Last Wednesday was a usual crazy-midweek-mommy day filled with hair brushing revolts, toothpaste marks on all the towels, and a missing roly poly in the kitchen. But that evening we had our cousins bringing us dinner and we had planned for a little grown up time. My husband and I were excited for their visit, but our girls were bouncing off the wall in anticipation.
That night at dinner, my cousins sat there, so patient and peacefully watching us fret over all the nagging details of parenting. It sounded something like this: “Don’t touch your sister’s eyeball… no handstands on the stairs… stop yelling vagina out the front door”, and various other instructions you hadn’t imagined saying as an adult.
My cousins smiled along, taking a very calm and leisurely approach to their food. This is in stark contrast to the way we had mastered our food intake. We had perfected the art of opening our gullet and shoving food down without chewing. I mean chewing food? Ain’t nobody got time for that.
Earlier in the day we had told our daughters that we would light a fire in the backyard with our cousins after dinner. But as the excitement of the day progressed, we forgot. After dinner they ran over to me, shoes on the wrong feet and silly smiles on their face, and asked about the fire. I sighed and said that mama had forgotten and now it was too late and close to bedtime. They were devastated. I quickly thought of a Parent Exchange— ya know, if you want this one thing, you can’t have this other (less desirable to the parent) thing. Okay?
“If you guys want hot chocolate, then we can’t also light the fire.” I knew they couldn’t resist the sugary cocaine-like appeal of hot chocolate. But just then my 5 year old called into question the flawed logic of my Parent Exchange.
“Why does having hot chocolate mean we can’t light the fire?”
She caught me. I stood there looking at her for just a moment, when my cousin spoke up behind me. “Would it be okay if we just built a little fire April?” I gave my head a shake. Of course. They were both absolutely right. My daughters had looked forward to the fire all day. But because it wasn’t high on my priority list, I didn’t think it was high on theirs. Sometimes lighting a fire in a cheap little chimenea in your backyard is just as important as Disneyworld or a pet pony. I have to scale the importance off of their perception, not mine.
So we lit the fire. We played around outside laughing and then cuddled up in front of the fire. I was immediately glad we did it. That night when we tucked our daughters into bed I asked them the same question I ask every night. “What was your favorite part of the day?” They said in unison, “When we lit the fire mama!” Lesson learned my dears, lesson learned.