when the fit hits the shan

It's time for Buster to take a nap. Chicken is opening and closing Easter eggs in the living room, and so I kneel down and  make him look me in the eye.

Me: Mommy has to go put Buster down for a nap. She's going to be gone for just a few minutes, but she'll be right back. Are you going to keep playing with your Easter eggs?

Chicken: Yeah.

Me: Okay, I'll see you in a few minutes.

Chicken: OK.

I go into my bedroom, turn off the lights, and turn on the white noise. Buster drops almost instantly into near-sleep in my arms. He responds so well to these external sleep cues. He's doing so well for such a little guy. I stand in the dark room listening to the whoosh whoosh of the white noise machine, and I let my mind wander back the the adoption FAQ page I was looking at this morning. I think, our family could grow again. Buster buries his face a little deeper into my armpit, a sure sign that he's out, and I start swaying my way toward his rock'n'play sleeper. Suddenly--


The door flies open and slams against the wall.

Buster startles in my arms and his binky falls to the ground and rolls under the bed.


Chicken: Fuck!

Chicken stands with his chest out, his hands in little fists at his sides, silhouetted in the doorway, dropping f-bombs. Buster starts to cry.

Me: Shhhh! Chicken, please go back and play with your eggs. I'm trying to put Buster to sleep. He's so tired!

Chicken laughs and runs back into the living room. I can't help but shake my head and smile. I'm so proud of his spirit and curiosity.

I close the door, and Buster nuzzles deep into my arm again, doing that baby-creaky-groan that means "I'm almost asleep, just keep doing what you're doing."

thud thud thud thud thud thud thud

Chicken's running footsteps grow louder and louder.


The door flies open and slams against the wall. Chicken barrels into the room and runs straight into my body, head-butting my hoo-ha. 

Chicken: Fuck!

Chicken dashes back out of the room, giggling. Apparently we have invented a terrible new game. 

I close the door and stand in front of it, still swaying and shushing Buster, whose eyes have flown open yet again. Okay, I think, just try that shit again Chicken. Just bring that shit again. As if he heard my dare, he does.

thud thud thud thud thud thud thud


The door slams open 2 inches and bounces off my hip, rattling back into the frame. HA! MOMMY: ONE! 

thud thud thud thud BANG!
thud thud thud thud BANG!
thud thud thud thud BANG!

He is getting a running start and attempting to break down the door. He is throwing his body into a slab of wood repeatedly and at speed. Buster is staring up at me, sucking on his binky, eyes bright and wide. We both fear this madman. I throw open the door. Chicken freezes in mid-step. He looks at me. He laughs. He says,

Chicken: Hi mommy.

I can't help it.  I smile. I say,

Me: Hi baby. I need you to stop this right now. Stop playing with the door and be quiet now, ok? Buster is so so tired. Can you go play with your blocks?

Chicken: Okay.

I close the door again and hear his little footsteps padding back into the living room. I hear rustling around. I hear a box of blocks hit the floor. Whatever. They're his fucking blocks. As long as he's not in this room keeping his infant brother from much-needed sleep, he can do whatever the fuck he wants with those blocks.

Amid the sounds of Chicken's "spirit" in action, Buster manages to fall asleep. I lay him down. He stirs and settles in, sighs. Perfect. 

I come out of the bedroom and find Chicken standing on the seat of his tricycle underneath the thermostat. He has pried the battery compartment cover off, and is currently working on the batteries. I manage to avert that disaster, and go to the computer to turn on some music. While my back is turned--

thud thud thud thud thud thud


Chicken, from the bedroom, shrieking with delight: BABY BUSTER! HAHAHAHAHAHA! OPEN EYES?


I run into the bedroom where Chicken is standing over Buster's somehow still-sleeping body. I grab him and sweep him out of the room, shushing so hard my teeth vibrate.


Chicken, doing a spot-on impression of a steam whistle: NoooooOOOOOOOO!

Buster: Waaaaaaah!

Me: Fuck.

Chicken: Fuck!

Awesome. I take Chicken into his room and rapidly reconstruct the bedsheet fort we made last night. I set him down in the fort, throw some books in his general direction, and say, 

Me: You just woke up your brother. You woke him up after it took me four tries to get him down and now I need you to stay in your bedroom until I come and get you. Stay here and play in your fort or do whatever, and Mommy will be right back.


Me: Your brother is screaming in the other room, baby. Do you hear Buster screaming? You need to stay in here and read some books. Mommy will come back and pick you up in a few minutes, once Buster is asleep.

He's not happy about it but I took his doorknob off. I go back into the bedroom and pick up the wailing baby. I start to sing a little lullaby. 

Me: Hush, little baby, don't say a--


Me: --word, Mama's gonna buy you a mockingbird, and if--


Me: --that mockingbird won't sing, Mama's gonna buy you a--


It suddenly occurs to me that when I took the doorknob off I left it on the dresser. 

Chicken's door is now dented and scratched. I walk into the room, take the doorknob away, and leave the room again without a word. Buster is looking at me like, 

Buster: You're not very good at this, are you.

Me: Evidently... no. Not really.

We go back into his room and I keep singing. 


Somehow Chicken gets his door open.

thud thud thud thud thud thud


He kicks open the door and runs in, giggling.

Me, hissing in rage: GET. OUT.

I pull out one of my own mother's tried-and-true "don't fuck with me right now" gestures: the old point and snap.

GET. OUT. point, snap.

Chicken, laughing: das funny!

Me, still whispering as though the baby is asleep even though he is wide awake: I am not joking. Look at Mommy. GET OUT. 

Chicken screams at the top of his lungs, the kind of scream you hear as a roller coaster rounds the top of the track and starts a vertical drop. He is not scared. He is THRILLED.

I follow him out of the room and grab his arm. I put him back in his bedroom and close the door firmly enough that it's stuck in the jamb and he will not be able to open it. I hear him on the other side of the door, calling for me. I feel a little bit insane.

I go back into Buster's room and put him down. I come out again. The house is quiet, but for the thrumming white noise behind Buster's door. I take a moment. I open Chicken's door. 

He has pushed his easy chair in front of the door. He is lying in his chair, quietly, happily. He is reading "Just Me and My Little Brother." He looks up at me, his eyes huge, warm, brown.

Chicken: I sorry, Mommy.

I mean.


We could have another one.


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