My husband suggested we go to the mall. He needed a haircut, and the boys could "stretch their legs" instead of bounding around the house because I wouldn't let them outside in the muddy pond that used to be our backyard.
Normally hubby's haircut took twenty minutes, tops. That day there was a long line as well as a new, nervous stylist. As the boys and I waited, my irritation of the past week grew and grew. I felt like the Grinch, and I sounded like him, too:
"Don't touch that! Sit down! Be quiet! Daddy will be finished in a few minutes."
A few minutes to a small boy is a long, long time.
The receptionist, bless her heart, gave each of the boys a balloon.
"Mommy, will you blow this up?"
"Oh, all right. But don't knock it around. Somebody might trip on it."
How do you give a boy a balloon and expect him to just sit and hold it?
I relented. We went out into the mall and found an uncrowded court. The boys went wild. They batted the balloon back and forth.
"Can you keep yours from touching the ground?"
"Look how high mine is!"
An older couple on the bench smiled fondly at the boys, even hit a balloon back when it floated their way.
By this time I was feeling like the Grinch when he sees that the Whos are still singing, even after he tried to ruin their Christmas.
"Here, Mommy," my three-year-old said. "Catch!"
I hit the balloon back to him, bopping him in the face. He squealed with delight, and his laughter always made me smile.
Pretty soon I was in the middle of the balloons, trying to hit both back at once, getting bopped in the face myself.
Something loosened inside me, and I felt calm and happy for the first time that stressful week. "And they say Mommy's small heart grew three sizes that day."
After a few minutes the game changed, and I was no longer included. But now I was content to watch. I never realized how much fun a balloon could be!
Hubby came out then, and the game ended. The boys' hair was damp with sweat and they smelled a little gamey. But they too had changed (or maybe it was just my perception). No whining, no fighting, just contentment.
By the next day the balloons lost air or burst and were thrown away. But I will never forget the joy of that moment when our frustrations disappeared and we could share something as simple as a balloon in a shopping mall.
I even managed to remember this lesson the next rainy week when I turned into a Grinch.