To all the moms out there who have resisted the urge to duct tape their children to the wall.
The voice slithered from the next room, carrying with it all of the whining that a seven year old could pack into a single-syllable word.
“Karen’s shoe is on my side.”
The other voice joined the first, making the position of a shoe sound as if the fate of the world balanced on it and would crumble to dust if the situation was not resolved.
I ignored them.
We had a system. We had rules. We had thirty minutes of non-whining so that I wouldn’t duct tape their mouths shut and toss them outside into the rising snow banks.
“You took it!”
“I did not, you threw it over here last night.”
I took a deep breath and closed my eyes.
Thirty minutes. Thirty sets of sixty seconds all in a row. That’s all I asked.
Apparently it was too much.
My husband’s voice came into my mind. “They’re just kids.”
When was the last time he had spent more than a few hours alone with them? He was in for a sinister surprise next week when I went on a girl’s trip with my sisters. Four whole days. Two seven-year-olds.
The image of his harried face as well as the panicked phone calls—which I would ignore unless there was a trip to the hospital involved—brought a genuine smile to my face. The tightness in my chest eased, and I opened my eyes.
Nineteen more minutes.
I snuggled into the couch and refocused on my book. A romantic murder mystery with a supposed twist at the end. Unfortunately, I’d read the same paragraph six times already, and found myself on round seven.
“Leave that alone! Moooommmm!”
The good feelings evaporated.
They got one warning. This was it. I took a breath and controlled my voice. “Karen, Jackie, it’s quiet time for twenty five more minutes.”
“Eighteen,” Jackie said.
“You’ve talked to me several times, which means I add five minutes for each one. You’re lucky it isn’t back to thirty.”
A serious bout of whispering broke out.
I sighed. That should hold them for a bit.
I started that same stupid paragraph again, but skipped it and plowed through the next one. The investigator was finally getting on the right track for the murderer, but I suspected that the love interest had done it. There were only so many characters in the book, and one of them had to be guilty.
A blissful ten minutes passed. I was just getting to the juicy bits, when the whispering escalated into talking and then into yelling.
“Nu-uh, yours is yellow. Mine is green.”
“They’re both green you idiot!”
I stopped reading and wondered where Karen had picked that up.
“You’re an idiot,” Jackie shot back. “And get your blanket on your side of the room!”
“It is on my side of the room. See! Get your feet off of my side.”
“This is my side!”
There was a thump, followed by a whimper that turned into a wail.
I took another deep breath and closed my book.
“Moooommmmm!” they both said in tandem. Then a string of words broke out, and I lost track of who was accusing whom of what.
This was the fourth day in a row that they’d gotten into a fight during quiet time.
Obviously this called for drastic action. So I moved to the junk drawer and rummaged around until I found the pink and orange striped duct tape as well as a tape measure.
The cries of accusation continued as I pulled the scissors out as well. It was amazing how much I could tune out if I didn’t care.
I’d done all of this in almost complete silence, so when I appeared in the doorway, both of my girls stopped screaming and gaped at me with their mouths opened.
“There seems to be a problem.” I stepped into the room. “A problem that I think I can solve.”
They watched me. Wary. Like small animals when a cat or a dog was prowling around.
I pulled the duct tape and it unrolled with the familiar zip sound.
“Mom?” Jackie asked with fear in her eyes.
“Are you going to duct tape us and throw us outside?” Karen asked.
“Oh no.” I smiled. “We’re going to split your room perfectly in half.” I handed the end of the tape measure to Jackie. “Take that to the wall, please.”