My Happy Place

The Next Family

By: Shannon Ralph

I write often about the things my children do that quite simply drive me insane. It’s easy to lament the toys strewn all over my house. Or the constant bickering. Or the selective hearing. I could write volumes about the difficulties of parenthood. The chaos. The madness. The absurdity. The all-encompassing intensity of it all. However, that is not what I feel like writing about today. Today is going to be a departure from my usual bitching and moaning. Today, I want to tell you about the amazing ability my children possess to lift my spirits on a daily basis.

Yesterday, I woke up crabby. I went to work cranky and became progressively more crotchety as the day went on. I had no reason to be crabby, cranky, and crotchety. I  honestly cannot tell you the source of my irritation. Nothing had happened to make me so terribly unhappy. I was just in a foul mood.  Plain and simple. And every person I talked to at work pushed me a little deeper into that miserable abyss. I am not a fan of the public at large on a good day. When I am already irritated to begin with, my disdain for the general population increases tenfold. Makes me wonder why I am in the customer service business at all. Perhaps a career change is in order?

By the time I got into my car to drive home from work, my crabbiness had morphed from a mental burden to all-over physical discomfort, as a foul mood can often do. I had a bit of a headache. My stomach was a tad woozy. I just felt “off”. It didn’t help that I received a telephone call right as I was leaving work, forcing me to be late getting out the door. Ruanita has to leave to head to work the minute I get home, so it’s never a good thing if I am running late. So I drove home at a frantic pace (as frantic as one can drive in bumper to bumper traffic), listening to idiotic banter on the radio, sinking deeper and deeper into my self-imposed funk.

As I pulled onto our street and parked in front of our house, Ruanita rushed out to leave for work. I got a quick peck on the cheek and a warning. “Good luck. They’re wired.” Lovely. I walked in the front door to find an empty living room. Not a child in sight. Suddenly, without warning, Sophie and Nicholas sprang from behind the end table and yelled “Surprise!” I was then immediately accosted with hugs and kisses. I was also met with a loud and rambunctious run-down of what they had done during the day with their other mom. “Momma, we played Play-Doh and we ate some candy and we played the Wii and we colored and look at the rock I found for my rock collection and Nicky colored on the wall and peed in his pants (Sophie is the consummate tattle-teller) and oh yea we had corn dogs for lunch…” On and on. I quickly ran to use the restroom before having to immediately head out to pick Lucas up from school. Of course, as is the case in most homes with small children, nothing is private in my house. As I am sitting on the toilet attempting to pee in peace, Nicholas comes barging in and walks over to plant a sloppy kiss on my lips. Perhaps it is just me, but I feel creepy kissing my children while sitting on the toilet. Apparently, they do not possess that same boundary. Nicholas smiled at me, threw his arms around my neck, and said “I missed you today, momma.” Okay, maybe it’s not so creepy after all.

After wrestling to get shoes and socks and jackets on Sophie and Nicholas—and corralling them on the way to the car—I strapped them into the minivan and we were off to pick Lucas up from school. En route, Sophie asked that I turn up the radio. I complied and glanced in my rearview mirror to see her smiling—her eyes closed—mouthing the words and bouncing her head to the music. Utter bliss on her face. My sweet, happy little girl with music in her soul.

We parked the van down the street from Lucas’s school and started to walk in. Sophie ran ahead, laughing and giggling and skipping. Nicholas stayed right beside me and reached out to grab my hand. We walked into the building holding hands and found a nice spot on the floor to sit and wait for class to be let out. His class is always the last one to be let out after the bell rings. Typically, I am antsy and impatient as all of the other kids file out of their classrooms and Lucas still has not been dismissed. Yesterday, however, I was distracted by Sophie and Nicholas both sitting in my lap,  kissing my cheek, and regaling me with stories about their day.

Finally, Lucas’s class was dismissed. The minute Lucas walked out of his classroom and saw the twins and me sitting there waiting for him, his face lit up and he flashed his huge dimpled grin. He came straight to me and gave me a hug. The entire ride home, Lucas talked non-stop about the book he had checked out from the school library (something about dragons or monsters)…what all of his friends had done over the weekend…the new friend he made on the playground whose name he could not remember…the field trip to the Children’s Theater his class was planning. On and on.

By the time we arrived home after picking Lucas up from school, my funk had mysteriously dissipated. Whatever had happened, or not happened, throughout the day to put me in a foul mood suddenly melted away. The only thing left was a feeling of calmness. Of “rightness.” My kids aren’t perfect. They are far from it. They misbehave. They fight. They complain. They push my buttons and drive me to the deepest depths of lunacy. However, they are the only three beings in this world capable of calming me. Of making me feel that all is well in the world, even if it might not be. They are my sanctuary. My shelter from the storm. My happy place.

And I am eternally grateful for their funny little faces.

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