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Saturday, November 21, 2015

My Last Nerve

While delighted that the formerly silent two-year-old Jamie* felt secure enough to speak, sometimes her chatter grated on my last nerve. “Mama Da, when will Gamma get here?”

“They’re coming to have lunch with us today, Sweetie, so I reckon around Noon.” I didn’t stop clearing the breakfast table as I responded to the excited little girl.

“Will Gamma-Gamma dwive duh twuck?” How the kids loved to ride in the back of Dad’s pickup. “Jamie wuv da twuck!”

“Yes, Grandpa will drive the truck,” I said, wondering if Jamie would ever get the distinction between the grandparents’ names. It didn’t really matter since Dad knew she meant him. “Honey, I’m trying to get the breakfast dishes cleaned up so we’ll be ready when Grandma and Grandpa get here. Can you go play with Deni*, please?”

I glanced down in time to see the black curls nod up and down. “Will Gamma-Gamma let Jamie wide in da twuck?” The youngster clung to my side, as she talked and I moved.

“Jamie. I asked you to, please, go play with Deni. I’m trying to finish up here in the kitchen, and I’m afraid I’m going to trip over you. Please.” I fought to keep calm when uttering the last word.

Noticing Jamie turn for the kitchen doorway, I breathed a sigh of relief. I relaxed my jaw, not realizing I’d been clenching my teeth. Not getting enough sleep at night, definitely, influenced my daytime tolerance for the flow of questions streaming from the pint-size chatterbox.

Fortunately, baby Susie* hadn’t awakened yet. I prayed God would help the teething infant have a better day than she had night. Mom and Dad drove 192 miles--one-way--for these monthly Wednesday lunches. I so wanted the time with the kids to be pleasurable.

Before I’d finished drying the dishes, the tiny ebony beauty tugged at my shirttails. “What will Gamma bwing for lunch?

“She didn’t tell me, Jamie. It’s a surprise for all of us. Where’s Deni? I asked you to play with her, didn’t I?” I lifted the stack of plates and slid them onto the shelf.

“Yeah and I did. Now, I’m here wiff you.” Jamie’s smile dropped as soon as she noticed my face.

Kneeling down, I said, “Sweetie, I have a lot to do before Grandma and Grandpa get here. I’m trying to do as much as I can before Susie wakes up. I asked you to go play. If you don’t want to play with Deni, then ple-e-ease just take one of your books and look at the pictures. Please go in the living room.” I smiled and gave her a hug. I relaxed a bit as Jamie returned the smile and squeeze.

I felt like the ever-ready bunny racing around the kitchen. Finally, I’d completed the mopping of the floor. Just in time, too. Placing the mop and bucket in the closet, I heard Susie’s come-and-get-me scream.

After grabbing a quick swallow of water from a glass by the kitchen sink, I hurried into the bedroom. “Mornin’ Sunshine! How ya doin’? Feelin’ better, you little robber of sleep?” The infant giggled along with me as I tickled her.

Mornin’ Baby!” said the little voice at the foot of the crib. “Gamma and Gamma-Gamma’s comin’ today.  We’s all so happy, wight Mama Da?”

“That’s right, Jamie,” I said as I lifted Susie out and headed for the changing table. “Now, it’s time to get Susie ready for the day. The little girl moved in front of me, but I hadn’t noticed the change in her position. I stumbled with Susie in my arms. Fortunately, I righted myself before dropping Susie.“Jamie!” Get control of yourself, I thought. She’s just excited; she doesn’t mean to disobey you.

“Jamie, do you remember what I asked you to do?” I said forcing my voice to a whisper as I changed Susie’s diaper. Seeing the little head bobbing up and down, I continued, “What did I ask you to do?”

Go play wiff Deni. Den, Jamie read her books.” The child looked straight into my eyes before lowering her gaze.

“Would you, please ask Deni to come here?” Before I made it to the end of the sentence, the little whirlwind whipped around and left the room.

As soon as Deni appeared, I explained my need for her to occupy Jamie so I could feed the baby and finish the other things I needed to do before Mom and Dad arrived.

Following a frustrated “humph!” Deni let out a deep sigh. “Dontcha know I tried to ‘xplain to her to leave ya alone. She just won’t!” The four-year-old’s shoulders lifted and dropped; the little red-haired cutie stared at the floor. How dramatic!

Struggling not to burst out laughing at Deni’s theatrics, I offered a suggestion. “Okay, Jamie, how about you color a picture for your grandparents. That’ll give you something to do while you wait.”

At first, the energetic little maiden complied. However, when not one-quarter of the page had been done before Jamie’s little questions interrupted me again, I took the most drastic measure. “In the corner, Jamie. I’ve asked you over and over. Deni has tried to help you understand—even helping you find your crayons, didn’t she?”

The two-year-old nodded and headed for the corner of the bedroom. “I stay here ‘til Mama Da come get me?”

“Yes,” I said to her little back.

Experiencing only fatigue and irritation, I didn’t even hug the tiny shoulders as had always been my practice. I just wanted to be done with the work before I heard the pick-up on the gravel next to the house. That’s all I could think of at that point.

Finally, all had been made ready and just in time. The sound of the pick-up’s engine reached my ears at the exact moment I realized I’d not seen Jamie for a while.

Sure enough; Jamie stood in the corner, shifting from one tired, little leg to the other as she traced the bumps and dips in the painted bedroom wall. She’d not even sat down for nearly two hours.

I rushed to the corner, swooped Jamie up in my arms and sat on her bunk. “Oh, my dear Princess. Mama Dar’s sooo sorry that you had to stand here so long. Please, Sweetheart, forgive me. I got so busy that I forgot to set the timer. I’m so very sorry.” I squeezed the small child, forcing myself to hold back the tears. The sound outside the window signaled that my parents had just stepped onto the back porch.

The precious little girl took my face in her hands, patting my right cheek. “Jamie forgib Mama Da.” Then she pulled my head down and planted a kiss on the cheek she’d been patting. “It okay. It okay, Mama Da.”

I held her and rocked back and forth…until Jamie pulled free of my grasp. “Gotta go. Gamma and Gamma-gamma here! K?”

“You bet, Honey. I’m right behind you.”

Jamie’s love and ready forgiveness eased my guilt some, but I still swallowed hard over what I’d done—or neglected to do. In my anxiety over proving to my mother that I, too, could keep a clean house as the mother of three, I’d completely overlooked the most important aspect of parenting.

What did it matter if not a speck of dirt could be found if the spirit of a tender, young heart had
been crushed? Gratitude filled my soul as I realized that the experience had hurt me more than Jamie.

It also served as a real wake-up call for me; things needed to change. Next time, my pride may hurt one of the kids. Mom and Dad came to love on the children, not to criticize my housekeeping abilities. Setting proper priorities moved to the top of my daily prayer list.

*Name changed.

The thread of the foster children story began with With Just One Phone Call