I was more tired than usual tonight as I got the kids a snack and encouraged them through their bedtime routine. I didn’t dare sit down because I knew I would not want to get up.
After cleaning the kitchen, prompting the kids to brush their teeth, take care of their dirty clothes, pick up their rooms, and say their prayers, I hurriedly tucked them into their beds and went downstairs to collapse into my computer chair to work on the school newsletter that was due…wishing I could go to bed instead.
Fifteen minutes later I heard footsteps coming down the stairs and I hollered, “get to bed!” before I even saw a face or heard a voice.
Luca slowly came around the corner and plopped down in the chair next to me.
“My legs are really itchy.”
I looked at her bare shins and could see the dry skin that is common for her this time of year.
“Go upstairs. There is some cream in the bathroom. Just rub it all over your legs” I told her, turning back to my computer.
“I want you to do it. I don’t do it very good.”
I reminded her how tired I was and that tonight I really needed her to do it herself.
“But I don’t even know what cream to use.” (she does)
Finally, after many more excuses, I told her to go up and get it and bring it down to me and I would put it on for her. I could feel my frustration and the tone of my voice rising. I was not handling fatigue well.
When she came down empty handed, claiming she couldn’t find it when I knew it was right on the shelf where I had told her to look, I finally threw my arms up in the air with a look of disgust and told her I would go get it myself.
As I walked up the stairs I was reminded of the book The Tiger Rising by Kate DiCamillo. The story is about a young boy, Rob, who lives with his single father in a small motel, where his father is the maintenance man. There is a lot to the story, but the part I love is the way the father lovingly massaged cream onto Rob’s red itchy legs every night. They don’t talk much and have a generally distant relationship, but this was a service his father performed day in and day out without complaint and it was enough to let his son know what he meant to him, despite his own loneliness, lack of communication or parenting skills.
I felt ashamed when I thought of this story that had touched me. By the time I made it to the bathroom to retrieve the cream that was not were I told Luca to look, my attitude about the short walk upstairs to help my daughter had changed.
She sat on the lid of the toilet as I sat on the floor in front of her and slowly rubbed the cream onto her itchy legs.
I wish I had remembered the story fifteen minutes earlier, but I think Luca accepted my unspoken apology as she hugged me, kissed me on the cheek, and then skipped back to her bed.