If you stay at home or if you work outside the home, or any combination thereof, you have done it.
You have turned on the television or sent the kids outside to play and then ignored various calls for “Mo-AAm!” For awhile. Sometimes, a long while.
You swallow the guilt pill and do this because you just have to get a certain set of things done, completed, finished. To be fair, these are things you have been either avoiding or knowingly neglecting, and they can no longer be ignored.
And your otherwise watchful eyes and ears are checking in on the kids from time-to-time.
Such was the case the other day when I was glued to my laptop, working to accomplish a long task list.
I had started the morning with detailed prep work, how I needed the girls’ help, how I wanted them to entertain one another. They had been game, obedient.
Once I set them in motion, they were entertaining one another well. They were playing an elaborate game of…of…who knows? They were outside and they were quiet.
Of course, too much quiet can only be ignored for so long. But that wasn’t the case at first. Initially, there was a nice hum of activity wafting in through the open windows from the back yard. Then, nothing. Suddenly, my otherwise occupied ears piqued at the sound of swishy footprints skootching across tile.
I whirled around and spotted Secondo, in her bathing suit, with her hair all in front of her face. At least, I thought her hair was in front of her face. But then, her hair wasn’t a mixture of black and brown. In a moment, it registered. Her face was covered in an elaborate face paint conglomeration in the vein of a – kitty cat.
“OH!” I said, smiling, “are you a kitty cat?”
Frozen and waiting to see my reaction, Secondo’s stunned face burst into a bright smile.
“Yes, Prima did it! Meow!”
I laughed and took her by the hand. We went back outside to see Prima waiting for her feline younger sister in the paddling pool.
“So Secondo is a kitty, huh?” I asked.
“Yeah,” Prima said, similarly relieved.
“Well, Prima, it looks pretty good,” I told her. “You actually did a good job.” I chuckled and snapped a quick picture, sending it on to their father at work so he could see what his creative and cute girls were up to.
While I saw the face paint on the slide nearby, I figured they had sort of done themselves out. Let them play, I said to myself, they are so creative, and sweet and cute.
“Want to watch our show?” Prima asked.
“Meow!” Secondo called.
“Sorry, babies, I can’t,” I said, “I have to finish these jobs.” I congratulated myself on being such a warm, understanding and cool Mom. Let them explore, let them create, let them make their own adventures. We can clean it up later, I thought.
Then I dove back into it. I made phone calls, wrote notes and scheduled bills. Who knows how much time passed? When I emerged from this blissfully unaware and rather productive trance, I realized the girl party had moved inside.
The “meows” had been replaced by crying, some muffled words I couldn’t make out and – gulp – running water.
I jumped out of my seat.
“Secondo?” I called. “Where are you?”
I wandered through the house until I honed in on the girls’ bathroom door, half closed.
Pushing open the door, the scene unfolded. There was Prima, sitting on the bathroom counter, looking at herself in the mirror, telling Secondo to calm down in a rather disinterested tone.
In our blue bathtub sat her younger sister, crying. The kitty cat had completely vanished. Secondo was painted completely green. Face, arms, legs, even some of her impossibly curly hair were all emerald.
“Momma, momma, momma,” she cried, in a pool of green-colored water in the middle of the bath, “I don’t want to be a witch anymore! I don’t want to be a witch anymore!”
“Oh my gosh,” I breathed. “OK, baby, OK, you don’t have to be a witch anymore. Prima! Did you do this? Did you paint your sister green?”
She was halfway to the door, shouting over her shoulder, “she wanted me to do it, Mom. She asked me. She liked it at first.” Then, gone.
Green face paint was smudged incriminatingly on each part of the bathroom that would stand still.
I muffled a laugh and began adding clean water to the green bathtub sludge and wiping away lime-colored tears.
Hours later, Prima properly chastised, Secondo nearly back to normal color (except for her sage -colored eyelids, which she was rather pleased with, truth be told) – we were discussing, in a very general way, that people sometimes make mistakes they don’t mean.
I was illustrating this point to Secondo with un-related examples when Prima interrupted.
“Yeah, Secondo, like painting your sister green,” she said, matter-of-fact. “That’s a mistake.”