Ancient battles

I’m not a poet. I wouldn’t know how to technically craft a poem to save my life. I like to write funny. Funny is safe. Funny is easy. But sometimes nothing feels funny. Every moment hurts. Bitterly.

 

 

 

Ancient Battles

When they are small it’s so easy to

kiss away boo-boos,

Wipe soggy tears,

And dab ointment on cuts and bruises.

A mother’s salve.

Healing.

 

But time changes all that.

And pains become immeasurable.

My words cannot erase the hurt

of treacherous laughter

and taunting betrayal.

 

My heart aches inside me.

I want so to help.

Instead I remain outside his fortress,

Unable to soothe.

Ill-equipped to protect him from the child warriors

who rage at the walls of his porcelain ego.

 

We are both wearied from battle.

“Don’t give up,” I manage to eke out the words

like a fallen soldier,

desperate to embolden the barely breathing comrade by my side.

“You will win in the end.”

 

He tries to believe me.

The corner of his mouth curls just enough

to tell me he’s not ignoring me.

And then silence.

We drive on through the night

alone –

together.

His fresh wounds bleeding.

My scabs ripped open to

once again remember the agony of childhood.

 

Don’t mean to depress anyone. But this is where I’ve been living this past week. So many good, kind parents have no idea that their children are viciously tormenting others. Please, talk to your kids about bullying. Teach them that cruelty wounds deeply and childhood scars can last lifetimes. Even if you’re certain it’s “not your kid,” think again. Because it just may be.

Tell the truth dammit!

Truth search

It’s cold! It’s finally cold outside! Open up the windows! Swing open the French doors! Rattlesnakes be damned! I feel invincible. I can actually breathe again. I needed a sweatshirt this morning to walk with the dogs. Nothing can bring me down.

I love the desert in fall. I love the desert in winter. I love the desert until about April. And then I don’t. Then it turns into a hellish furnace that sucks the life out of me, my family and everything around us. Let’s be honest, April, May, June, July, August, September…that’s six whole months. When I first moved here, people systematically perpetuated the three month conspiracy theory. It went something like this, “Oh, you’ll love living here. The weather is perfect 9 months of the year. Then it gets a little hot. But you get used to it. Besides, it’s a dry heat.” OK, let’s look at this fabrication. No matter how you slice it, it gets unbearably hot in April and stays over 100 degrees well into October. Unless my math is frightfully mistaken, that only leaves 50% of the year where people can reasonably function outdoors.

So why does everyone lie about this? Why not just be honest and tell newcomers, “Here’s the thing, you’ll probably want to kill yourself by the time July rolls around. That’s totally normal. Everyone feels that way. But try to hang in there. October isn’t all that far off.” I would have been much better prepared to face the fiery reality if someone somewhere had told me what to expect.

It’s just like pregnancy. Nobody tells you that you’re gonna have unbearable acid reflux for 9 months, projectile vomit in the car on your way to prenatal yoga, and think seriously about downing an entire bottle of Vicodin at least three times a day to put yourself out of your misery. Instead, books like “What to Expect When You’re Expecting” describe pregnancy’s healthy glow and emotional euphoria. Come on. Wouldn’t it be better to fess up to the ugly reality awaiting expectant mommies than to set them up for failure by making them feel isolated, detached and forsaken?

We lie about everything! We tell people they look great when they look like crap. We swear up and down that we’re not angry when we’re literally fuming inside. We tell our kids that a big, jolly fat man is gonna come down the chimney on Christmas Eve and leave loads of presents for them. Why do we do this? Is reality truly that bleak?

What would life look like if we just started telling the truth?

“Sorry, Junior. No presents this Christmas. The economy’s in the toilet and we’re barely able to put food on the table. Now go do your homework.”

“You don’t really look fat in those jeans. But you do kind of resemble a sausage that’s been over-stuffed into too small of a skin. Maybe trousers would serve you better.”

“Wow, you must have spent a small fortune to decorate your house and make it look exactly the same as every other ‘contemporary’ Southwestern abode in the neighborhood. So much for individuality.”

I actually crave the opportunity to tell someone the truth. But no one wants to hear it. It’s too mean, too hurtful. We’re programmed to sugar-coat reality. Especially out here in the West. I remember when I first moved to California and everyone was so nice to me all the time. They’d promise me things to my face that would never come to fruition and say things behind my back that were completely opposed to what they’d sworn in a face to face encounter. I got into the habit of brazenly cutting people off mid compliment. “Look, I’m from Chicago,” I’d sneer, “Just tell me the truth.”

I’d like to tell you that I’m gonna go forth honestly from this point forward, that I’m gonna turn over a new leaf, that I’m committed to speak my mind, voice my inner truth, and stop perpetuating the falsehoods that abound. But I can’t. Because that would be…a lie.

My son the RINO: Responsible In Name Only

“Personal accountability!” My husband, Mark and I chimed out in sync at a Saturday morning family school session at our synagogue. “Taking responsibility for one’s actions.” We’d been asked by our Rabbi to name something we’d learnt from our parents and hoped to pass along to our kids. Lots of parents had good answers; “work hard,” “be kind,” “give to charity.” But we liked ours best. It was, after all, the central theme of our parenting philosophy. Having both been raised in families that harped upon us to “make your own breaks” and “pull yourself up by your bootstraps,” we were committed to passing those tenets on to our own offspring.

After we’d finished, our kids were invited back into the room and the Rabbi asked them to go and pick out which value on the list their parents had written. Oh, this was gonna be easy. We snickered to ourselves silently as we waited for Eli to ace this assignment.

“Accept everyone?” he questioned proudly pointing to the third value listed on the white board.

“Well, that’s certainly a good one,” I answered. “But that’s not the one daddy and I wrote. Why don’t you try again, sweetie.”

“Treat others as you would like to be treated?” he confidently corrected.

“Um…no, honey,” I stammered a bit surprised by his error. “Guess again. It’s something that daddy and I make you think about all the time.”

“Be kind!” he shouted with a victorious lilt.


When he trepidatiously pointed to “Ride bicycles together,” I lost it.

“Eli,” I said in a voice much louder than I’d meant to, “None of our bicycles even have tires. We haven’t ridden bicycles since last Halloween. Really?”

Then I pointed to our all capped “PERSONAL RESPONSIBILITY.” “Oh,” he calmly voiced, “I didn’t see that one.”

I was furious–at him, at myself, at my husband. What did all our work add up to if he couldn’t even pick the right parental value out of a line-up of usual suspects that seemed blatantly obvious to us?

I tossed and turned over this all night. Then I woke up and recreated the list on a small poster board and asked our older son, Levi, who wasn’t at the family school event, to peruse the list of parental values and tell us which one was the one we had listed.

“That’s easy, mom,” he answered in less than a nano-second. “Personal Accountability.”
I breathed a heavy sigh of relief. “That’s what you’re always saying,” he went on, “That’s pretty much the whole premise of how you parent.”

I wondered if Mark had tipped Levi off and prepped him for my experiment. But my husband firmly denied providing our eldest with any pre-test coaching. The bigger question became; why hadn’t Eli been able to identify our parenting platform?

After much deliberation, we realized that sub-consciously we’ve been giving Eli a pass on a lot of things, in large part due to his younger sibling status. It’s just easier and less of a struggle to ask his older brother to help out. This was a text book birth order pit and we’d stumbled right into it.

As parents, it’s easy to declare loving all of your children equally. But that doesn’t mean we treat them all the same way. Finding those inequalities and managing them is a critical challenge that every parent of multiples needs to face. It’s not a pleasant reality. Maybe you do expect more from one child. Maybe you coddle the second. Maybe one’s easier to manage so you rely on him or her as more of a helper.

It’s not a simple issue. But it is one that’s worth examining. What do you think? How equitable are your parental expectations?

Defiance!

Doesn’t he look like a challenge?

“Going my way home?” my impish 8 year old son, Eli, asked as he leaned thru the passenger side window of my car after happily bounding off the school bus yesterday afternoon. His grin warmed my heart.

“No silly,” I chirped, “We have to go pick up your brother at school. Hop in.”

Then he flashed a mischievous smile, turned tail and ran away from me at lightning speed.

OK, I was stunned. And I mean stunned like a deer who had just been shot in the chest by a tranquilizer gun. All the other moms at the bus stop looked at me with embarrassing glances, trying not to actually meet my gaze. Inside my head, I heard them snickering about my parental ineptitude. I tried to make light of the situation. “Ha ha,” I chuckled, “He just loves to race me home.” The awkwardness was palpable.

I drove away and as soon as I was out of their view, I pulled over and tried to catch my breath. I rationally weighed my options. I could go immediately home to rant, rave and revile my youngster for publicly disobeying and humiliating me. Then I could physically imbed him into his car seat and embark upon the trek to his brother, Levi’s, school to retrieve him. But I gotta tell you, that didn’t sound all that appealing to me.

Instead, I began driving slowly away from my home where I imagined Eli victoriously awaiting my arrival for our scream fest. No, I was not going to play the scene out like that. I carefully considered what potential perils Eli might possibly encounter as he sat locked outside our house for the next 45 minutes. I admit I had visions of an errant mountain lion meandering past and eating him, or a band of gypsies kidnapping him at gun-point, but I figured that the odds of either of those things happening in our well-patrolled, gated community with plenty of neighbors within ear shot, was more than unlikely. Besides, when is the last time you saw gypsies packing heat? The greater threat seemed to me to be withholding the valuable lesson that this opportunity presented for my child to learn about natural consequences, responsibility and respect.

Sitting outside the house alone was a small price to pay if it taught my boy that it is not okay to run away from me or directly defy me like that. Sure he might be scared. He might cry. He might even fear abandonment for his impulsive behavior. But as a staunch believer in behavior modification and “Love and Logic,” this negative consequence naturally follows the poor choice he made. The only way for him to internalize that lesson is to truly experience an unpleasant outcome that naturally emerges out of his rash and impulsive behavior.

I picked up Levi and raced home nervously. When I pulled up to the house, I expected to see my tear-stained youngest son regretfully pouting outside the front door. But he wasn’t there. It was either the gypsies or he’d figured out where the spare key was hidden. I began to panic and ran inside the house. I hurried down the hall towards his room but slowed my pace and nonchalantly passed his doorway to see if he was there. I spotted him peripherally and continued walking. He was hiding under his covers awaiting some horrific consequence, I imagine. I said nothing.

Later that night he came to me and apologized. We talked about it briefly and I let him think that it was over and all was well. Unfortunately this weekend is the Diamond Back game he’s been waiting for months to attend. When it comes time to head to the ballpark, the babysitter is arriving and we’re going to have to explain to Eli that we love him too much to risk losing him at such a busy stadium. Since we can’t trust him to not run away from us, he’ll just have to stay home with a sitter while the rest of us enjoy our peanuts, popcorn and crackerjack.

I don’t look forward to his reaction. He’ll be angry. He’ll be crest-fallen. But I believe in my heart that he will learn how to better control his urges, how to respect his parents, and that his actions have very direct and relevant consequences.

Nepotism

Nepotism? Don’t be silly.

Ah nepotism, the practice among those with power or influence of favoring relatives or friends, especially by giving them jobs. I used to lament the fact that my parents were the least connected people on the planet when I was ambitiously pursuing an acting career in Chicago and Los Angeles. I remember thinking how much easier my life would have been if I’d been sired by Aaron Spelling or been the lone Baldwin sister. The closest I ever got to either was a guest starring role on Melrose Place and a film part in “Fall Out” with Daniel Baldwin. Neither of the patriarchs opted to employ me full time or adopt me after my stellar performances.

So when my twelve year old son, Levi, asked if he could audition for a role in the holiday play I had written for Theatre Artists Studio this year, I leapt at the chance to help him move ahead in his acting career. “I will ask the director if you can audition,” I told him, “But don’t get your hopes up. There’s really only one role for a child.”

Levi did audition and was immediately cast in the role. He did an awesome job reading for the director and I doubt anyone would have been better. After all, I had written the role of the bike-pedaling tween using him as inspiration. But I made it clear to the director, who is a colleague and friend, that I had no stake in how he cast the show. It was his job to put the best actors in the roles and create a cohesive ensemble. Whether or not Levi fit into that mix was entirely his decision.

All that being said, I know that realistically it would have been awkward had he chosen to bypass Levi and cast another child in the role. It would have hurt Levi, and although I tried not to care, it would have hurt me too. There was just something silently implied by the fact that I had written the play and had requested an audition slot.

The ball is entirely in Levi’s court now. It’s up to him to show his hard working ethics, his memorization skills, his willingness and ability to follow direction. I will be noticeably absent from rehearsals and readings, opting only to drop him and pick him up at the theatre door when he’s called for rehearsals. I may have opened a door for him. But it’s up to him to step through that door and make the most of that opportunity.

I don’t feel guilty about helping my son achieve something he really wanted. I believe it will be a great experience for everyone involved. And if it isn’t, it’ll be one heck of a learning experience. A few years ago, Levi was cast as the lead in another production and got fired two weeks prior to the opening because he was having trouble staying focused and attentive on stage. It was a business decision . But that didn’t ease his or my wounded spirit. He was devastated, I even more so.

But that experience of failure taught him a lot. It taught him that I can’t make everything right all the time, that people aren’t always forgiving, that life sometimes hurts — a lot. It’s taken a while for Levi to want to be on stage again. I’m proud of him for getting back on the horse. And I pray every night that this experience will go well for him.

So here’s to nepotism! May it be employed cautiously. May every one of us have some opportunity to help out our kids at some point along their career paths, and may we all have the wisdom and self restraint to let our kids fail or succeed based on their own performance.

Classroom Socialism

“It’s totally unfair!” my nearly twelve year old son, Levi, railed. “Mrs. Y teaches advanced math and sixth grade science. She gives out these tickets for good behavior that can be redeemed for the most amazing prizes; like dinner and a movie or board games, stuff everybody really wants. But some people have her for both classes. I only have her for science since I’m not in advanced math. So it’s totally unfair. Don’t you think so?”

“Well, not really,” I tentatively began, “What’s unfair about it?”

“Mom,” he rolls his eyes at the sheer inanity of my question, “ The people who only have her for one class can’t earn as many tickets. That’s what’s unfair.”

“But it doesn’t hurt you or take away from your chance to earn tickets that some other people earn more, does it?” I ask, knowing I’m treading on thin ice. “I mean, it may take you longer to earn the prize you want. But that’s how life works. Some people are better at some things than others. Some people earn more money or drive nicer cars or live in fancier houses. Everything isn’t equal. Plus if you really wanted to, you could work harder and be in the advanced math class. But you don’t seem to want to spend the time or effort to do that.”

“Well mom,” my son reasoned, “I am trying to be happy with myself at the level I’m at and not put undo pressure on myself.” I suddenly flashed back to a book a colleague of mine wrote several years ago entitled, “What to Do When Your Kid Is Smarter Than You.” I’ll have to reread that.

“That’s fair, Levi,” I conceded. “But life is what you make it. Nobody owes you equality. If you want to earn more tickets, think of a creative way to do that. Maybe you can stay later or earn extra credit somehow. But moping about unfairness is like buying into a socialist doctrine that we, personally, do not believe in.” I gingerly stepped off my soapbox and waited to see how my remarks had landed.

“Would you like to at least hear my solution?” He asked with a hint of arrogance that made me feel embarrassed for my philosophical outburst.

“Of course,” I nodded.

“Well,” he began, “I raised my hand and told Mrs. Y that I thought her system was unfair for the reasons I mentioned. She thought about it, agreed with me, and decided to amend the system. Now everyone can only earn tickets in one class.” He offered a self satisfied smile that landed like a gentle lob into my court.

I was, I’ll admit, speechless. Finally, I gathered my wits and responded. “Well, Levi, what you may lack in mathematical acumen, you more than make up for in ingenuity and boldness. I gotta hand it to you. You spoke up for yourself and were able to affect change. That’s awesome. I’m proud of you.”

“Really?” he asked doubting my authenticity.
“Really,” I answered. “Life will always set up obstacles for you to overcome. You used your intelligence, determination and creativity to do that. It’s like my dad used to say to me, ‘You can do anything if you put your mind to it.’” Then I thought about all the kids who had ostensibly been demoted to single classroom point earners.

“But just to be safe,” I added, “Let me show you how to throw a right hook in case any of those double point people come looking for you.”

Establishing boundaries!

It’s high time I started establishing healthy boundaries.

I have boundary issues. I never really knew this until recently when we invited our dog trainer to come to the house and assist us in curtailing some of our dog’s negative behaviors. I thought it was silly when she asked me go toe to toe with the sleeping pup at my feet. “But I’ll wake her,” I insisted.

“But she’s lying on your feet.” The trainer countered. “Just come around to the front of her and tell her to move.”

I reluctantly did as instructed and my adoring fur ball barely looked up at me. “Come on,” I said, “Move.” Nothing. Then the trainer walked up to her and sternly commanded her to move and she was up and out of there like a shot. “She doesn’t respect you,” the trainer determined. “You need to set boundaries. What do you do if she’s lying right in front of you usually?”

I gazed at the floor for a moment, like a child whose hand had just been discovered wrist deep in a decorative jar of Oreos. “Well…I…walk around her,” I confessed. “Especially if she’s sleeping. I never want to wake her up.”

“OK, here is the problem,” the trainer offered in a voice teetering on the edge of judgmental. “You are the leader here. She thinks she’s in charge. She is running the house right now. Frankly, she’s trained you.”

I felt embarrassed. I mustered all of my internal leadership qualities and strode up to S’more. “Move!” I announced in my best leadership tone. “Move!” She once again looked at me askance. “I am serious. Move.” I gently pushed her paws back with my feet. Still she lounged restfully. Finally, I clapped my hands, wedged my toes under her paws firmly and insisted, “MOVE.” She reluctantly arose and sauntered a few feet away to seemingly appease my unusual behavior.

“I did it,” I said gleefully. And that’s when it hit me. This isn’t a new problem. If you think of this microcosmically, this represents a much bigger issue affecting parents today. You see, this is the same problem I, and so many of us, have with our offspring. We’ve put their needs so high above our own that we’ve lost all sense of leadership and control in the relationships.

I never want to wake my sleeping dog. Even when she’s lying in the spot on my bed where I want to lie. That’s ridiculous. I see that. But it’s true. Likewise with my children. They want to go to the park when I need to work. What happens? We go to the park. They want to play games when I need to grocery shop. What do we do? We bargain. “OK,” I say. “Let’s play a game and then we can go to the grocery store.” In essence, I am living in a world of constant negotiation and cow-towing to other creature’s needs and wants. And I’m tired of it.

It is time to do what I want to do. Being a parent or an owner should not mean that you always have to do what everyone else wants. Sometimes I want to decide whether we go to CPK or SouperSalad for lunch. I want the choice of what we listen to on the radio. I want to be the monarch and all other creatures can be my loyal subjects.

So I’m turning over a new leaf. From this point forward I am in charge. I get to say what we’re doing, when we’re doing it, and how it’s going to be done. I’m serious. As long as nobody minds me taking charge. K?

Achtung!

I’m not one to use a 1940s German political image lightly. I abhor the over-use of phrases like “Gestapo tactics.” I shudder when pop culture coins a catchy phrase like “soup nazi.” But once in a while, only when appropriate, one has to invoke the Fascist Arian party to accurately describe a governing system so out of control that its abuse of power must be called out in order to protect its inhabitants and preserve the rights of citizens throughout the free world. Unfortunately, that time is now.

As I write this, I have in my hand two letters from our home owners association admonishing and fining us for 1) “Unauthorized river rock” in our front yard, (apparently river rocks are strictly prohibited in our community. Who knew?) and 2) An errant shade sail in our backyard that is only visible from the street if you happen to be sporting 6 inch platforms, craning your neck, and awkwardly peering over our rear fence.

Now I am not against rules per se. I understand that civilized societies use rules and regulations to ensure the safety and sovereignty of their citizens. It’s just that I believe rules should be reserved for things that actually matter; like being kind to your neighbors or returning a lost pet. Both of which my local denizens have failed to do on more than one occasion. The only thing more disturbing to me than these ridiculous wrist-slapping fines is knowing that either someone voluntarily ratted us out over a harmless pile of rocks and a sun-shielding awning, or there is actually a person charged with trolling the neighborhood in search of these types of menial policy violations.

I recognize that times are tough. Far be it for me to criticize anyone for an honest day’s work. But really, if your employment depends upon stalking and reporting your neighbors for inane trivialities, what wont you stoop to next? Why should anyone care what type of rocks pepper my private drive? Surely no thoughtful human being would scout out my shade sail, secretly photograph it and send it off to the HOA Gestapo. (Please note that I am cautiously and deliberately employing this tendentious metaphor.)

Surely there is more that I could say about this matter. But I must go and prepare for my upcoming HOA hearing regarding these vital and pivotal issues. You know, this would actually make a great new reality TV series. Just call it “HOA.” There’d be idiocy, vindictiveness, likely even some violence. That’s every essential for a hit show these days.

Union busting


Please help me! My kids have unionized and taken a strict “no camp” position which they insist is non-negotiable. I, on the other hand, come to the mediation table with an equally undebatable policy that not only demands full-time summer camp, but also promises a complete maternal break-down and subsequent walk-out if my demands are not met.

Bottom line; I do not have the time, capacity or stamina to entertain my children 24-7 for 3 months of summer activities. I have come to believe that there are some women (even perhaps a few men) for whom this would not only be possible, but, dare I say, even enjoyable. Unfortunately, I am not one of them. I’m not even good at entertaining myself for unstructured stretches of time extending beyond 15 minutes. The combination of me and children for days at a time at record temperatures is like a highly combustible mixture of picric acid and sodium hydroxide. Not something you want happening around the house.

My husband has sided with the children. “You can’t force them to go to summer camp,” he admonishes. “Besides, it’s expensive. And you know how it’ll be to fight every day and force them to go against their wills.”

“Yes,” I concede, “It’ll be hell on a daily basis. But, if I were to put it in Dante-esque terms, I’d have to say that the daily tiffs were more like the first circle, while staying at home with them from June through August plunges into the ninth.” My husband stared at me in bewilderment. He’s not a big Alighieri fan.

“They’ll play together,” he proffers with the simplicity Jack the Dullard. “Yeah,” I reply sarcastically, “Until one of them gets mad and hits the other with a croquet mallet. This is a horrible idea.”

“OK, we’ll hire someone,” he concedes, realizing that unless he’s ready to reenact a modern day version of Medea, he’d better start coming up with a Plan B. “We can use the money we would have spent on summer camp to hire sitters and then they can hang out, relax and swim everyday. It’ll be awesome.”

At this point, I am virtually speechless. I do manage to spit out a single intelligible phrase. “They will be bored in three days time.” Then he slams me with the argument I abhor most. “Well, I didn’t go to summer camp and I managed to entertain myself all summer long. They’re kids. They just want to play.” Then to add insult to injury he adds, “You know, summer camp is an option, not a god-given right. You act like every kid is entitled to go to summer camp.”

“No,” I harshly retort, “Every reasonably sane mother is entitled to send her children out of the house for at least six hours a day. I don’t want to end up a gelatinous puddle of tears every day by the time you get home from work. Trust me, this will not make anyone happy.”

To be honest, I am used to getting my way when it comes to family issues. I often rely heavily on the “I’m the mom, and what I say goes” philosophy of family dynamics. But somehow in this case, I’m not feeling up to waging that battle.

So, we’re going for it. The boys and I will be hanging out at the pool this summer. Feel free to stop by…anytime. We’ll just be here…doing nothing…all day…every day. Dear Lord, please help me find some sort of mental sanity, internal patience, and emotional serenity for what I am about to endure. And please take note that I am on the record saying this may be the single most cataclysmic parenting decision we have made to date.

A spoonful of chocolate helps the medicine go down

What mom? I didn't have any chocolate. Really.

Ah, “Love and Logic,” the parenting protocol based on natural consequences. Where you don’t fight. You don’t negotiate. You don’t even engage in power struggles. You simply allow consequences to occur as they would in real life. Sounds fairly simple. Until it involves the dreaded, delectably delicious cocoa bean.

Seriously, I stumbled into hell on this lesson. My 11 year old son, Levi, was in his school play last week. As a special opening night gift, we gave him one of those ginormous dark chocolate bars that realistically could serve as dessert for a dinner party of 40 people. We’re not usually big fans of food rewards, but we made an exception this time and he was elated.

He carefully gnawed away at it over the week, demonstrating remarkable self control. He never had more than a square at a time, only allowed himself his small portion after meals, and generously shared with all who asked. Everything was going splendidly. Until the other day.

As we were leaving for school, I noticed a hunk of chocolate in his hand. “Not in the morning,” I gently reminded. “O.K.,” he answered. He then proceeded to bite off a chunk of it, his back turned to me, and pretended to return it in its entirety to the fridge. My 
“Love and Logic” voice kicked in. “Ohhhhhhh…,” I softly murmured. “Bad choice.”

Now my children have learned to dread these types of soothing sighs and understated comments about their choices. They know that when they hear those, the other shoe is surely going to drop, even if they can’t predict when, where or how. Levi started back-pedaling immediately. “What?” he challenged, “I put it back. Come on, mom. What did I do?” Like a well scripted actor, I merely repeated the lines Id been rehearsing for all these months. “Not to worry, sweetie.” And off to school we went.

When I got home later that morning, I knew what had to be done. I also knew that given my affinity for the dark, rich indulgence, this was going to be a challenge. But I powered on, opening the fridge and directly confronting the thick, Belgian, beauty, stoically staring back at me with those wide, innocent squares, and sweetly alluring scent. I cradled it into my arms, my heart filled with as much sorrow as Abraham must have felt on Mount Moriah as he prepared to sacrifice his beloved Isaac. “No,” I lamented as I dropped the edible delicacy unceremoniously into the garbage can. There was no turning back.

No one ever said motherhood was going to be easy. But I never imagined It would test me like this. One can only hope that lessons of this depth will need only to be learned once.