It started off as a somewhat promising evening. Dinner was finished on time and placed on the table, our three year old Jason ate without protesting every morsel of food on his plate, and our three month old daughter, Maggie, was content to gum a fluffy owl during the meal instead of crying.
We were on a roll. But bedtime was lurking around the corner.
And sure enough, it was then that wheels came off as they usually do. Jason, like most three year olds, tries to prolong bedtime as much as he can. This is the segment of the day is where the majority of consequence threats come into play.
Jason initially starts his nightly dissent by army crawling up the stairs at the pace of a slug trudging through molasses. Upon reaching the top of the stairs, he darts off quicker than lightning into a bedroom, any room really, that isn’t his.
“Serenity now” I demand to the ceiling, only half-joking.
Finally corralling the rampaging bull of a preschooler in the bathroom, he contests the brushing of his teeth with a combination of clamping down on the brush and telling me that he needs to spit…318 times.
Concluding the Battle of Dental Hygiene, we begin the Potty Conflict. I’ll spare the details, but suffice it to say, there is a significant discrepancy between Jason’s ability (and staunch confidence) in standing up to pee and his aim.
“Serenity now” I mutter to myself. Any hint of joking has left my pleas.
We power past the PJ dispute, make it through his chosen story for the night, and conclude with the standard hugs good night. In the aftermath of all the nonsense, I hope for no more chaos and wish for a feeling of relief to wash over me like cool water on a scorching day.
Maybe the rest of the evening will go smoothly. No? Of course not.
After nursing briefly, Maggie is handed to me, now drowsy and drifting off for her evening nap. Katie leaves to shower and I count the seconds until Jason barges into my bedroom with some very important (according to him) information.
Right on time, it happens. The plush Snoopy is missing. I reassure Jason that Snoopy is in his bed, just lost in the blankets. Emboldened by his determination to locate his lost friend, Jason dashes back to his room before I can finish telling him good night and to stay in his room.
Sure enough, less than 90 seconds later, Jason bursts into the room again, this time startling the slumbering infant in my arms. He informs me that his search party has found Snoopy, and asks if I will check on him later. Holding back my irritation of having to now console a crying baby, rudely awakened from her nap, I tell Jason I will, but add that if he comes out of his room again tonight, I will have to take Austin out of his room for the night.
“Serenity now” I repeat.
As it usually goes, Jason stays in his room at this point, and my full attention can go toward soothing Maggie. It may not seem like much, but hey, it’s progress.
I start to calm Maggie down when a booming sound begins to echo throughout the silent house. Roused by the sudden and thunderous nature of the pounding, the dogs spring to life from their evening lethargy and join in the chorus of noise; barking as they gallop through the upstairs hallway and rush downstairs to the door. Playing back-up singer to the newly created rock band in my house, Maggie begins to wail. And I can only shake my head in defeat.
“Serenity now” I say silently to myself.
Trying in vain to calm my little screamer, I unlatch the gate at the top of the stairs and begin to make my way down to the front door; all the while imagining the colorfully descriptive words that may erupt from my mouth at our unexpected visitor.
My foot lands on the third step down when Jason emerges from his room. He storms up to me and lets me know this disruption is not very nice as he has been trying to sleep. He asks, “Who could it be?” I tell him that I haven’t a clue, but I’m about to find out.
I reach the front door and turn the porch light on. As I gaze through the door viewer, I recognize the person on the other side.
Just over two years ago, we moved out of our first house. Unable to sell it in a timely manner, we put it up for rent. And as part of our new landlord duties, we needed to contract lawncare and snow removal services. Lo and behold, here is our landscaper, this walking pectoral of a man. What in the world is he doing at my door late at night?
“Serenity now” echoes in the back chambers of my mind.
I unlock the door and open it. As the sounds of all hell breaking loose from within our house spill out into the cold night, I can do nothing but stare at him. If my eyes were lasers, they would have burned a hole right through him.
“Mike?” he asks.
Of course it’s me. Do I look like a Katie? I reply, “You’ve woken my entire family up and riled my dogs. What do you want?”
He’s here for payment on the recent invoice he texted to me just days ago. For some reason, I entertain this disruption and engage with him. I let him know that I will send payment when he puts the basketball hoop back up since one of his snowplows knocked over. I continue by saying he needs to reseed the parts of the lawn that the same plow carelessly dug up.
It seemed like a reasonable request to me. But a la Bart Simpson, he replies “I didn’t do it, it was on the ground when I got there.”
Yep, the very same basketball hoop with a mixture of sand and water in the base, which had not fallen over in the eight years we had it (even in 50mph winds).
“Serenity now” pleads from my soul.
Oh, did I mention our tenant called me the day of the incident to let me know the plow dug up the lawn and knocked the hoop over? Yeah, he also sent pics.
Brushing logic aside as if swatting an annoying fly away from a picnic, he continues arguing saying he needs to clear the invoice from his books. For some inane reason, I keep this circular argument going like some dysfunctional carousel.
It’s at this moment that Katie comes storming down the stairs, fresh from the shower and still wrapped only in a towel. “We’re not doing this now” she yells. As if a cannon had just been rolled out in front of him, his arms go straight up in the air, and he begins to take a step back. Within a fraction of a second, Katie grabs the door and begins to shut it in the face of the shocked and bewildered man.
“Sereni…” wait a minute.
Just as it was with Frank Costanza, “serenity now” did not have its desired effect. It then dawned on me that I had been so fixated on other things, the periods of serenity I was so earnestly awaiting had been there all along, but my attention elsewhere caused me to completely pass them up.
I realized that much of what we hope for already exists, but sometimes we need to simply pay attention to see it. If we’re too absorbed in looking behind, or if we’re too focused on what may happen, we completely miss what’s right in front of us. I sure did.