Monday, August 06, 2007

Another One From the Archives I focus my energy on job interviews, reference gathering, and some contract work.

This was written ten years ago:

I cut my finger today while chopping an onion. Had I been alone (Ha!Solitude while preparing dinner? Not in this house!), the event would have passed unnoticed. But all four kids were home, three of them vying for space, time, and attention in our too-tiny kitchen. I enjoy having the kids around while I cook, since it is often our first chance to talk about school, social happenings (and mishaps) and plans for the evening. Today, the time spent together preparing dinner provided another opportunity: I realized in the chaos that followed the slip of the knife, that my children’s personalities could be defined and described simply by the way each reacted to this unique and unexpected situation!

Elisabeth, thirteen, likes her life and the lives of those around her, to be in order. Since she could write, she has been a list-maker, insisting that each task be methodically completed and crossed off - a trait not genetically linked to her father! She insists on perfection in herself as well as in those around her, and demands precision like an army drill sergeant. She will go far in life, but will step on a few toes (OK, she’ll leave bodies at the wayside!) in her quest to satisfy her every ambition. If something needs to be done, say the house needs painting or the family budget needs balancing, count on Elisabeth to make it happen!

As blood spewed from my finger, Elisabeth calmly and methodically mapped out a course of action, devising a mental list of the steps necessary to bring the situation under control. First critical step: pacify seven year-old Alex, who was screaming something about Mommy dying and leaving four orphans. She kneeled down, put her hands on Alex’s shoulders, and said firmly, "Alex, stop!" And he did - for a few seconds. She then got a towel, choosing maroon to match the dominant color of the moment, and handed it to me, saying with authority, "Hold this tightly on your finger. I’ll be right back!" And she was, with a Band-Aid, which she insisted on applying with great finesse. It was not enough, however, as the blood soaked right through. The sight of blood seeping through the Band-Aid caused Alex to jump toward the phone, announcing in a panicked voice that he was calling 911!

Alex was born anxious. He emerged at birth gripping the doctor’s clamps with sheer terror in his eyes - and he always seems to carry the weight of the world on his tiny shoulders. Alex is never satisfied to be an observer of anything. Instead, he races to expend anxious, undirected energy all day long, exhausting himself by the end of the day. As the blood from my finger began to drip onto the floor, Alex focused his energy on getting to the phone and alerting every emergency organization in Seattle that his mom was bleeding to death. As Alex lunged for the phone, I gently intercepted, assuring him with a calm voice and a smile, that Mommy would be fine, and that we don’t need three firetrucks, a police car, and the paramedics at our house to fix my cut finger. Alex collapsed in my lap, holding my finger in his hand and whimpering softly.

Katherine, his twin from a different planet, calmly put her hand on my back, rubbing gently (knowing that back rubs are my favorite thing in life), and saying in her sweet, soft voice, "It’s OK, Mommy. I’m here. I love you."

Katherine has been dubbed by her siblings as the family "suck-up." I have reminded her brothers and sister, that sucking-up is a GOOD thing around here, and that they are invited to reap the benefits of such behavior, too! Whenever I leave, if even just to go to the corner market, Katherine insists on giving me a bear hug and a kiss, and telling me that she loves me. Every morning, on her way out the door, she blows me a kiss and says, "See you in six hours, Mommy!" It makes me smile and makes her siblings gag, both serving as encouragement for her! Katherine immediately knew her role in the fiasco of my cut finger: she provided moral support, love, encouragement, and a touch of effluerage, as Elisabeth applied another Band-Aid and Alex made another futile attempt to grab the phone.

Peter is a ten year-old absent-minded professor and scientist, as calm and lackadaisical as Alex is anxious. Easy-going and nonchalant, Peter prefers time alone hacking at the computer or improvising a science experiment, to socializing in a cramped kitchen with his mother and siblings. For this reason, Peter was downstairs when I cut my finger, and was oblivious to the entire incident until bedtime when he saw the Band-Aid and casually asked, "What happened to your finger?" I’m still not sure that he listened to my blow-by-blow account of the drama that had taken place earlier, for he interrupted me, saying "Mom, can you tuck me in?" Some things are just more important than others!

The memory of cutting this onion may always bring tears to my eyes! My four children are such individuals, continually asserting and protecting their uniqueness. Sometimes, like today, their individual temperaments come into focus, and I can take one quick group snapshot and hold onto it forever.

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