It was an idyllic Friday – 8 hours of totally kid-free couple time. I should have known that that was just the quiet before the storm; the moment in Jaws where the couple is splashing playfully in the water enjoying a romantic midnight dip oblivious to the gory fate that awaits them. Because, after all, Monday was just around the corner.

Last night alone Micah tried to launch himself out of his crib on 3 separate occasions. That was only when he wasn’t screaming with the kind of rage-reddened, snot-streaked face that only a toddler can sustain for hours at a time when his universe implodes, i.e. he isn’t allowed to watch “Bob the Builder” for the 15th time, which allows him to focus all his attention on the fact that he is cutting molars. The perfect storm.

All day Saturday and Sunday he had frenetically flitted between “Bob the Builder” and “Mighty Machines.” I should preface this by saying that we’ve been without a TV now for 7 years and keep a portable DVD player on hand for “emergencies” only (like watching back episodes of Gilmore Girls or Scrubs). That thing played for so many hours this weekend I was afraid it might overheat, implode or finally break down and beg to go live with another family.

But there was no stopping manic Micah. He wanted to see things pulverized. He wanted to watch things being crushed, ripped and recycled. Except when he didn’t. Then he would clutch his wittle mouth and repeat “owie” over and over. “Boo-boo mama, band-waid.” And we would rub Orajel on his gums and suffice to say, that just kicked things into whole other dimensions of crazy. I mean, seriously, what kind of effect is that stuff supposed to have? When last did you rub dental numbing gel around the inside of your mouth for kicks? And there’s just no way to do it methodically when faced with a flailing, freakishly strong 20-month-old. Inevitably, the stuff goes pretty much everywhere. And then the whole process is repeated in reverse as your child puckers up and spits and spits and spits Orajel out ALL OVER THE WORLD.

Then the bell rings, that round is over. Deep breath. And it’s right into the next one.

Trying to get something out of the fridge while juggling my psycho, excuse me, my Micah, I knock over the tub of margarine, reach out, catch it, fumble it and watch in slow motion as large globs of the stuff land on my pants, the shelf, the floor. Micah “helps” clean it up. Jackson always likes a good run at the garbage. The newspaper forgotten on the floor is stuffed joyfully into the bin. Sheet by individual sheet. Micah suddenly realizes he hasn’t cried in 15 minutes. Looks at me. Our eyes lock as he opens his mouth in slow motion. I freeze. The scream hits me like a solid wall of water.

I call Pete and offer dire warnings of what he will come home to if he isn’t home in like, 15 seconds or less. Jackson looks over Micah’s deceptively innocent golden curls, shakes his head and says, “he’s so crazy mama.” I nod in profound agreement. But Jackson, patient trooper that he is, still kisses Micah goodnight, still climbs into bed as usual and, undeterred by the din, offers up his bedtime prayers. I clutch at them like a life-preserver. But they do me no good because I can feel the scream building up in me from the gut. The need to yell and shout and lie down on the floor and give way to the temper tantrum of my own that now wants out is incredible in its intensity. The screech, when it comes, is a good one.

Bell rings. Round 3 goes to me.

The house is so quiet it’s oppressive. I stand, face pressed against the door that I just slammed shut. I know my penance for giving in to my rage is that I am now going to have to go in there and WAKE THEM UP to apologize. I don’t know if I can do it. So, I just stand and wait.

Then the door opens a crack. A little blonde head tilts up and back to look me in the eyes. Jackson says with authority, “you shouldn’t close the door, mama. I need the light on.” I follow him into the room. I tell him I am sorry that I shouted. He climbs back into bed and under his Spiderman blanket, rolls over and explains in detail what he didn’t like about the shouting and how it “really bothered” him when he was “trying to sleep.” I say I am sorry and ask him to forgive me.

Micah is watching me from the crib. I pick him up. He sighs, burrows his face into my neck and immediately falls into an exhausted sleep. As I sit and rock with him Jackson continues to talk. “You musn’t shout, mama. That’s really naughty. You musn’t shout at Micah. He’s my liddle brudder.”

I agree with him. But then I ask him why Micah’s yelling right there in the room they share didn’t make him angry. I ask him why he didn’t want to shout at Micah. I am truly curious about what makes my precious, will-turn-four-on Sunday boy tick. He thinks for a while. His response is forever printed on my mind, “I want to shout, but then I change my mind. You must just change your mind, mama.”

*****

Next time, I plan to.

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