I stand over a sink of dirty dishes washing pasta sauce off the blue and white plates we’ve had since we got married. I scrape at left over noodles and rinse hot water and soap bubbles over my hands, cups, and this difficult day. Before we owned these plates, before we even registered for them, my friend Tram had looked into my eyes over the head of her two baby boys and told me the one piece of advice I can’t seem to live up to.

“If you struggle with your temper, that’s something you have to figure out before you have kids.”

I peel potatoes and slice them; drop them into sizzling oil. Ready-prepared ribs are basted and roasting in the oven and the methodical rhythm of chopping lettuce, cucumber, tomato, and avocado for salad like I’ve seen my dad do a hundred times seeps into my frantic head and soothes me from the fingertips back. All I’d wanted Pete to do when he got home was take the kids to the park, the circus, a galaxy far-far-away. And he did. After his own long day, he took them.

I rinse, I peel, I chop, I taste.

All I hear is the whoosh and hum of the dishwasher and the spin of the ceiling fan and I could happily drown in all this solitude. I serve myself and eat slowly. The meal is still hot and the salad unwilted.

I sit at the table alone and eat and let my mind unravel the day and try to put it back together in a way that makes sense. What’s a mom to do with all this frustration?

I look at it – how it has crusted over this day – hard and set in its ways. And I sit back in this uncomfortable dining room chair and just tell the only person left in the room how much I wish it wasn’t. How much I wish I didn’t keep letting my frustration take my tongue on wild rides that trample the feelings of my kids in petty satisfaction. I wish all my good intentions of 8am could last me at least till lunch.

I sit there in all my crud from the day. And nothing dramatic happens. I eat and feel full. I drink two glassfuls of fruit punch and no one knocks anything over. I put down the tall glass emblazoned with the Detroit Red Wings hockey team from the year they won something big and I know that Tram’s advice gets more important each and every day. As my kids grow up and into themselves, what I tell them now will become a part of who they turn out to be.

The sun is setting across the road and I see it glaring through the windows.

Tiredness, busy-ness, deadlines, a need for alone time – none of these will hold up to the scrutiny of a grown up child who peers back through time to discover the source of his wounded heart.

I hear them outside. The screen door slams and Micah barrels into the house demanding water and food and why won’t Jackson share the soccer ball with him? I am readier than I was an hour ago to respond. As I dish up for him I know someone else is hard at work too.

Scraping, rinsing, washing my crud away.

Rock of Ages, cleft for me,
Let me hide myself in Thee;
Foul, I to the fountain fly;
Wash me, Savior, or I die.

Augustus M. Toplady, 1776.

It’s my only hope. The lifeline of rundown moms everywhere.

And I will hold onto it with my very teeth if I have to.