I snapped. / by Carey Pace

I snapped. 415pm. Wednesday. 

I had spent 18 of the last 72 hours in a Sportsplex with four full basketball courts being utilized continuously by some fifty kids from age 7 to 15. Countless balls bouncing, always bouncing, plus the unexpected whistles and buzzers, and incessant squeaks of sneakers on the court barraged my senses for six hours on Monday, then Tuesday, then Wednesday. 

I spent 21 of the last 72 hours with my own personal 7-year-old leech, who was constantly touching me, pressing into me, bouncing into or on me, or talking to me about the things that are important to 7-year-old tomboy princesses (which are, most unfortunately, not the same things that are important to 36 year old tomboy stay-at-home-artist-introvert-thinky-mothers).

And I had spent five hours driving to and from this endeavor, about to add one more hour to the tally. 

A few years ago I became aware of my own sensitivity to noise, and how it made me feel on the inside when I was overwhelmed with the cacophony of loud life around young kids or people. I still can't explain why some sounds induce this feeling and others do not. Regardless, I have come to recognize the signs that the internal freak out is about to happen and I try to do things to remove myself from the situation or make an effort to stop the sound. I have observed that my sensitivity seems to be more pronounced later in the day, inversely proportional to my energy level as the day wears on. It's as if my reservoir of the capacity to gracefully handle what I do not prefer begins to run dry as the day progresses and more and more sounds rob my silence tank. Yet this week, because I love my son and love that he adores basketball with a fierce passion, I've chosen to put myself through this. 

He had worked so hard on his feet for 7 hours a day for 3 days, so at the conclusion of Wednesday's session I asked if he wanted to have a milkshake for the 60 minute ride home. Of course he said yes. Of course he said he wanted one from zaxbys. I don't get milkshakes very frequently so I wasn't aware that zaxbys milkshakes aren't really shakes at all, but vertical bowls of soft serve with yumminess mixed in. Chocolate cookie for him, and because she was merely also present, I let her order one, too, knowing full well she would be doing good to eat 1/4 of it and the rest would go to waste. She simply doesn't really like milkshakes and her belly is tiny. In retrospect, I wish I'd had the parental balls to just tell her no. "No, today just your brother gets a milkshake because he's busted his tail for seven hours for three days straight while you have not. Besides, you don't even like milkshakes and zaxbys doesn't offer plain cones. Life's not fair, Princess." Alas, that isn't what I did. Birthday cake shake for The Lady. 

About three weeks ago I had promised her a cone from McDonald's as a reward for something. In Kingsport I could be at McDonald's in two minutes flat, but in Martinsville it's a 15 minute expedition one way. After putting her off on the cone due to time for several days, finally one night around 9pm we set out for McDonald's. I should have known better then. I did it because I'd promised and keeping my word as a parent is of utmost importance to me. But I know myself and patience is not my virtue at 9am, let alone 9pm. I was already tired and pressed for time, and those are never, ever a good combination for me. 

I handed her the cone and she took it from my hand. For reasons we shall never discern, she immediately turned the cone parallel with the ground. She wasn't paying attention and she was goofing off with her brother. The ice cream of course succumbed to the forces of nature and gravity had the upper hand. The full Ice cream contents of the hastily made fast food cone landed in her lap, oozed down onto her car seat, the seat cover on her van seat, and finally puddled on the all weather floor mats (one of my best parental decisions) all within a millisecond. I'd like to say I handled it with grace and wisdom. I didn't. I yelled. I huffed. I lectured. I berated. I heard the good angel on my shoulder begging me to stop my mouth, but instead, I indulged the bad angel that encouraged me to vent my overreacting fury on her little ears. As I cleaned the sticky mess up and all during the 15 minute trek home I mouthed off. And I had to apologize for my despicable behavior the next day. 

So knowing that context, you can imagine my flabbergasted fury at 415pm yesterday afternoon when I hand her her milkshake that she didn't need or deserve in the first place, then hand the Boy his, then hear a gasp and a chanted "I'm sorry! I'm so sorry!" Somehow, SOMEHOW, this seven year old tomboy princess managed to turn her open top milkshake, that's really a vertical bowl of soft serve with whipped cream on top, UPSIDE DOWN on top of herself and then on top of the travel activity bag that sat at her feet for this 27 hour adventure we'd embarked upon. 

Oozed and sticky ice cream was everywhere and they both just sat there staring at it, waiting for the mysterious leprechaun maid that cleans up their messes to appear. 

If I were a better person, I'd have listened to that good angel. If I were at an emotional place where I'd not listened to the sounds of basketball for more hours than any human ever should, maybe I'd have listened to that good angel. If I were less introverted, maybe, and wasn't feeling overwhelmed at having a constant companion from wake up to closing my eyes for days and days on end, maybe I would have done better. But I didn't and I am not and I failed. I snapped. 

As I pulled item after item out of that activity bag, covered with sticky foamy fake ice cream, I became more and more angry. I kept saying "oh my god, oh my god" which is NOT something I say in front of my children. I berated her. This wasn't the first time this has happened but the SECOND. that good angel tried to get through but I knocked her flat off my shoulder. I heard her tell me to shut my mouth, that no good would come from the verbal effluent I was spouting. But I was so angry. So very angry. I felt like my chest may explode and I had to do SOMETHING with that rage. By the time I got it cleaned up as good as I could with a box of tissues, I got back in the drivers seat with sticky hands and wanted to cry. The anger had been present in my system long enough for the hormones of wrath to need an exit and out they came in angry tears. I declared that there would be no movie on the way home. No music. No iPads. NO SOUND! no one was to speak unless there was blood gushing.  Not just present but literally gushing.

And I drove home. Ashamed. And sensory overwhelmed. 

When we pulled into the driveway she asked me, "momma, are you proud of me for not talking for the whole way home?" (It was truly 60minutes). It was blessed silence for me as I tried to calm down, but it was everything inside her extroverted self to keep her mouth shut. 

I've wanted to write about accidents and how we react to them for several years now and I just haven't ever done it. I think that the time to write all of that out and process it is now. Today I came to the Sportsplex armed with earplugs, and the Lady is blessedly for both of us staying at home with Shawn's parents who arrived late yesterday. 

(And as I scrolled to the top to proof read this, while the Boy ate his lunch in the van, he lazily didn't bother to wipe his greasy hands before picking up his coke, only to dump the cup in the floor in front of him because it slipped right out of his fingers. This is just soooooo not my week)