From Chicken Soup for the Mother of Preschooler's Soul

The Race

You can learn many things from children. How much patience you have, for instance.

Franklin P. Adams

“I want fish crackers!” Casey whined when he saw scrambled eggs, cinnamon toast and orange juice.

“Fine.” I caved without an argument today; I had to be at work by 9 A.M. to finish a project. Handing him the box of crackers, I turned up the volume on the television, and the theme song of his favorite cartoon flooded the house. Casey rushed to the living room, squealing in three-year-old delight and clapping his hands.

“Now, watch your show while I get dressed,” I said.

Balancing on high heels, I applied makeup. Just as I leaned closer to the mirror to apply mascara, Casey shoved me from behind. The applicator slipped from my hand and left a trail of Blackest Black across the counter before skidding to a stop in the sink.

“‘Scuse me,” Casey giggled, crawling over, through and around my feet. Fortunately, my stockings proved to be run-resistant as advertised. Never mind the snags from curious little fingernails.

“Now, let’s get you dressed,” I urged, knowing it would require several minutes merely to choose the day’s underwear. After a detailed debate on the various celebrity characters featured on each pair, he settled on . . . red. His favorite color.

Glancing at my wristwatch, I grabbed a short-sleeve shirt, perfect for the weather, and yanked it over his head.

“Noooo!” Casey’s whine signaled trouble. After some confusion and a bit of frustration, I understood that he preferred a long-sleeve shirt.

“But, Casey, look at the pretty fish on the front of this one.” I used my motherly wiles. “What could you name a fish?” I edged toward a pair of blue jeans. “How about Fred?”

“No,” he grumped.

“Spotty?” I scrambled to put jeans, socks and shoes on him. In protest, Casey went noodle limp and collapsed to the floor.

Still racing the clock, I managed to get us both to the car, hoping I would make it to work on time. As I leaned over to buckle Casey, a pungent odor assaulted my senses. I looked him in the face and wrinkled my nose.

“I have to poop,” he said. It was too late. Amazingly calm, I urged him back inside for a change of clothes: clean underwear—blue ones, he decided—and fresh jeans.

This time, we made it as far as the daycare parking lot before Casey whined again. But inside the classroom door, a real battle of wills started when he clung to me, refusing to join his classmates on the colorful floor mats. Countless hugs, kisses and assurances later, he chose to let me win. This time.

One hour late to work, I poured myself a cup of coffee, but my hands trembled as I raised it to my lips. I took several deep, calming breaths and reminded myself to stay focused. Shoving my guilt to the back of my mind, I envisioned a happy, healthy Casey having the time of his life while he learned numbers and letters—then I worked right through lunch to meet my deadline.

That night, a freshly scrubbed boy placed both hands on my cheeks and pulled on my face until we touched forehead-to-forehead.

“I’m gonna marry you, Mommy,” he whispered sweetly. Instantly renewed, I kissed the tip of his nose while a million emotions raced through my mind. As I tucked the covers under his chin, I vowed to relax and enjoy my son more. From now on, it would be fish crackers for both of us.

Natalie Bright

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