Dinner was an uneventful mixture of mom, dad, and youngest son inhaling a nutritious meal, two finicky noses raising high at said meal, and all three children competing for air time to tell the "best" and "worst" things from their day.
As I said, uneventful. (It's a good thing.)
While Picky Eater #1 swirled her spoon around the sausage and Picky Eater #2 used his fork to only eat the sausage in the bowl, husband stood up to start loading the dishwasher I had emptied earlier in the day.
He stooped his six foot frame to place one salad plate in the bottom, fork in the cutlery basket. I pushed back my chair to help, placed my dishes in the sink, and reached for the wet rag to start wiping down the "grown up" end of the table.
I heard the unforgettable sound of shattering china before my brain realized my eyes had seen husband grab the counter to catch himself. And in that instant of shock, the children froze, spoons and forks mid-complaint.
Daddy was in trouble.
In a Tom and Jerry cartoon, one frame would show the disaster, then the next frame would show a series of blurry streaks as everyone left the building with impossible speed.
In real life, though, there's no possible way to zoom across broken glass or even walk casually away and pretend the catastrophe didn't happen. That's when the self preservation instinct kicks in.
Instant, pin-drop silence. It's the "oh-my-gosh-somebody's-going-to-get-it-and-if-I-don't-pretend-I'm-invisible-I'm-going-to-get-it-too" kind of nothingness wherein a half-hour's roar is muted with a split second click of an invisible button. The ears seem to ring from the void left by sound's sudden absence.
The children may have known the correct thing to do, but they didn't understand the emotional significance of daddy breaking a piece of blue and white Noritake china that mommy had bought at Dillard's years before she was married. They didn't instantly think, "Why now!? When we don't have extra money to replace this plate?" All they knew was that broken = bad.
As the room remained paused in shock, I realized what husband had done. Without thinking of the potential cause-and-effect consequences, he had chosen to stretch his long legs over the open dishwasher to get to the sink rather than close the dishwasher, walk to the sink, then open it again.
And in that light bulb moment, I did what everyone was waiting for. I didn't yell, scream, or pitch a fit, but as my blood pressure rose, I broke the eerie silence with the tone my
kids refer to as the "mean mommy voice," the deep, serious tones that spell t-r-o-u-b-l-e in a soprano.
"What were you thinking!?! Just because you can step over a dishwasher doesn't mean you should!!"
I angrily picked up the broken glass and slammed the jagged shards in the open garbage can. Husband brought in the vacuum cleaner. The children watched in silence.
When the crime's evidence was gone, Wyatt asked for paper, left the room. Knowing how Wyatt loves to write letters asking for forgiveness when he does something wrong, I thought that request a bit strange, but I kept cleaning the stove while husband went back to cleaning alongside me.
Minutes later, he returned, reached out his hand to give husband a piece of paper, then hesitated, glanced at me, as if confused since I was there. The little hand withdrew, extended my way.
"Here, mommy. This is from daddy."
Before me was an apology note, obviously written in my oldest son's hand but signed "Hubby," the affectionate name husband uses with me and that Wyatt had only just learned two weeks before from my Valentines Day card.
I laughed out loud, told Wyatt he couldn't apologize for his father, explained that daddy had already said he was sorry, mommy had already forgiven him, and that was that.
"We forgive and forget, you remember. It's what Jesus expects us to do. It's what families do."
That was two weeks ago. The incident hasn't come up since, but I know it will just because I know my children. They like to bring up the things we adults would like to forget.
"Remember that fight you and daddy had when....." Wyatt will say.
Then, I'll replay the same speech I give at such occasions: "Yes, I remember. It wasn't a fight. A fight involves hitting. It was an argument. And it's ok for mommies and daddies to argue. You and your sister argue. You and Emerson don't agree on everything, do you? Families disagree. They argue. BUT they always say they're sorry. They always forgive each other."
Being a parent means living in a glass house. Children watch every cross gesture, hear every work spoken in frustration, sadness, or anger.
I know they'll remember the inevitable harsh words spoken in anger. My only hope is that they will also remember what they always see and hear next--the apologies, the forgiveness, and the commitment to continue loving each other as husband and wife.