Monday, March 3, 2008

When Momma Cracks

I’m singing to her, the cereal is coming!

“Nyaaaaaaa.”

Yummy-yummy-oatmeal, cooked-on-the-stove--

“Nyaaaaaaa!”

I’m cool. I’m in charge. Yeah. YEAH.

"NYAAAAAAA!"

This is the freaking calm before the storm.

Whining is the bane of motherhood. It really rubs moms the wrong way, pulls at this string in us and we end up doing things we never would have done before kids. Mothers don't get whining, a pointless, utterly annoying, entirely dispensable form of last-resort protest. There is the background whining “Awwwww. Mmmmmm. Wehhhhh.” Then there is “Mooommmmmyyyyyyyy.” And finally, “NYYAAAAAA!”

Ten, maybe twenty, minutes of whining that graduates to something more like shrieking can bring any mom to her knees. My youngest daughter, bless her, is a gifted whiner. Her sister throws her arms around her and tells her she loves her, and “nyaaaaaa!” The moment she finishes the carrots on her tray, she doesn’t give me a second, doesn’t skip a beat: “nyaaaaaa!” I take a little too long unstrapping her from her carseat--

“NYAAAAAAAAA!”

Almost done, almost done. A steaming pot of oatmeal sits in front of her on the table. I’m pouring cool water on it, fanning it frantically with a pot holder, trying to make it cool down as fast as possible.

Nyaaaa! Nyaaaa! Nyaaaaaaaaaaaa! Nyaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa--It’s coming, it’s coming. Mmmmmm, look--Nyyaaaaaaaa!--Hungry for--NYYYAAAAAAAAAAAA! NYAAAAAAAAAAA! NYAAAAAAAAAA!

And then, the storm. “HUSH! HUSH! HUSH!” I bang the table with every word, completely cracking.

She stops and puts her little hand over her eyes, the pathetic gesture I know too well whenever her feelings are hurt. It’s my defeat, not hers. I try to ignore the guilt. In a few seconds, clumps of fresh steaming oatmeal are on her tray table. She attacks them and stuffs her mouth, the sensitivity melting away. I retire to the living room to breathe. It's only 10 a.m.

My not-yet-three-year-old, who watched the scene quietly, follows me, waits for me to settle, then says softly,

“Umee, Noor sagheera. Hiya la tafham.” Umee, Noor is little. She doesn’t understand.

“What did you say?” I couldn’t have heard right. She says it again, gently, with sympathy, like a parent.

From the mouths of babes. I want to scream, hit my head against the wall, laugh deliriously, and pull my hair. Instead, I kiss her forehead and thank her.

It's tarbiyah, every day, from the most unlikely little people.

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