My children are well versed in the “Rules of Engagement” that I have laid out for them regarding how they are to interact with me during the sixty minutes each day when I am exercising. I do not feel even one ounce of guilt for demanding that my kids allow me this uninterrupted "Me" time to get in my workout and, hopefully, de-stress enough so that I can avoid feeling so stabby all the time. My children are preparing to enter first and fifth grades, so I am confident that they can find an acceptable (and hopefully quiet) outlet of entertainment for that snippet of their day when I am forging a sweaty, desperate attempt (mostly in vain) to make my body look like it doesn’t belong to a forty-something mama.
The laws I have imposed for them during my workouts are very easy to understand. The first one is Leave Mommy Alone. This is sort of a blanket rule that can mean “don’t start a fight with each other that I will have to referee”, or “don’t ask me to inspect your butt for cleanliness after a bathroom visit”, or “don’t plop down directly in front of me and recite your Christmas wish list”. If you can’t get Barbie’s new snow boots on yourself, then she will have to remain barefooted until I’m finished. Ken won’t mind at all. They know that if there are no eyeballs dangling out of sockets or dismembered limbs, they should steer clear while I am in The Yoga Zone.
My children usually do fine with this rule, although there have been several occasions when a fight has erupted, and I have shouted from a down dog position, “You two are NOT adding to my peace!” (I really, really suck at the introspective, meditative part of yoga.)
The second rule is even easier to understand: If Mommy is exercising upstairs, you are not allowed, under any circumstances, to go downstairs. Period. I don’t care if you want another cheese stick. I don’t care if you left your library book in your backpack. I don’t care if you are suddenly stricken with a thirst so extreme that only Juicy Juice can quench it. No one goes downstairs. However, one afternoon in May, this rule was busted all to Hell, and what happened next goes down in the “I Told You So” Hall of Fame.
The morning of what has come to be known as “Monday, Bloody Monday”, I was the first out of the house. Later, as my husband and children were getting ready to leave for school and work, my husband pulled out a small, never-before-seen-by-me pocket knife and showed it to my son. (Okay, here is where the stories differ. My son swears that he was told he could have this knife for his very own. My husband balks at this version claiming no such promise was ever made.) It’s not like we’re hunters, though. What good would come from giving a knife to a ten-year-old boy who isn’t going for some sort of Boy Scout badge? Is he going to whittle himself a harmonica from a hickory branch? Have there been frequent bear attacks in our suburban neighborhood? No and no. Call me crazy, but I fail to see any sensible reason to heavily arm a kid.
I was halfway to Zen that afternoon when I heard a faint sound coming from my son in the stairway down the hall. “Mommy.” I didn’t respond, assuming that he would just come into my room for whatever he needed, as usual. “Ooowwww…my finger.” He wasn’t crying or screaming, so I didn’t break out of my pose to inspect what I figured to be nothing more than a pinch. (Call me a bad mother if you want, but this kid is a worse hypochondriac than I am, so unless I hear true pain or fear in his voice, I tend not to jump when he says, “Ouch”.) I heard him coming down the hall, not running or full of panic, but just walking and calling for me. When he entered the room, I turned around to find him holding his arm up over his head with blood free-flowing to the floor. (Now you can call me a bad mother...)
I grabbed him and rushed into my bathroom. “I cut my finger” he said. I didn’t bother to inspect the injury because with the amount of blood all over him, I was afraid of what I would see or, more specifically, what I might not see. I thought he may have cut part of his finger off, and the idea of my son’s hacked up fingertip lying in the hallway made me just a little woozy. I jerked a towel from the rod and quickly covered his hand in order to stem the tide of blood.
I stood there for a minute trying to wrap my mind around my son’s appearance. He looked like he had just brutally slaughtered a large cow. Not only was his arm covered in blood, but it was also splattered across his glasses and face, in his hair, all over his clothes (front and back), and on his feet and legs. There was blood dripping all over the white counter and sinks, and trailing down the cabinet to the floor. “I was trying to close the pocket knife, and it cut my finger when it snapped shut” he told me. “What knife?” I asked as I mustered the courage to take a peek at his finger. He very meekly replied, “The one from the drawer downstairs”. Downstairs, huh? Grrrrrr… Apparently, he crept down to the kitchen as quiet as a mouse, and while slinking back to his room with the contraband, the knife snapped shut...on his finger.
Once I realized I was dealing with only a cut and not a severed finger, I began to regain my composure. We followed the trail of blood (literally) from my bathroom and headed toward the stairway where this unfortunate incident took place. I was stunned. It was as if I was standing on the set of “CSI: Miami”. There was blood everywhere. EVERYWHERE. It was all the way down to the first floor, and a good nine feet up the wall in the landing. I’m guessing he took that blood-spurting finger, held it up in the air, and shook it while jumping around on the stairs. I was all at once impressed and disgusted.
I picked up the phone to call my husband, and with every ounce of self-righteousness I could channel, I announced, “You need to come home right now. Number One Son cut his finger on the knife you gave him, and he’s going to need stitches.” (As it turned out, my husband didn’t actually give him the knife, but as a controlling and grumpy be-yotch, I never miss an opportunity to rub his face in my parental perfection. That’s probably why he loves me so much.)
With my husband and son off to urgent care, my daughter graciously volunteered to help with the clean up. We scrubbed and sprayed and scrubbed some more. I found out that blood doesn’t willingly come out of carpet, and it took several chemical concoctions before we finally claimed victory over the carnage. (Peroxide…who knew?)