Why is it that after an entire winter of being snowed in, the very suggestion of sunshine sends my kids running for the basement?
This past week we had a few glorious, allergen-inducing days. The sun came out, the trees started to perk up, and all I could think about was that glorious vitamin D just waiting to be had.
"Kids!" I sang, "Time to run outside and enjoy the sunshine. I've got sidewalk chalk, and bubbles--"
"NOO! We wanna watch a movie! It's too cold out there! There are bears out there! You can't give us food every seven minutes out there!"
And so the afternoon began. Much to their dismay and horror, I held the Red Box rental over their heads and sent them out the front door, kicking, crying, and squinting.
Let me tell you, outside is fun at my house. There are scooters and big wheels, a play set, rocks to climb, sticks to collect, bugs to squish -- there isn't a child on the planet who could complain about a day outside at this place.
Well, minus my three kids, who think Mother Nature is in cahoots with the Boogie Man.
"That's it," I finally said, "You're all banned from the house until the timer goes off!" I gently dumped them on the patio and closed the door to their horrified wailing. (I also set up a picnic outside and gave them every opportunity imaginable to make the ban enjoyable.)
Twenty-five minutes later my 5-year-old was still huddled on the step by the door trying to freeze and die from neglect, my daughter was crying because there weren't strawberries in her picnic, and I knew that if I answered their banging one more time ... go ahead and insert your imagination here.
"Fine!" I said, after nearly half an hour of murmuring and moaning. "You can watch your movie already!" I walked into the kitchen where I'd placed the much anticipated DVDs, and they were gone. I searched the family room. Gone. I looked under the pillows, bar, inside the car, in the toy box -- those movies had disappeared.
Oh, the wailing.
By this point the pre-springtime weather had mostly ruined my day. The baby was crying, the kids were crying, and nothing was right in the world (especially in Japan). I was so close to snapping, the only hope I had was a self-induced time-out, something where I could regroup and invent a new and improved method for parenting.
I did the only thing that promised a true moment of freedom: I grabbed the half-eaten sleeve of Saltines, trudged out to the garage, and locked myself in the car. I turned the key halfway and there was Nora Jones, all soothing and mellow like. Leaning back and closing my eyes, I took a deep breath ... and the car started to rock.
It was my 3-year-old daughter, banging on the window for me to Let. Her. In.
As hard as I tried, I could not shake that kid from my brain (or my SUV). I turned up the music, shoved some crackers in my mouth, and still, she persisted. This went on for approximately 42 seconds.
Finally, with a sigh and another cracker, I made eye contact with the little intruder.
"Mommy! I want to snuggle you!!"
How can a mother resist that? I caved, opened the door and in she tromped. She closed it behind her, locked it, and plopped down on the console next to me. Reaching for a cracker, she cranked the volume on the radio, put her head on my shoulder, and whispered, "I love you, Mommy."
Sometimes we think we know what will make us happy. I was sure that all I needed was an escape from the chaos, a moment to find a little clarity and peace. But in getting away, all I really had was a whole lot of emptiness. That car didn't do a thing for my day until my child entered it.
I guess sometimes Mommy doesn't really know what's best. Good thing I've got a 3-year-old to keep me in line.
Annie Valentine is a Layton wife, mother and columnist. Readers can contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit her blog at regardingannie.wordpress.com.