“So what do you want for your Mother’s Day breakfast?” my husband asks in earnest. I can hear his imagination salivating over greasy sausages, fried potatoes, and thick omelets.
“Actually, my favorite breakfast is the one I have every day: fresh fruit with oatmeal.”
“Ah, so I can bring your oatmeal to you in bed. How do you like it prepared? What are the measurements?”
I sleepily roll over and wave a dismissive hand in his direction and grab the blankets to pull over me. “I don’t measure anything. Don’t worry about it. I’ll be down soon enough to make it myself.”
I could hear mayhem developing downstairs as my husband asked our children what they wanted for breakfast. The three typical responses greeted him despite his generous offer: “I don’t know,” “Something else,” and “[Something we don’t have].”
After a while, just as I was settling into a blog idea, my husband barges into the room with a child under each arm.
“These two are taking a bath in here. It took so long to get them to decide what to eat, that now I need them to bathe while I cook breakfast. Can you just keep them going in here while I start on breakfast?”
“Uh, well, I guess that works fine.”
I set down my laptop and begin the insanity that is giving my son access to water.
“No, I turn on the water. You’re filling the tub with freezing water…No, I am not filling it up that high. Everyone needs a bath or shower this morning…set down that bucket. Do NOT dump it on your sister…yeah, she’s crying because you smacked her in the head with a bucket…I don’t care if you don’t like to hear her crying. You’re the one who hurt her, so you get to listen to it…” and on it went.
Then our youngest shows up in Dad’s arms.
“This one made a giant mess with his food, so I’m just going to pop him in here while I finish the breakfast sandwiches.”
The water is too deep for this one, and as I turn to grab his shampoo, he submerges and comes up choking and gagging and bawling. Brother laughs at the sight of his terrified counterpart.
“Seriously? You laughed when you could have helped him?!”
I quickly wash my fear-stricken youngest and move him onto the getting dressed portion of our morning. I call to the kids to let the water out and dry off, which surprisingly, they do. I pat myself on the back for having their clothes already set out and for choosing what pleases me without worrying about any dissenting voices in my mind.
But the smells of their food wafting up the stairs hit my empty stomach like a cruel insult.
“Why are we catering to the kids? This is my day. Why am I getting them ready when I’m supposed to be relaxing?”
I think my anger is directed at my husband, and I don’t want to feel that way. So I attempt the foolish prospect of talking myself out of my feelings.
“He means well, Elissa. And you love your children. Just treasure this moment with your kids.”
I go back to brushing hair and cleaning out ears.
“Elissa, I’m still angry. Now what?”
“Well, let’s see. Remember that ’empty chair’ technique you just learned in therapy? Just say what you would say if Merrill were sitting here. That way your feelings are out but you don’t have to tell him you’re angry at him.”
I spoke to the closet as I deposited dirty laundry into the hamper: “Why are you catering to the kids? All it did was put the burden of getting them ready on me. You didn’t even ask me if that’s what I wanted. You just assumed.”
There. Now my feelings are out and I can move on with my day. What I didn’t understand then was that my anger was at myself. I had a fire starting in my heart and my inner self was prepared to throw her betrayer through every open door until I came back to myself.
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