About three weeks ago, we sold Laurie’s van and bought a new one. The one we sold had broken down one too many times, so we decided to trade up while it was still running.
Large purchases like these give me anxiety for weeks – both before and after signing on the dotted line. By the time I’d made peace with buying the new van, the air conditioner went out at the house. It’s July and we live in Texas, so it’s a toss-up on what’s worse: going four days with no A/C or the five-figure bill for the new unit. Obviously, an over-heated wife supersedes all debate.
Then, while we waited for the new unit to arrive, our elderly dog, Oscar, got sick. The vet took an x-ray, announced he had an enlarged heart, gave him six months to live, and then prescribed a few hundred dollars’ worth of medication.
“I feel like our life would make a good country song,” Laurie said in the car on the way home from the vet. “Seriously!” I said. “If this were a movie, I’d think, ‘This is a little over-the-top.’”
One might reasonably assume that, after Mom and Dad have soldiered through a miserable month, the kids might say to each other, “Hey, maybe now would be a good time to get our act together. Let’s take our medication, declutter the house, and remember to flush all the toilets.”
But no. In the midst of all this adult stress, it’s still business as usual with our kids. Which means Laurie and I come home from the vet to find the kids watching TV in the un-air-conditioned living room. It’s 6pm yet they’re in flannel pajamas. The kitchen is a wreck. Their bedrooms are a wreck from the ten minutes they played with toys when I made them turn off the TV earlier in the day. And my sanity is dangling by a thread.
“Guys,” I said, “Can you just… c’mon…” I was so spent that I couldn’t finish sentences. I incorrectly assumed they understood their old man had recently accrued maybe $40,000 in unexpected expenses and was in need of a respite. But they didn’t understand.
I ask them to clean the kitchen and they complain about having to pause their show. Then they start bickering over who will empty the top part of the dishwasher, which is commonly considered the easy part. So Laurie and I quickly retreat to our oven of a bedroom, where we lay on the bed with our sickly Oscar, and breathe a collective, defeated sigh.
“Well,” Laurie finally says, “This sucks.”
“Yup,” I say. “We need to come up with some solutions.”
“To what?” she says. “Life?!”
I think for a moment. “I guess you’re right. This is all part of being an adult.”
“I think the only solution is to dig a little deeper for patience and move on.”
Just then, there is a knock on the door. Isaac peaks his head in the door. “Jayden’s not helping us in the kitchen.”
I feel my blood begin to boil, but before I say something I might regret, Laurie taps my leg. “You take a break,” she says. “I got this.”
I hear her in the kitchen give Jayden the business for being lazy, then she gives Isaac the business for tattling. Meanwhile I lay in bed and marvel at how she can do this — find the patience to parent these kids in the midst of all this extraordinary chaos. Feeling recharged, I hop out of bed and head to the kitchen, where I join Laurie in straightening out the boys. Because I figure if she can thrive in the midst of all this, I better do my best to keep up.