It was late at night. John was at the hospital, and the children were in bed. I was standing at the sink washing dishes, with my back to the room. I rinsed the 39th glass to place into the dishwasher, wondering why the offspring in my home insist on using twelve different cups for their beverages in the same day.
But then I immediately realized that this is the same genetic defect that causes them to change into seven different outfits in the same day, while throwing every piece of clothing used for thirty seconds into the dirty laundry basket. Unfortunately, this won’t be corrected until brilliant scientists break up the dynamics between the nucleotide sequences from those of the amino acids.
(Special thanks to Encyclopedia Brown – also known as my spouse- for that titillating piece of trivia. In my humble opinion, I think the phrase “they get this from your side of the family, not mine” provides sufficient scientific proof.)
Lost in thought in my own little world, where dishes are cleaned and clothes laundered like those in the household of George Jetson, I never heard the footsteps creeping up behind me. Suddenly, a deep, unrecognizable voice said somewhat emphatically, “COME WITH ME RIGHT NOW!”
(Anytime someone uses their capital letters voice, it strikes fear to my core.)
I’ve seen all the Oprah shows that demonstrate what women should do in an emergent situation - thumb to the eyeball, elbow to the groin, karate chop to the throat. I’ve always wondered which method I would choose when placed in a precarious, threatening situation, one that demanded quick thinking and instinctive reflexes. The technique of choice?
I wet my pants.
Three children later, it should come as no surprise that my bladder fights like a girl.
I prepared to take on the intruder in my damp pajama pants. Personally, I can’t think of anything more intimidating, or frightening, than a grown woman facing down her attacker emulating an odor that rivals those found in the church nursery.
Spinning from the sink and landing in a Karate Kid Crane Stance, I faced my attacker on one wobbly leg. Struggling to maintain balance, I stared incredulously at the person standing before me. It was Chase, our twelve year old son, staring back at me in a manner that suggested he was as scared of me as I was of him.
“What are you doing?!!” I exclaimed. (Really, I yelled but the word “exclaimed” sounds better to those nice folks at the child protective agency)
“What are YOU doing?” Chase countered right back.
“Why are you talking in that voice?!!” I asked. (Really, I yelled but the word “asked” sounds better to those nice folks at the child protective agency.)
“What voice?!” he yelled in exasperation.
And then realization hit me in the same way it struck when I finally comprehended that the parentheses marks between my eyebrows were indeed permanent punctuations to my face.
Oh, no. It’s here, I thought to myself. But, I’m not ready.
Twelve year old hormones had been raging for weeks. Irritation with me, impatience with siblings, impossible mood swings and irritation with me pointed to the day that I had been dreading since the day Chase was born. Transforming from a boy into a man despite pleading prayers that he stay little for just a while longer, the fellow who presently stood in front of me as tall as an adult, now spoke like one. In a matter of hours, his voice, intermittently squeaky and weirdly pitched over the last few days, was now unrecognizable and very deep.
Bottom lip quivering just slightly, I took in fully this new man-child, my heart full of joy yet breaking at the same time, and said, “Never mind. Why are you up so late?”
“The toilet is stopped up and making this funny sound. Somebody needs to fix it quick!” Chase said.
“Okay,” I responded, “but you know, Roto Rooter is at the hospital. I’ll give it my best shot, though.”
As we walked down the hallway together towards the offending toilet, Chase turned to me and said, “By the way, did you get that move from the Karate Kid movie? And what’s that terrible smell?”
There were two lessons to be learned that night - one for me and maybe one for you. The first is that children grow up overnight. In just a blink of the eye, they go from diapers to kindergarten to shaving a sparse beard. And, of course, that’s the way it should be, even if I don’t like it, even if it hurts more than I thought.
Secondly, let this be a warning to all those out there who may consider intruding into our home, or worse, kidnapping yours truly. I fight back with my bladder. You better borrow a buddy’s car because your upholstery will never be the same.