You are so serene! I want to be like you.
I stared at my friend in horror. How long had she known me? And she thought I was serene?! This was another of those great wake up call moments. You know the ones. You’re travelling quietly along, thinking you’re transparent to those who are close to you, that they understand you. They’ve got you pegged. And they’ve got your back. Then someone says something and you realise they don’t know you at all.
This was one of those moments. I sat there, too shocked to speak. My life was far from serene. Definitely not serene. I was a busy mother, changing nappies, preparing meals, feeding the baby while always having a watchful eye out that the others were getting enough to eat and not throwing too much off their plates.
My mind sped around the events of the past few weeks to see how I could have given her this impression. Me? Serene? No. Most of the time, I was like a duck: floating on the surface and paddling like crazy underneath to keep on course. And my course was sanity - I needed to keep sane!
When I asked her what gave her that impression, she reminded me of what happened only the previous week. Our three under three-year-olds (my two and her one) were too quiet. She and I had been catching up, sitting outside in the cool breeze, within earshot and mostly in view while the youngsters were playing in the yard. Being quiet wasn’t good. As we went to check on them we heard their giggles - another sign mischief was afoot.
We made a dash around the corner of the house and stopped still. There they were, covered from head to toe in old grease that had been drained from the cars. Black they were. And smelly. And having fun! I signalled to her to hush. She was a panicky sort of person and was about to shriek. I whispered that she should just keep an eye on them, and I raced inside to the bathroom. I put the plug in the bath and ran the water as hot as I thought they could handle, tipping almost a whole bottle of soap bubbles under the running tap. [Naturally, there's no photo of that moment. The photo shows my two still have a bit of mischief in them, and thankfully, neither were affected by this episode. Both now have gorgeous families of their own.]
I helped her bring them inside, grateful that the bathroom was so close to the back door. Together we stripped the littlies and popped them into the bath. More fun for them! Soon they were splashing merrily and I was shampooing their hair, rinsing gently with fresh water and holding a towel so the soap didn’t run in their eyes.
We towelled them dry, dressed them, and sat them at the table. I made chocolate milk and cookies for the five of us. She and I just sat and said nothing for a while.
“You handled that so well,” she offered after we’d reflected on that day. “Not like me. I didn’t know what to do. My first thought was they’d die! Covered in sump oil and breathing in those fumes! But you held your cool.”
I shook my head, not knowing whether to laugh or cry. All I had seen was a mess! And all I thought about was cleaning them up before they painted the house and furniture in that oily goo! I had never seen the danger they were in. Clean them up and make it fun while I’m doing it, was my thought - I’d get more cooperation that way. That was my approach with these two mischievous little darlings. I shared my thoughts with my friend.
“Still,” she nodded, “I'm right. You’re so serene in an emergency. I want to be like you!”