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Fridays on the Fringe

One thing I miss about my old job is that I got to leave at lunch time every Friday. EVERY Friday! Of course, this mostly meant that I had time to get home, clean up the breakfast dishes (John, buddy. We have GOT to work on this.), fold the 17th load of laundry for the day, eat some leftovers, check my e-mail, and leave to go pick up the kids from school. And inevitably I would forget to pack drinks and snacks for them, what with the not-being-used-to-picking-them-up-every-day thing. And that meant that the entire way home from school, instead of spending some quality time talking to the kids about their days and singing some happy pre-school tune like "The Wheels On The Bus" (what is wrong with me? is that my idea of a euphoric car ride?), I spent the whole drive trying not to cause a massive pile-up while steering with one hand on the wheel and one hand stretched behind me, my head flipping from the view out the windshield to the carnage that was forming in my backseat - little hands clawing at each other and my stupid, stupid arm trying to mediate the chaos, all while incrementally raising my voice in an effort to drown out the progressively louder shrieks and giggles and accusations coming from the (fortunately) strapped in bundles of hunger, thirst, fatigue and overstimulation. So, maybe it's good that I don't pick them up on Fridays anymore, huh?

Anyway, I took last Friday afternoon off so I could take Bryce to his school's book fair. John picked Quinn up from school, so we avoided the whole car / chaos / mom forgot drinks for both kids problem. However, on the way to the car, Bryce said, "did you bring me something to drink, mom?" I cringed. "Oh no! I didn't...I'm sorry I forgot. AGAIN." He kept walking non-chalantly. "Oh. Well, maybe I'll get a drink at home. It's okay that you forgot. It's okay that you forgot my drink, mom." (He had to say it twice, you notice. YOU FORGOT, woman. YOU FORGOT!)

I realized Friday that it really was never the lack of food or drink on Friday afternoons that was causing the chaos in the car, or at home, or wherever we would stupidly try to go eat that evening "for fun." It was the kids' dynamic together, at the end of the week; Bryce doesn't nap at all at school, and when Quinn goes on Wednesdays and Fridays, he only gets a short rest. Friday evening is the worst time. John lessens this effect by driving the car that has a DVD player and plying them with juice and milk as soon as they're strapped in, but the effect is the same as soon as he gets them home. If the kids aren't separated on Friday afternoon and evening, it's a recipe for disaster. And they're rarely separated, so...yes. Disaster every Friday at Home on the Fringe. Wooo! Strap yourselves in for the ride!

When I got Bryce home on Friday, I gave him his long-awaited snack. Quinn was upstairs playing. Peace and harmony reigned. And then, Quinn came downstairs. "You got new books, Bryce?" I heard Quinn show the slightest interest in something over which Bryce had momentary control, and suddenly I was in one of those slow motion movie scenes and I couldn't make it to the living room in time to intervene and successfully distract Quinn. Everything in the house was in my way. Walls closed in on me, I tripped over the dog, my legs didn't work correctly, my time stood still, while my ears conveyed to me the horror I was trying desperately to prevent: "NOOOOOO QUIIINNNNN!!! GGEEETTTT AAAWWAAAYYY FFRROOOMM MMYYY BBOOOKKKSSS!! THEY'RE MINE!" And then came Quinn's shriek-cry response, accompanied by what I knew would be his fist rising in the air in a threatening pose over Bryce's head.

I managed to separate them again briefly, but I got distracted and the trouble started again. This time they were in it together, racing around the house playing monster, growling at the top of their lungs, and Quinn came dangerously close to falling on the tile several times. I separated them again, feeling more and more exasperated, looking at the clock and wondering aloud, "what time is mom coming to get them again?" With about 10 minutes left before they would be leaving for a night with Megama, after three time outs for Quinn and multiple failed attempts at interesting Bryce in the wonders of the outdoors, I put Quinn at the table with his LeapPad. Bryce was momentarily and quietly playing with some toys in the living room. I was folding laundry. "Phew!" I thought, "we made it through the afternoon, and soon we'll be on our way to a lovey dinner out. We survived Friday afternoon with no major trauma."

And then it happened. While sitting still on his chair, not demanding anything, not complaining about the mediocre quality of his three-year-old life, not even requesting a glass of milk or reaching out for something, Quinn just FELL BACKWARDS OUT OF HIS CHAIR ONTO THE CERAMIC TILE FLOOR. How does that happen? One minute we're finally all enjoying a quiet, peaceful 30-second laundry-folding, LeapPad reading experience. The next, I hear a soft thud that can only be flesh-covered skull on tile. That sound makes my mouth go instantly dry and my adrenaline-infused body bolt from the couch and pick Quinn up like he weighs as much as an empty plastic sack. All in the same instant I think, he's still conscious, is he bleeding?, why don't I hear him crying?, he's obviously trying to cry because his mouth is open and his face is red, where is the sound? I knew he was really hurt when my mom, the deliverer of all things good, the one who lets us listen to the same song on the same CD 67 times in a row, walked in and he didn't acknowledge her. "Are you okay, Quinn?" she asked him as he buried his head in my neck and cried. No response. I held him a little longer and he pulled himself together enough to say, in what I think he assumed was a very mature use of grammar, "It's very hurting, mommy!"

I tried to ask him where exactly it hurt, but he insisted, no matter where I pointed on his head, that he hurt it on the floor, by god, THE FLOOR!

I knew something like this was going to happen eventually. Next Friday I'm getting the kid a helmet.