Natural Selection

Maybe it was a middle child thing.

Maybe it was a subtle effort to thin the herd.

Natural selection.

She naturally selected the child who had to go.

And she did it with such an innocent angel face.

The hour before bedtime takes only second place to the hour before dinner time as the most cringe-worthy, wretched time of day in the life of a stay-at-home mom.

The kids are by turn, grumpy, hyper, whiny, messy, and clingy.

And that includes the Hubby.

I was just hanging on for fifteen more minutes.

I’m telling you. If you ever want to bless a mother, give her sleep.

This particular evening, five kids were running amok in the den, clean, fed, and jammied up, in direct defiance of the upcoming bedtime.

These weren’t little toddlers, these peeps went from kindergarten through high school.

But fifteen minutes of free time in a whole day must be used to full potential.

Middle child was lounging on the sofa, fiddling with a long pink scarf.

She dangled it over the back of the couch, and said, “Here, fishy fishy fishy!”

Low man on the totem pole, and eager to be included youngest child, decided to be the fish.

Of course.

Up to the bait crawled Little Man.

He obligingly bit the end of the scarf.

And middle child reeled him in.

The girl’s no rookie.

She knows if you don’t yank the line and set the hook, your fish gets away.

With a mighty yank, the scarf whipped right out of the fish’s mouth.

Along with it came one of the fish’s front teeth, sailing across the room and hitting the wall with a tiny “plink”.

Everyone took a collective inhale.

I came running as the screaming began.

Everyone in the room was screaming but Little Man.

It took a minute to register the blood pouring from his mouth, his puzzled face, and the horrified looks of the witnesses.

Across the room was a single bloody tooth.

In his mouth was his other front tooth, wobbling half in and half out.

This is not a job for sissies.

And you’d better believe I already had our family dentist on speed dial.

We plopped the rogue tooth into a cup of milk. I placed a wet ice-filled cloth on Little Man’s mouth. Hubby cleaned up the blood and sent everyone to bed.

Our dentist, bless his big, expensive heart, answered his emergency line from a family dinner in a restaurant somewhere. I explained the situation in a slightly high-pitched voice.

This wonderful man met me a half hour later at his dark, closed offices and plopped Little Man into a giant exam chair.

He was kind and gentle and patient.

Little Man held my hand and waited like a champ for 45 minutes while the dentist removed his last front tooth and dug around, making sure there were no leftover bits of tooth in his poor mangled gums.

We weren’t charged for this.

Years of loyalty from a big family, maybe.

Possibly we had already paid for his family dinner out.

Now you know why Little Man is missing his front teeth in every photo for four years straight.

And why middle child is smiling like that.

She is still pretty certain that three children was plenty and enough.

But let’s all be glad Little Man tops her by a good eight inches today.

Who’s the fishy now?

Sibling Riflery

It’s rough being the youngest child.

You believe everything your siblings tell you, go along with all their ideas, and volunteer to drive their get-away car.

You spend your whole life wanting to be cool like them.

It never occurs to you to question why they would make you stand outside the secret clubhouse, coming up with a million passwords that aren’t the right one, while they hold a tea party inside.

Oh wait, wrong set of siblings.

My kids spent a lot of afternoons out in the backyard, trying to entertain themselves.

Instead of driving my kids all day to swimming lessons, soccer practice, piano recitals, and FFA competitions, I sent them outside with the encouraging statement, “Stop destroying the house, and go find something to do!”

Then I locked the door like my mama taught me.

Just kidding.

Sort of.

It’s just that I already had all of those things in my own yard. A pool. A trampoline. A couple of big climbing trees. A swing set. A garden. Toys, balls, bikes, a fort, chalk, paint, tables, chairs… chickens for crying out loud.

And enough siblings to form any sport team required to stay outside and play.

Even then, they would sneak into the garage and bring out tools of mass destruction.

It’s not like they didn’t have plenty of opportunities to stretch those budding imaginations.

But the thing is, they had a pecking order.

And even though the youngest child could look into the henhouse and say, “Well, at least I have it over you guys!”, it was a sorry and permanent situation.

It was the hour before dinner time.

The witching hour, I called it.

The kids have run out of entertainment ideas and are reduced to coming to the kitchen door every two minutes to see how dinner is coming along and to tattle on each other and to get a 52nd drink of water.

My eyes were glazing over, standing at the stove.

Breathe in. Breathe out. Repeat.

So when the screaming began, it took me a minute to register who it was, where it was coming from, and the exact level of problem it was declaring.

Thankfully, I registered just enough to turn off the burners before racing out the door.

Middle child had tried to bump off youngest child.

This wasn’t the first or last time.

Middle child had never forgotten her temporary taste of being the “family baby”.

Her two little brothers had bumped her out of position and I think she considered them more or less expendable.

She was only playing.

Honest.

There may or may not have been bumping involved.

We had a fat, knotted rope hanging from the tree beside our house.

She helped her baby brother climb up on it, hanging from a big knot, and was pushing him.

“Swing like Tarzan does!” she told him, “Here’s your vine!”

Tarzan was two and a half.

“One!” she said, with a little push.

“Two!” and she pushed him a little higher.

“Three!” as she gave a mighty heave.

Which may have ended well when he came off the vine.

Except she was swinging him out directly over the concrete patio instead of the dirt piled every-single-where-else.

Let’s see.

From the baseball sized egg sprouting from his forehead, a concussion seemed logical. The wind knocked out of him. Various scrapes and bruises predicted. Massive headache incoming.

And his little arm was broken.

We all did some crying.

Tarzan got a green cast.

And really, she would have flown under the radar if the following story hadn’t occurred.

Tune in Friday.