You know how sometimes you are driving and suddenly you realize, I have no idea how I got here. How long have I been driving on auto-pilot? Did I stop at that last stop-sign? Your mind has been whirling away while your foot is on the gas pedal and you have no memory of the past stretch of road.
That’s how I felt today when I spontaneously pulled out an old home video from 1999. The twins were six years old then and YoungestBoy was 18 months old. I thought, how did I get from there to here? I know the minutes passed in full sixty second increments, the hours lasted precisely sixty minutes each, the weeks were a complete seven days and the years lasted exactly fifty-two weeks. But it seems like I have been daydreaming the whole time because I cannot for the life of me remember the actual drive.
I think this is probably as God intended it to be. You can’t remember everything, just the highlights and if you are especially pessimistic, the worst parts. And, of course, the things your write down and the videos you make and the photographs you take. My whiny journals will be balanced by very happy images of children playing and showing off and smiling. We look happy. We are happy.
Except today. The twins were quite unhappy because they could not compromise on their video game. Each insisted that it was his turn to play and refused to listen to the other. I told them to come outside and negotiate while I was watching. Their tactic is to yell louder and louder at each other. I finally said, “Look, you need to listen to him and then repeat back to him what he’s said.” (This is called Active Listening and I didn’t just make it up. It’s a real communication technique.) TwinBoyA was incensed that I would suggest such a thing and he refused to listen to TwinBoyB. They sounded like a presidential debate, only without the civility she says wryly.
I did what has worked before. I said, “Hey, hold on, I’ll be right back.” Meanwhile, they are still yelling while I run inside to grab the camera and the newly charged battery. I return–they are still hollering–and I can’t fit the stupid battery into the recorder. I want to record them arguing and fighting so they can see how ridiculous they look and sound. I fumble with the battery, growing more and more frustrated. Babygirl is fussing at me, YoungestBoy is saying, “Mom, mom, will you videotape me?” and TwinBoyA is shouting, “No” and TwinBoyB is outing, “Listen!”
You know how the video “The Blair Witch Project” was shot all crazily, the camera bouncing around and the subject’s nostril in focus and the cameraman shouting while running? Well, I didn’t actually get the battery in, but if I had, that’s what that moment would have been like when TwinBoyA belligerenly looked at me and said, “Mom, get out of here! Leave me alone! Go away!”
I thought for a second about just getting into the car and driving away and then realized that, of course, I had to stay. So I ordered TwinBoyA and TwinBoyB into the house. I am completely irrational, because I finished fiddling with the battery before I turned to them and by then, they were huddled under a blanket, finally hammering out a peace agreement. I made them come out and they were rational and announced they had agreed on a plan.
Then I explained calmly and rationally that they were simply not allowed to speak to me disrespectfully. Okay, just kidding. I lectured very sternly until TwinBoyA was crying. He apologized, but when I said, “What are you sorry for?” he couldn’t actually say why he was sorry for a long time. He reminded me so much of “The Fonz” from Happy Days. The Fonz could not say “I was wrong.” I mean literally, he could not get the word “wrong” out of his mouth.
Anyway, finally TwinBoyA managed to squeeze out an actual apology and I told him that he will not be allowed to be disrespectful to me or any other adult. I said, “I will not let you be a teenager who speaks disrespectfully to me, and if you ever do that again, you will suffer a very serious consequence that you will not enjoy at all. Do you understand me?”
I think he did. At any rate, I think I’m glad I didn’t get that all on video. The twins went back in their room to resume their video game play and I went in the backyard with YoungestBoy and Babygirl. I shot some beautiful footage of Babygirl toddling around and YoungestBoy singing three kindergarten songs (“Folks, this is the second song and don’t worry if you can’t understand the words because it’s an Indian song!”). YoungestBoy blew bubbles for Babygirl and she shrieked “be-be-be” when she spotted a bumblebee. How does she have any idea what it is and that it might sting her? Then she carried the hose around for awhile until we bribed her to come inside and watch “the babies.” Babygirl loved the videotape we’d just created.
See? We are happy. I have proof.