Tonawanda News

January 21, 2013

Those 'What were you thinking?' moments

The Tonawanda News

Tonawanda News — Like most parents, I think my kids are pretty clever. 

I’m biased, of course; we all are. We see our little darlings as the brilliant combination of their parents, after all. They could cure cancer, write the next Great American Novel, solve the mysteries of the universe. Sure, they have to start small, with such puzzles as how to tie their shoes and why 2+2=4, but that’s all just part of the road to success. Right?

But, also like every other parent out there, there are times I just have to stop. And stare. And ultimately deliver the immortal line:

“What on EARTH were you thinking?!?”

We had one of these moments — a particularly legendary one — a few weeks ago. I was sitting at the dining room table, working on something ... I don’t even remember what now. The boys had been pushing and shoving and giggling in our adjacent living room, and while I was keeping an eye out to make sure they didn’t get too rough, I was mostly just letting them play.

I noticed the 4-year-old over by our front door. I observed his brother sitting just before the hallway that leads to our kitchen. I saw the younger one strike a “ready to run” pose perfected (for a preschooler, anyway) through a summer spent running track. Somewhere in my brain, eight years of mommy instincts said, “Wait a minute ...”

Too late. Sam took off. I started to stand up. Too late. I don’t think Jimmy ever saw him coming.

What possessed him to try to vault over his brother? We may never know. 

It didn’t precisely work. He simply didn’t get enough air. And the next thing I heard was a resounding “THUD!” as they both hit the ground, Jim right where he’d been sitting, Sam a foot or two behind. He skidded nearly to our bathroom door, popped right up and ran into another room, slamming the door and then peering out as if he thought an angry momma was right on his heels.

For my part, I was too busy consoling Jim, who must have thought the world — or perhaps just his brother — had gone crazy. One minute, focused on playing with his beloved keyboard, the next ... wham. I suspect he took a knee or foot to the eye, but what originally seemed to be a shiner in the making faded blessedly quickly. No harm done. Thank heavens.

Jim settled back to his keyboard and I confronted the architect of the near-disaster, the would-be Olympian who was hiding out and hoping I’d just forget about it. No such luck.

And I uttered those six little words.

Big blue eyes widened at me, then blinked and were downcast. “I don’t know. I don’t know, Mommy.” Peek. Is she still mad? Flutter, flutter went the eyelashes.

He had to apologize to Jimmy and spend some time without his favorite toy, but things were soon back to normal. Soon they were both stretched out in the living room, playing with their trains. No hard feelings, apparently.

Leaving me to stand there, and watch them and wonder ... what on earth was he thinking?

What do you say? What is the thought process behind “I think I’ll try to jump over my brother!”? I sincerely doubt it was anymore than just that: “I think I’ll try to jump over my brother!” 

I’m sure it seemed like a wonderful idea at the time. No malice, no forethought, no thought at all, honestly. I’m sure in his mind, that entire scene was supposed to have gone much more smoothly. (I later discovered that he’d scraped and bruised his own knee when skidding on the hardwood floor after the tumble.)

Jim’s not immune to it either, although I do daresay he has the common sense a practical nature and an additional few years of age bring. His own “WOEWYT” moments have more to do with, “Hmm, I wonder what happens if I try to pour apple juice on this gadget?” or “What happens if I flush THIS down the toilet?” (Of a scientific bent, is our James.)

A day later, I told my mom the story of the incredible flying Sam. After ascertaining that the boys were fine, she laughed. And she laughed. And then she laughed some more. I’m pretty sure I detected a note of grandparental glee in that laugh, although I can’t think of anything I’ve done that would require a reaction like that.

Or maybe I can.

I suppose, as parents, the key is to try to make sure your kids get through those WOEWYT moments with a minimum of damage to themselves and others, a lesson learned ... and that, as they get older, they tend more toward the “Why would you dye your hair bright purple right before school photos?!?” types of things and not “Why would you get behind the wheel?!?” 

Understanding that consequences happen, even if they’re just having to apologize to your brother — or dealing with purple hair for a while, even if it didn’t turn out nearly as cool as you envisioned.

Jill Keppeler is a writer for the Tonawanda News. She can be reached at