We got out the dominoes this evening and gathered the whole clan to play, 12 of us around the dining room table, ivory tiles clacking against oak. We lined up dominoes and planned strategies and checked for ‘flags’, and leaned to help younger ones sitting near us plan their strategies.
Calamity struck at 8 pm. The 3 year tried to lay down her last domino in her brother’s lineup instead of her own, then melted down big-time when I insisted she play on her own row. Nevermind that she had the perfect move. Nevermind that she WON when she did it mom’s way. She was loudly bent on playing the game her own way. After a minute of listening to her howl I decreed it to be her bedtime, and whisked her off to bed.
She spent the next 45 minutes vacillating between heartbroken wailing, begging for every sibling in the house (anyone but mean mom), and sniffling dejectedly into her tissues. She would not give in. Which of course is exactly what got her here in the first place.
So here I sit, willing her to stop snuffling and twitching and playing with her Kleenex so that she can finally go to sleep, all the while suffering my own micro-drama. One moment I am feigning calm and tenderly singing lullabies in hopes of helping her drift off quickly so I can return to the game. The next I find myself whispering ‘shhh….go to sleep!’ way-too-fiercely, glumly certain I’ll be stewing here in the dark til midnight, the dominoes game long over.
In the midst of my irritation, I remember something I read over at Holy Experience. I’d love to live my life so mindfully, fully appreciating each moment, always conscious that I am serving my Savior as I serve my family. But truthfully in moments like this I just want to escape the dark bedroom and get back in the game.
My impatience overwhelms me, frustrates me, humiliates me. I am so not what I want to be.
And yet somehow in the midst of my frustration the words I read yesterday reach out to me. I take a deep breath, and become aware of the warm sweetness of my daughter’s little arm on my chest. She’s clutched onto my bra strap, her favorite security blanket. It is a habit I usually find endearing. It speaks so clearly of her need for me. Nothing else — no one else — will do. I am the most important person in her little world, even when I frustrate her by not giving in to her demands. She may howl for a sibling when she is angry. But when it is time for sleep, she comes into my arms and refuses all else.
As I think and write, my jagged emotions settle down. And not surprisingly, so do hers. Soon she is breathing deeply, sagging softly instead of twitching, though her hand still clutches me tightly.
I could go now. But instead I sit. I will inhabit this moment a little longer. Because I’ve realized it is good after all.