Surrender, But Don't Give Yourself Away

>> Wednesday, October 17, 2007

I was reading a book.

When I read, I have a game I like to play. The game is simple: I sit down, open a book, and see how long it takes for a child to need me, interrupt me, or otherwise compel me to stop reading. On average it takes less than two minutes. 30 seconds is common. I call it “Readus Interruptus”.

I have no choice but to play this game. Trying to read before going to bed is useless since I usually fall asleep during the first sentence. The silver-lining is that I have become a very thorough, if not extremely slow, reader. It takes weeks to finish a book (if I can maintain interest in the book long enough to finish it). Thoroughness comes from reading the same sentence over, and over, and over again.

"Camilla heard a horrifying sound emanate from her bedroom. A slow, painful wheezing whispered her name. (Camilla... do it...) The sound was both distant and close enough for her to feel as hot breath on her neck. She had to face the creature once and for all, but wasn’t sure whether the beast was real -- or within. She swooned as though she might faint, but regained her composure when she thought of her unborn child. Slowly, she extended a trembling hand towards the doorknob..."

"Mommy! Elizabeth’s not letting me siiiiing!"

Huh? "Elizabeth, let your sister sing."

"She swooned as though she might faint, but regained her composure when she thought of her unborn child. Slowly, she..."

"Look, Mommy. A red crayon! I found it on the floor."

"Oh, yes. That’s great, honey."

"A slow, painful wheezing whispered her name. The sound was both distant and close enough for her..."

"The computer’s not working! I can’t play Super Why!”

You get the idea. At this point I usually close the book and start cleaning, because I don’t really care if someone interrupts me while scrubbing the grill or removing vomit from car seat buckles. In fact, I’m more than happy to put down the broom to play Ring Around the Rosie.

This folks, is called surrender. Really, you have to surrender sometimes or go insane. It’s also called “making choices” and “adjusting”. As parents, we surrender late night visits to the Casbah to read to our girls and sing them to sleep. We surrender quiet, lazy Saturday mornings to watch Curious George at 6:30 am. We surrender a clean kitchen floor for a sticky one with mysterious brown spots. And that is adjusting. And that is making choices.

What sweet surrender it is, most days. Life with the girls is fun -- chaotic, emotional, exhausting, laughing-too-much and crying-too-hard FUN. It makes my day to hear Samantha sing Waltzing Matilda. I love to watch Elizabeth tape sticks together. And when they run to me smiling and yelling “Mommy!” when I pick them up from daycare? Well, what could be better than that?

So we surrender. Because we choose to. And we adjust.

But surrender is not the same as giving up. Have you ever heard the song "Surrender” by Cheap Trick? The refrain goes:

Surrender, surrender, but don’t give yourself away... away... awaaaay..."

That’s parenting -- surrender, but don’t give yourself away.

So, the other night I was reading a book. Only this time, by some miracle, I’d lost myself in the book. I’d gone through one whole page before being interrupted.

Then, crash! A stuffed bear landed in my lap, scaring the bejeezus out of me. I glared. It was Michael. Apparently not wanting me to forget my current lot in life (or perhaps trying to tell me he loved me in his own unique way), he flirted with lobbed various items at me while I attempted to read. Of course you know, this meant war.

I waited and threw a small stuffed Snoopy doll which sailed past his head and crashed into the vertical blinds behind him. Without looking my way, he smiled slyly at my girlish misfire. I waited longer.

“Then, out of nowhere, I heard a slow, painful wheezing whisper my name. (Melissa... dooo it...) Was the voice real or within? I swooned as though I might faint, then regained my composure when I thought of the sound it would make as it smacked against Michael’s head. Slowly, I extended a trembling hand towards the bean-filled teddy bear...”

Then I threw it. Hard. Propelled by the Karmic Gods, it nailed Michael square in the bean.

Clearly, the beast was within.

Michael shot me a look of surprise and supreme annoyance. Revenge is one thing, but hitting him in the kisser -- while he was wearing glasses -- that was another. Perhaps I’d gone too far. Apparently I had. Having witnessed the exchange, the girls walked up to me sporting matching looks of indignation.

“Mommy. That was not nice!” Elizabeth said with her arms folded.

But, but...

“That was mean, Mommy!” Samantha said while wearing her angry eyebrows. “Say you’re sorry!”

But I couldn’t say I was sorry. It wasn’t because of the injustice of it all -- that I hadn’t read more than two pages consecutively in a book in months. Nor was it because Michael had thrown no less than three stuffed animals at me already. It wasn’t because I wasn’t sorry, either, because I was... sort of. No.

I couldn’t say I was sorry because I was laaaaughin.

In fact, the more they all stared at me, the more I laughed. Hiding my face behind Camilla and her shaking hand, I looked from one stern face to the other and laughed some more.

“You need to go to Time Out.”

Ah, ha ha...

“You’re a mean Mommy!”

Oh, please stop... hee hee... I can’t take it... Oh my...

“It’s not funny, Mommy!”

Bwah, ha, ha, ha...

I tried to conceal my uncontrollable spasms by hiding behind my book -- a book that was as close as the nose on my face, but as unattainable as clean floors and lazy mornings. I laughed until they became bored with my laughter. And later, when I washed the dishes, I laughed some more.

Perhaps one day I will learn who, or what, awaits Camilla behind the bedroom door or the fate that awaits her unborn child. (Although, I suspect I already know wherein the beast lies). But for the moment, all I can do is laugh. And surrender.

And not give myself away.


"Mommy’s all right, Daddy’s all right, they just seem a little weird.

Surrender, surrender, but don’t give yourself away, away, away..."

- Surrender by Cheap Trick


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