In the Middle

Sidebar: This entry was actually written last Tuesday. I forgot to post it. If that isn’t a window into my ragged, disjointed soul right now, I’m not sure what is.

Today was one of those days. You know the kind — emphasis on “those,” complete with eye-rolling and audible sighing. We all have them. I was feeling under appreciated, undervalued, overworked, overwrought, and highly hormonal. Really, in all honesty, that’s never a good combination.

After a less-than-stellar day at work (but a kick-ass and much needed lunch — thanks, Jamie! XO), I picked the kids up from school. Let me preface this story by informing you that I’d received multiple texts from Sam all day that went something like this:

“Can you pick up FIFA 2013 for me today?’

“The pre-order expires in 3 days.”

“Have you gotten my game yet?”

“When are you going to Game Stop?”

Yes, I pre-ordered the game for his birthday. No, I was not picking it up today. No, the world was not going to end because he wasn’t going to be able to play virtual soccer with all his cyber friends THE day it came out.

I was weary. Weary of working long, hard hours for naught. Weary of being told “no” — yet again — by agents and publishers. Weary of kids who think that money (like Juicy Fruit) grows on trees. Weary of never having enough Juicy Fruit (or money) trees.

Mom, I need $180 cleats. Mom, I need a new sweatshirt with the school logo. Mom, I need $50 for my art class. Mom, I need money for school pictures. Mom, it’s time to sign up for basketball. Mom, my lunch account only has $1.25 left in it. Mom, we’re out of after-school snacks. Mom, the strap on my brand new backpack just broke. Mom, I cracked the screen on my phone.

Just stoooooooooooop. Stop asking. Stop expecting. Stop talking. STOP.

It was one of those days.

And so what happened, you ask? I lost it. Big surprise, I know.

The breaking point? Tuna casserole.

When tuna casserole becomes a life-altering event, it’s time to step back, reevaluate, and forge a new plan. When Charlie the Tuna is the catalyst for your near nervous breakdown, there’s probably something bigger going on.

One by one, I made all the pick-ups in the gas-guzzling Tahoe and ultimately, one of the kids realized it was Tuesday night. Chris teaches on Tuesday nights. You know what that means? My night to cook.

It turned into a feeding frenzy of fast food demands.

McDonalds! Chick-Fil-Gay (thanks, Mandy, for the always-popular new moniker)! Papa John’s! Mugshots! Local Culture!

“I’m cooking tonight,” I interrupted as the tone in the truck took a nosedive.

“What are you making?” one of them asked nervously.

“I’m making tuna casserole,” I declared. “And for those of you who are too chicken to try it, I’m making spaghetti.”

Commence the gagging noises.

By the time their expectations were not met, and they’d mocked my ability to cook an edible meal, and they’d complained about how rarely we get to eat out, and they’d all become sullen, nasty asses, I’D HAD IT.

They knew I’D HAD IT because I yelled, “That’s it! I’VE HAD IT! You kids are the biggest bunch of entitled ingrates I’ve ever known! Ever!”

And then the door slamming, foot stomping, afternoon silence began. Except I lit into Chris before he left to teach because he was there. And he was breathing.

Yes, I’ve been a little edgy lately. Yes, I’ve been swimming in a bit of discontent… or a sea of it. Yes, I should probably be a little more careful with words like “Asshole” and “Dickhead.” Yes, I should have learned my lesson via voicemail last week.

But I railed on. And on. And on.

And then I made tuna casserole and spaghetti. (Which, by the way, is totally against our house rule. Two meal choices? Absolutely not! Don’t like it? Don’t eat it. But I’d caved.)

Sweet, sensitive Gus (who had helped me unload the groceries earlier without being asked) helped me make dinner. He got the pans out, broke the spaghetti into the boiling water, put the cheese back in the fridge.

We sat down at the table, and Gus tentatively took half a noodle from the tuna casserole dish. He chewed thoughtfully, looked purposefully into my eyes, and said calmly, “Yes. Yes, I’ve had this before. And you know what? I like it. I like it a lot. I remember now. I’m just going to choose to eat spaghetti tonight. Because it’s already on my plate and everything. Thanks, Mom. Thanks for making dinner.”

I couldn’t help but giggle. Oh, that boy.

After dinner, when everyone else had sought the refuge of their bedrooms, Gus helped me do the dishes.

“Why are you so sweet and kind and thoughtful?” I asked him. “Why do you consider other people’s feelings when your siblings only think about themselves?”

“Well, Mom,” he began, “I’m pretty sure it’s a middle child thing. All middle kids are a little bit different than their siblings. It’s all part of being a middle.”

And that, my friends, is an explanation I’ll embrace.

Sweet-hearted, kind, sensitive, thoughtful Gus.

My middle.

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2 thoughts on “In the Middle”

  1. He sounds like a bright, wonderful guy! It sounds like life has been throwing curveballs lately but it really is seeing the joy in those little things; the lunches with friends, the loved ones who help us out. Another beautiful post! 🙂

  2. He’s right. He’s old enough, get him “Emotional Intelligence”, by Goleman. I think it could inspire him.

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