The boys had gotten up early again, in order to be dressed and ready for school with as much time as possible to play the Wii. Eli however, had been up "attacking" his brothers well after bedtime last night and was sound asleep on our bed even after I had dressed him, shoes and all. Holly had left for work and Ranger was roaming the house and running from me every time he even thought I was going to put him in his kennel.
As I began my juggling act of herding kids downstairs, brushing Eli's teeth between his cries and chasing the dog, the clock ticked down towards the last minute before it would be too late to stop for breakfast with my boys, a ritual I have grown to love. I could feel my anxiety begin to build and my patience growing thin as one more thing followed one more thing and the boys were more concerned with blaming, whining, and fighting, than with zipping, sitting, getting along with each other, and buckling. I remember only the camel's back breaking, not the straw that broke it. I launched into one of my classic tirades making the ride to McDonald's quite unpleasant for everyone, especially me. Total silence filled the van as we left the house.
The first miracle, though not the one that undid me, happened on the way to McDonald's. I was given the ability, or prompted, to see things differently. An inaudible voice let me know that I was guilty of selfishness, impatience, and of losing my temper just as my boys were. It helped me to see that I wanted my kids hearts more than I wanted their behavior, though my actions had been telling them just the opposite. Even more amazing is the fact that I was given the ability to turn around, in my heart and in my seat and ask for forgiveness and for a chance to start over, to try again. Instead of verbally beating myself up for having verbally beaten them up, I was able to let it go, quite possibly the biggest miracle. Their response was like my own internal one, awkward, but clearly an awareness of a change in direction, almost a hope that things would get better, less heavy, more fun, and relaxed.
Things did get better. Breakfast was filled with laughter and sharing (good times and food). By the time we left McDonald's it was a new day and hundreds of geese flew over as we walked out and climbed into the car. I turned on the CD player and this song came on...
I could feel gratitude, hope and joy welling up inside as we drove to school with the volume turned up. The boys were laughing and head-bobbing to the beat. I thought we were all singing along and I imagined them being as moved by the words as I was. I was thankful for the tearing down of the walls that had held me inside.
Just then, Clayton said something to me, and that is when it happened. I adjusted the rear view mirror to see him in the back seat and caught a glimpse of Davis out of the corner of my eye. Davis was sitting all the way in the back with a look of total happiness. He wasn't singing along as he usually does, but instead had a smile of delight from ear to ear complete with dimples. It took me a moment to realize the source of his happiness. His eyes were fixed on me, or rather, on my reflection in the mirror. It was as if seeing "Dad" having so much fun and being so care free with "the guys" was the best thing he had seen in a while. The look of happiness on his face from seeing me in a moment of laughter and joy instead of anger and frustration was more than I could take.
As I continued to sing and laugh with them, I came undone. I don't know if they noticed the tears that came or not. I would guess that Davis probably did as closely as he was watching. His joy said a few things that hit me, one after the other. Some of them were questions like: If he is that happy when I am joyful with them, how painful is it for him (and his brothers) when I am the other way? How deeply does he (do they) feel my criticism, and likewise, my praise and encouragement? How do I walk the fine line of correcting behavior while protecting and caring for their hearts? However, these questions were accompanied not by anxiety, but rather by a strange sense that I would be carried through this entire process, that things were going to be okay.
Those thoughts quickly gave way to joy, love, hope, and gratitude for second chances, for my boys, for the other people in my life, for the voice that I am beginning to hear again, for music, for moments like this, and for the ability to see, feel, and appreciate them.