I stand at the sink and peel potatoes
I feel the hard grit and sand under my nails and the hot water washing over my hands. I peel and watch the skin skein back and the white flesh of the bulb appear. I peel and I hear my son from his back bedroom. He is a tornado of frustration and he screams for me after waking up from his nap, all hot and sweaty and angry.
But I know what will happen when I go to him. He will just throw a bear and climb under a blanket after slamming a door. I know because we’ve been doing this same dance for long minutes now.
So I stand and peel potatoes.
I listen to him wail and my heart rises up in its own cry of frustration and I’m so tired and I want to peel off all of last night’s grime and bad dreams and sleeplessness and stand for hours in the shower.
He cries and I listen and leave the water running and walk down the hallway to him. Again. And again it only makes him cry harder.
So I walk back to my kitchen. He lies in his bedroom. And I wonder at how desperate we all are to be held tightly while at the same time demanding we want to be left alone. But the loneliness just makes us cry all the harder. We want to yell and kick and scream and still have someone waiting on the other side of the door to love us.
The sink is full of potato skins. My hands are wrinkled from the water. I turn it off.
I wait. I tell him I am waiting. And then I go and sit on my bed and wrap the comparative quiet around my salty heart.
I do not understand what I do.
For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do.
He comes then; I hear his feet padding down the hallway.
He comes and melts a storm of tears into my lap, his three-year-old chest heaving with remorse and deep, drawn breaths. I slowly stroke his back, feeling him shudder under my hand as he tells me of the bad lion that leapt out of his heart. And I pat the angry beast, invite him into my own heart, hold his hot head.
This is what mothers do, I tell him. We tame lions.