On any school morning, breakfast time in my household is like playing Russian roulette with emotions. Some mornings my sons come downstairs brimming with excitement over the upcoming events of the day.
Other days, however, they stomp angrily down the stairs grumbling about the necessity of attending school. On those mornings, they hover behind cereal boxes at the breakfast table like snipers behind rocks, ricocheting insults at one another.
The other morning, slamming doors and thudding feet were an ugly omen of the impending negative disposition of my boys.
Unfortunately, that day, I had made the mistake of preselecting and pouring a bowl of cereal for my 7-year-old. Now this slip-up may seem like a minor one, but in my son's opinion, I had loaded his bowl with an undesirable pile of processed grains. The minute he saw the bowl sitting on the table, he glared at it loathsomely and refused to eat. This same cereal that was placed before him yesterday without incident had triggered a fiesta of whining and complaining.
As he continued to express his disgust, I fumbled for words to justify my actions. Finally I explained that I had picked out the cereal to "surprise" him. He didn't buy it.
Surprises in my opinion are always good things, like that dollar bill you find in the pocket of a pair of jeans that you haven't worn in a while. In my son's world, however, this cereal surprise fell under an apparently more dramatic category that includes power outages and cauliflower for dinner.
Now I do not routinely cave in to whining by my children, but this particular morning I was not willing to create any more havoc at the breakfast table. Placating my distraught son, I provided him with a new self-selected bowl ofcereal. Fortunately, his older brother begrudgingly agreed to eat the rejected bowl -- a surprise in and of itself, since I rarely get that level of cooperative selflessness in the morning. My whining 7-year-old had efficiently dealt me a morning surprise that I was not quite energetic enough to trump.
Life in a family with three boys is often filled with these types of surprises. Often the positive or negative aspect of life's surprises is a matter of perspective.
The lost tennis shoe or the last-minute permission slip that needs to be signed as we're racing out the door to catch the bus are chaotic surprises that are not always welcome.
The impromptu staccato utterance of "I Love You Mom" fashioned by my 13-year-old and notes from my youngest son stating that I am the best mom in the world, however, are surprises that I cling to and treasure. I've even learned to enjoy the small surprises like the melodic notes of my 10-year-old son practicing his trumpet without being reminded.
As stressful as our lives are, many of us take comfort in the routine and crave the predictability of a day without extremes. I'm not sure this type of day exists. I don't know what I would do if I weren't "putting out a fire" in some shape or form.
In some sense, the unpredictability of my life has become predictable. My day is not complete without a haphazard homework, bickering in the bathroom or drama in the driveway as we wait for the bus. I suppose down the road my life will be filled with events that I can anticipate, but for now I'll contend with cereal unpredictability because I know this is just a moment in time -- a moment that runs out all too fast.