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World Pools, Utinions

Me: "Time to get out."

Bryce: "Mom! I can't see! The towel is in my way and I can't see the world pool!"

Me: "Stop yelling about it. There. You're dry. Now you can see the WHIRL pool."

Bryce: "Woorl pool?"

Me: "Yeah. Actually, we're really supposed to pronounce it wHHHirl pool."

Bryce: "W-hhh-irl! W-hhh-irl. Pool."

Me: "Haha! Yeah. Something like that."

Bryce: "Well, I pronounce it WORLD POOL. That's my utinion." [pronounced you-ten-yun]

Me: "........."

Bryce: "........."

Both: "BWAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA! Utinion! Ahahahaha hoooo hooo weee hahaha hahaaaaaa!!!!"

The above happened after a night like all nights at our house these days, a night where my voice was incapable of anything but a tight, sharp knife-like sound barking out commands and demands and occasionally sighing heavily, harshly, quickly. In our laughter, my words echoed in my ears as painfully as I'd imagine an icicle would feel as it stabbed into my brain: Quinn SIT DOWN! You haven't been excused! Just eat your food, stop playing with it! Bryce, I told you to stay downstairs while I'm cleaning up the kitchen. Every time you go upstairs, you run and scream. Why can't you just stay down here and talk to me? Stop whining! Suddenly you want to go play because I'm asking for your help? You never want to play when I'm asking you to! I said five minutes, five minutes is over! It's bath time! SIGH.

In my "defense" -- if such a thing is possible -- I'm tired. Very tired. I get up way too early in some insanely ironic attempt to be healthy, I fight the traffic for 20 miles, the other hundreds of thousands of obedient middle class "career people" heading off to earn their highest possible scores on the surface-important performance reviews grading whatever the latest arbitrary expectations happen to be. I meet and/or exceed expectations. Yay for me. I keep good posture, I wear professional clothes which I pack and carry gingerly from my house to my car to the gym to the locker room before donning them and sitting in my ergonomically correct chair at my large desk and my double flat screens and my recently manufactured laptop staring at spreadsheets and considering "risks" and looking for anomalies and hoping against hope I'll find one just to create some excitement in my day, knowing that such excitement would mean loss, LOSS for the company, but GAIN for me and the ever-present expectations, will she be a good employee? Will she save us from hidden problems? Will she be worth the salary and benefits and resources and time and training? And then I fight the same 20 miles again with hundreds of thousands of good civilians heading home trying to be "balanced" and spend "family time" with their kids at night, eating dinner at the table, maybe by candlelight, making attempts at discussions and showing interest in everyone's day, presumably also involving good posture and meeting or exceeding the school's or the company's or the client's expectations -- we all fight to get to OUR SPACE first. And when I get home, inevitably someone is screaming, whining, or jumping. And because of my personality, because of my quirks, because of my nature, it just sounds like a broken record, and a loud one. It is shrill, it is blood-boiling pressure, but mostly it is fatigue in physical form - and guilt incarnate. I hear their voices yelling HI MOM NO QUINN GIVE ME THAT BRYCE and I pull at the icicle but I don't have the strength and it pokes, it pierces, and I lash out with my voice.

But sometimes one of my sons musters more strength with their puny undeveloped 35-pound bodies than I can with all the core-strengthening personal training I waste money on each week, and they melt the icicle effortlessly, using words like "world pool" or "utinion" or "abdivate" or, in Quinn's case, "poopy poop head" and even my tired, frustrated, tortured soul quirkiness can't hold up to it.

But the thing is, I need more melted icicles. I need them to melt before I pass them on like some sort of dysfunctional frozen torches to my sons. They shouldn't be responsible for melting them. I shouldn't be hearing myself as if I'm a separate party altogether, I shouldn't be watching myself like a pathetic character on a low-budget after school special fighting my guilt and alienating my children slowly, gradually, day by day. It feels criminal that my three-year-old would look at my face with genuine concern and slight fear after I remind him to keep his shoes off of the couch (which is already a trash heap anyway, why does it matter?) and ask, "are you happy, mom?" When I find myself with my entire family crouching around a tiny burrow full of squirming, furry baby rabbits or moles (we still don't know which) in our back yard and the first words out of my mouth, "you're too close, Bryce, GET BACK" ruin the moment and lead to my usually laid-back husband saying, "do you think you could be a little more h-a-r-s-h?" as my formerly passionately-interested-in-nature five-year-old slumps back into the house, alone, something is dead wrong.

I know this. I feel it. But I don't have the solution. When Bryce marched confidently back into the back yard in his rain boots to continue admiring the rabbit-mole-babies, he plopped down in front of me, unfazed, happy, excitedly watching the four newborn sniffing creatures with complete innocence. Maybe when the icicles melt, they truly evaporate. But I don't know. I truly don't. I don't know how to abdivate the appropriate utinion in this case. Maybe I should ask Bryce.

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