I stood at the kitchen sink washing containers from Miss J and M's lunch boxes. As I did, I watched my children playing in the backyard. Miss J was swinging on the rope swing. I could hear her calling to her brother, "M, watch me!" as she would leap up, clutching the rope as she glided through the air.
M ignored her. He was busing pulling leaves from the bushes and trees.
"M!" Miss J called again, "Would you please watch this?"
"No" M replied flatly.
Miss J walked over to M, yanked the collection of leaves from his hand and threw them on the ground.
M began to cry. Loudly. Miss J stomped off and pouted.
Thankfully, at the same moment, I had finished the dishes and the burgers I had on the grill for dinner were done cooking. I plated the food and called the kids to the patio for dinner.
M dove into his meal. Miss J picked at hers, making no effort to hide her irritation with her brother.
"Please eat your dinner." I said, hoping she would catch the "I'm-tired-and-not-in-the-mood-for-this-now" edge in my voice.
There was tension in her face. Her cheeks were red and tears brimmed precariously at the edges of her eyes. I knew that one blink would send the first of many tears streaming down her face.
She moved her pasta around her plate with her fork, putting nothing in her mouth.
"What's the matter?" I asked.
Miss J stared me down.
"I'm sick of him!" she spat. "I tried to get him to play with me and he wouldn't. I wanted to show him my new trick on the rope and he wouldn't look. He's more interested in the stupid leaves than playing with me! I just want a normal brother. Or NO brother. I am so sick of THIS brother."
It had been a long day. Mr. A had been working late each evening and I had been charged with the evening routine for several nights in a row. This kids were tired and crabby and so was I. The intense heat and humidity wasn't helping, either. My patience was wearing thin.
I stared back at my daughter, prepared to serve up one of many speeches that were ready to go on my tongue. I could give her the "Who-Are-You-Fooling-This-Could-Be-So-Much-Worse" speech or my "Do-You-Think-He-Asked-To-Be-Born-This-Way?" speech or even the "What-If-You-Were-The-One-With-Special-Needs?" speech.
I was ready to lash at her and tell her that everyone in the family had already watched her do her rope trick and that we were tired of it and that she didn't need a constant audience.I was ready to tell her that if her brother didn't feel like playing with her, so what? Play on your own or go find a friend to play with. I wanted to tell her that she could be really annoying at times too.
I wanted to tell her that there were people in the world with bigger problems and that she should thank her lucky stars that she had a roof over her head, clothes on her back and food in her mouth. I wanted to tell her she was better off than most.
I really wanted to lay into her with the classic, "Quit your crying or I will give you something to cry about!" line.
I didn't say any of that. I gathered plates and slammed down forks and began to make my way into the house.
I quietly said to her, "Yes, you are so right. I will find a home for your brother so that you are not inconvenienced or upset or embarrassed by him. Okay? Will that make you feel better? I'll just get rid of him so you won't have to deal with it."
Not my proudest parenting moment.
I understand where she is coming from. I know she loves her brother but that she also wishes she had a sibling she could truly play with and talk to. I know she is grateful for what she has and understand that living with a sibling with special needs constantly spins her world in different directions. I know her patience is not limitless.
I should have told her all of this, but my own irritation and fatigue were wearing me down.
Instead I left the table, my fingers trying to rub away the headache that was working its way into my skull.
To the people who feel they know me and say, "You're always smiling! You have such a positive attitude!" No, not always. I bark and I bite and I break.