Ruthie? What are you guys doing up there?
Ruthie, what are you doing?
No seriously, what are you doing?
We want some alone time, Mom!
That’s fine, but what are you playing with?
So if I come up there I’m going to find you sitting on the bed picking your nose?
(like a teenager) Mom!
At the sound of my footsteps on the stairs I hear them scramble, and when I enter the room Thomas is in the closet and Ruthie is hiding under her desk. I am feeling a strange deja vu tingle that takes me back to when Ruthie hid under the bed after cutting her own hair.
What are you doing under there? I ask with measured control.
She slips out from under the desk and sits on the floor, defeated.
I’m pretending to be a face painter, she says.
I know there was a day – hell, even maybe an hour ago – when I would have blown a gasket over such a thing. For some reason I’ve never been able to see antics like this as basic childhood curiosity and mischievousness, but rather as a personal assault on my authority and control.
Even though I wasn’t happy there was also green marker on the carpet, the walls, and the night stand, it’s all washable, it’s all perishable, and it’s all meaningless. It’s just stuff. Stuff that sacrificed itself for the creative genius of a child who likes face painting at the fair.
As Ruthie waited tentatively for my response, I felt such freedom in my soul as I smirked at her, then smiled, then laughed as she laughed. I never realized graciousness could fill me with such joy.