The Unending War
January 17, 2019
I take a deep breath and wonder, Am I ready to take on this fight?
All day I have done my best to entertain two small children, cuddling a baby who will only on my shoulder, while also trying to inspire her brother to build rocket ships and robots with his blocks—instead of taking every book off the shelves or every DVD out of its case. I have fought for the freedom to make lunch or prepare snacks. As if I’m a magnet, wherever I go, they follow.
Unwittingly, my children have allowed the enemy to grow stronger while I have grown weaker. Now that the day is coming to an end and my husband is home to take on the role of emcee, I don’t know if I can muster the strength to face this battle.
But I rally myself. Perhaps today is the day that decides the fate of the war. Perhaps today I will be utterly and completely victorious. Perhaps today the enemy will finally retreat, never to be seen again.
Getting to my feet, I cross the floor to the kitchen. From the sink, the opposing army taunts me, questioning my strength and mocking my determination. Doubt nags me, but I push it aside. I will not back down when victory is within my grasp.
I march to the sink. With the speed and confidence that come from experience, I organize the chaotic pile of dirty dishes, rinsing as I go. I sigh and wipe the sweat from my brow, but order finally begins to appear. The next sigh is a sigh of relief.
With the silverware, utensils, plates, and pans in place, I begin to fill the sink with hot water, adding a generous squeeze of soap. Not wanting to lose another moment, I sweep the silverware into the sink and grab my weapon as the water runs. The bristly brush cleans away bits of food and (in my mind’s eye) screaming germs. The war strategy is playing out well. Fork after fork, knife after knife, is washed and dropped into the rinse water.
When the silverware platoon is defeated and begging for mercy, I move it to the drying rack. But to my surprise, the rest of the opposing army appears to have doubled in size. The temptation to turn and run away in despair is strong. I shake my head and take another look. They have used a trick of the light to deceive me, but I won’t be so easily fooled.
One dish after another is washed, rinsed and set aside to dry. It is clear that I am gaining the upper hand. I grab a dish towel to show the enemy that I am not backing down. I dry the dishes and put them away in the cupboard to dissuade them from playing any more tricks. At last the final dish is subjected to my weapons. The enemy, it turns out, is no match for me. I wonder now why I was so afraid. I wipe off the counter and pull the plugs out of the sinks. Closing my eyes, I lean against the countertop in weary triumph.
When I open my eyes, my heart drops in despair. Perhaps I was too arrogant, too sure of my own strength. I overestimated my own abilities and underestimated the enemy. Sitting on the counter in flagrant mockery is my son’s milky sippy cup. A new battle has already begun.
I turn and look into his smiling face. My eyes move down to his shirt, spotted with drops of milk, honey, and a bit of chocolate. Behind him his sister sits, her own shirt stained with sweet potatoes and some chocolate that her brother decided to share with her. My mind goes to their rapidly filling hampers and I am reminded of the war on a second front. I realize that neither victory will ever truly be mine.
Originally Published October 2017