For every Victory, there is an equal and opposite Defeat.
Our girl, L, turned 8 yesterday. It is not the easiest feat to create birthday wonderment out of almost thin air, but add two parents who are sick and jetlagged to the mix, and it feels just shy of impossible. But, I rallied from the flu just in time to pull together the birthday pancake feast.
I love pancakes. Especially with candles and tiny flags on them.
Pancakes + Candles + Flags + Actually having matches in the house = Victory.
A small win. Over the flu and the jetlag and general chaos. I was silently self-congratulatory and a little smug. That I made the pancakes, and that I was Kind Mother and Wife throughout, not even getting annoyed with JMM, who was a bit ZombieFather-esque at the breakfast table. At least, not visibly annoyed.
Hip Hip Hooray! Birthday breakfast that was happy and kind! Another small victory.
But then today. We were running late and the children were slow, and they must make all of the things, like glue buttons onto sunglasses, and cut tiny things with incredibly large scissors, and make semolina porridge from scratch, and think up one more amazing sentence, and slip tiny robot figurines into ring boxes so it looks like they are sleeping in tiny beds, and make that small light-thingy on top of the Tardis. Getting dressed, putting on socks and combing hair became Sisyphean tasks.
The normally short car ride to school became incredibly looooong and drawn-out, partly because of peak-hour traffic and I was stuck behind the slooooooowest bus in all of Sydney, and partly because the kids had started bickering and fighting, which somehow makes time stop flying, and instead drag his feet, and loiter about with his shirt untucked. I got a little annoyed. Visibly.
I tried to distract them by singing them 'Forever Bus', which is a song I made up on the spot inspired by the incredibly slow bus in front of us. Sung to bits of the Habanera tune from Carmen.
They were not amused. They are getting too old to be distracted and placated by my made-up songs. Small defeat.
The fighting continues and starts to build. Fingers pinching, arms swinging, legs kicking. I tell them to stop acting like goats and to sit there like children. Silence. They stop fighting.
I am about to claim a victory and scratch a mark on an invisible tally board, when I realize that what I thought was victory, was in fact a defeat. Theirs. I had mortally wounded them.
The oldest was highly offended. "We're not goats. We're kids."
"I know. That's my point." He tosses the offer of fun to be had with puns disdainfully aside.
"We're children. Sometimes we act like it."
Touché. I'm tempted to explain again the difference between metaphors and similes, "Like or as, boy. There's a world of difference between that and 'is'." But it's really not the time or the place. To him I may as well have screamed "GoatChild!" and pointed at him with a witch-like finger.
But I didn't. I just told them there were acting like goats. Which they were, by the way. And I should know, because I recently held a tiny goat in my very arms. It was dusk. He was warm.
Goats jump and kick and wiggle when you try to hold them. And they seem sparry and fighty to me. That's all I meant. (The fact that their eyes creep me out is beside the point).
It really didn't help matters that I tried to explain the logic behind my comment about goats. My reasoning didn't match his emotions. And emotions have a logic all their own. His mother had basically called him goatchild, and he was hurt. Defeat. His. And mine. I apologised.
I came home feeling flat, like I'd failed. Felled by defeat greater than the victory I'd claimed yesterday.
But it's not really about winning or losing, is it? About tallying up small victories and defeats? It's about love, right?. Oh, yes! Love! I'd almost forgotten!
It also doesn't hurt to keep in mind The Second Law of Motherdynamics:
Every tally of Victory or Defeat results in nil.
And, just in case it helps you out sometime when you are sitting in traffic and kids are fighting (yours or anybody's), here are the lyrics to Forever Bus. It's pretty catchy. I've been singing it to myself and JMM all morning (although I must admit that he's asked me to stop).
You can get on
But you'll never get off
It takes your whole life
To go one block
Where every commute
Takes Eternity [big finish]