I had a particularly hectic moment one evening this week that had me feeling entirely inadequate as a parent. We had just arrived home from my daughter's basketball game and I was beginning to stress out as the clock on my car informed me it was over an hour past Declan's bedtime. Fifteen minutes past his bedtime means it will be a fight to get him ready in the morning, but an hour, oh man.
To top it off I had one of my younger brothers on the phone who needed to vent about a rough day at his new job and I was trying really hard not sound like I was too busy to be there for him.
Before I knew it Declan had marched into the house ahead of me leaving his backpack and jacket in the car, so I snatched them up, along with my notebook, camera, the bag of snacks we had taken to the game and a few other items. It was everything I could do in my overloaded state just to keep my balance on our snow and ice covered front steps, as I stumbled up them while holding my cell phone against my shoulder and still attempted to carry on the conversation.
Of course, my six-year-old busy body was not holding the screen door open for me, so I had to shift my baggage around to free up a hand and get the door open.
Just as I stepped inside, "WHOMP!" A snowball hit me in the face, thrown by my little angel with the major league arm, who was standing in the living room in front of me.
I would very much like to say we had a "Leave it to Beaver" moment or that I chuckled and then casually rolled into my Cliff Huxtable mode, but that would not be true. No it was more like a "Dennis the Menace" moment, when you see that poor old guy scream at the top of his lungs.
I recall Declan's name booming through the house and vibrating the walls like a small earthquake. The snow on my face instantaneously combusted into steam as my temperature shot through the roof in pure uncut anger. The mixed look of shock and fear on Declan's face was quickly settling to me, as I realized I had probably turned the darkest shade of red in my frustration and probably looked very much like Hellboy, equipped with the rising steam from my face and all.
It occurred to me then that maybe in his innocence he really did expect me to find his actions just as funny as he did, but unfortunately I found no humor in his pinpoint accuracy at that time. Declan was sent to his room while I unloaded and calmed down and later we had a conversation about not throwing snowballs and shortly afterwards Declan was fast asleep.
While he may very well have been dreaming of snowy adventures, I was still ashamed of myself for how upset the incident had made me. I thought about it throughout the following day and felt guiltier and guiltier the more I dwelled on it. Wondering to myself if I had scarred him for life, if he would never again enjoy the humor of a practical joke, if I had crushed a small part of his childhood by losing my temper.
That afternoon I walked onto the school playground to pick him up after school and found him hiding behind his teacher, not running to me for a fast getaway home as is typical. I was certain a conversation about his behavior that day was about to unfold and it would all be my fault.
Just as I was telling myself to relax, that it would all work out, Declan jumped from behind his teacher and "WHOMP!" Only this carefully thrown snowball bounced off of the chest of my jacket, lacking the cold bite of the previous missile that struck me in the face.
This time we were both on the same page and both found the humor in it, as I snatched him up like a sack of potatoes and began tickling him.
As always, I am uncertain who is teaching who in this relationship, but I am becoming less and less confident that I am the most resilient one involved.