"What is your problem?" he said.
"I don't have a problem," I said.
But today when Justin asked if I had seen the papers he brought in from the car, you know, the ones he put on his bedside table, I said, "I didn't move them," clipping my words and ending one tone shy of, "No, stupid."
So maybe I do have a problem.
"Do you like to be yelled at?" I said.
"You like it when other people yell at you?" I rephrased.
He shook his head no. Maybe he really does like to be yelled at but decided to just give me the answer I was looking for. Leading questions, leading questions.
"I don't think Mom likes to be yelled at either. Did you hear her say she is coming?"
I left. I could have just wiped my brother's butt but (ha ha) I am already keeping Claire's bottom clean and there is something distinctly different about big kid poo. Soon enough Claire will be yelling "Mom! Mom! Mom!" and I'll be teaching her how to wipe her own bottom. In the meantime, Mom doesn't mind helping Danny wipe his bottom since her help guarantees skid-free underpants. Not a bad trade-off for "Mom! Mom! Mom!"
But really, Danny's yelling just underscores the constant noise at our house. It isn't all bad noise - mostly play and thundering stomps up and down the basement stairs; daily races around the living room, kitchen, and sun room; piano practice in small bits, at any given time (though most of us cringe at the opening chords of "Little Indian Dance," a catching ditty that Gracie has mastered but still not gotten enough of); there's whining (David's specialty) and laughing (all) and arguing (all, not usually at once). This house is full of kids and kids are usually loud.
"It must be difficult to share your space," I said to Ruth and Ellie the other day. I wanted them to know that I know it's hard to have guests around, imposing different routines, new family dynamics.
Ellie looked like she might agree that have Justin, Claire and me around is indeed a personal sacrifice on her part - after all, I am forever asking her and David to remember that Claire is napping so please, please keep it down - but Ruth said, "No, not really."
Perhaps that is because Ruth is really good at hiding, sneaking away from the loud games to read her books. What is so fantastic about Ruth is that she might be in the living room for two hours, buried in her latest book, while the house is shaking with games ("Let's play 'fight,'" David said to Ellie and Danny) and piano plunking. And Ruth is totally undisturbed.
I need to learn how to do that again.
Instead, what I do in the middle of chaos is feel my nerves fire and snap under the strain of not yelling "Quiet! Quiet! Quiet!" That's lately, at least - and likely because our move to the Middle East (who moves there!?) is imminent and Claire is teething and and and! But sometimes I feed off the cacophony and get silly and enjoy being in the middle of this crazy family. And right when I think: I am done, I am running away - I get a break. A fantastic run or an hour to write, an empty house. Then the noise builds again. And still, I love it here.