do everything herself and Andy was refilling his water-glass, she gets out of her seat, walks around the table, and picks up the meat loaf dish.
“Wait!” I try to stop her, knowing the dish is heavy and hot. She actually listens the first time and turns to put the dish back on the table, only somehow instead of setting nicely on the table, it hits the edge and launches out of her hands, spinning above her head, dumping the entire contents of the pan on her head, shirt, jeans.
She bursts into tears. I get her clothes off of her since it is piping hot meatloaf soaking into her. She continues crying. Not a few soft sobs, no, all out wails. I take her up to the shower. Andy commences clean-up.
Hannah continues to eat. “Can we still eat the rest of that? It’s still good, right Dad?” I hear her as Stephanie takes a deep breath to reload for another wail.
The little guy is still shouting, “I don’t like that. It’s no fair,” in his bedroom.
After Stephanie finishes her shower, I retrieve Sam from his bedroom. “I don’t want to eat that icky stuff,” he insists.
“You have to try it, then you can have something else.”
Back at the table, Hannah is on her third helping of meatloaf. “Dad saved it,” she tells me between bites.
I look over at Andy, still cleaning meatloaf off the wall and the floor and the table and the chairs. I know he is grumbling on the inside. Meanwhile, Sam is grumbling on the outside.
He finally takes a bite and . . . gags.
Silence filled the room. Andy looks at me and says, “I’m not cleaning up throw up too.”
The little guy had a peanut butter and jelly. Hannah ate more meatloaf. Stephanie joined us and polished off the meatloaf.
And just like that, they are all happy and sweet and delightful again. I’m reminded that accidents happen and so do cranky moods. Sometimes, as parents, we just need the perseverance to keep plodding through. Times like these help make a family just as much as the joyful times. In fact, when we can stand by each other in spite of cranky, grouchy, and down right ugly attitudes it may even forge family bonds tighter than only having happy times. Still, I’m glad dinner time is rarely like this!
Unhurried. Finding the magic in the middle of living. Capturing a life of ridiculous grace + raw stories.