On Sunday night, I had a three-year-old and an almost-three-year-old who wanted pancakes for dinner. After I had already started, they both decided that they wanted to help. There were a loud few minutes as they pulled chairs over to the counter and each demanded to be the ones who stirred the batter, mad that I had already cracked the eggs. I looked at the counter, now obstructed by chairs, covered with papers and crumbs. And so I walked away, over to the table, where I took a deep breath and lit candles.
It was like hitting the reset button. I put on my quiet voice and told the kids we were going to take turns and squeezed in to the counter between them. I apologized for breaking the eggs already and after they stirred for a bit I had them set the table for me. They giggled together and ate their pancakes and we talked about the things they are thankful for.
I have been doing this new thing at school where I take a cart of books to the cafeteria and let students check out at lunchtime. It has been going very well, and each grade level responds about how you might expect. The 8th graders, more sure of themselves, are confident enough to choose books if they want to, or not. They stop to peruse and tell me about their upcoming weekends. The 7th graders, caught in the vortex that is being 12, pass by without making eye contact. They are just not sure if it’s okay to come over and look at the books—socially, I mean. With their peers. I made an actual sign that showed them it was okay with me.
And then there are the 6th graders, who have not yet lost their enthusiasm for things like the library (bless them). They crowd around my cart and ask questions all at once and while I love their excitement, they seem unable to recognize that I can’t answer all their questions at once. I have to take a lot of deep breaths so I can speak in measured tones and ask them to take turns.
And it works. I manage, somehow, to casually say, “Hey, guys, there’s only one of me. Hold up a second, okay?” All of us are happy in the end, because they get books and that’s what I want, too.
Deep breaths, y’all. Deep breaths and candles. Quiet voices. Patience. These are saving my life (and keeping me from wringing anyone’s neck) this week.