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A Balanced Account

One night last week, John and I both ended up in the living room with the kids in no particular hurry to feed or bathe them, with no ringing phones or unfolded laundry or other obligation to tend to. We found ourselves the two-person audience for a spontaneous talent show consisting mainly of a twist on charades wherein one audience member provides the charade subject to the perfomer, and the other audience member proceeds to guess what it is. With Bryce, this setup was no problem. John would whisper something in his ear and he would climb onto the coffee table stage and act out something physically obvious, like typing on a computer or slithering like a snake. I would take a guess, and he would squeal with shock and glee at my unmatched charade-interpretation abilities. When it was Quinn's turn, John would whisper in his ear, he would climb onto the table tentatively, place both hands straight in front of himself, start to lift his feet dramatically and say, oblivious to our sign language reminders to keep it to himself, "I'm going shopping with my cart!" Bryce would immediately keel over with contagious laughter, causing Quinn to think he'd accomplished his mission. Soon all of us would be gasping for breath and wiping away the tears of hilarity. After three or four of these instances, Bryce exclaimed with the most innocent and genuine tone I could ever imagine, "it makes me so happy when we're all together like this. My heart feels so big."

I tell this story because I need to remember it tonight. Although my day started with a phone call from Bryce while I drove to work, a phone call that ended with him saying, "I think now I can be happy," it ended with a bad combination of early spring colds, work exhaustion, five-year-old limit-pushing, and the unexplainable, indescribable intensity I've only ever witnessed in Bryce. The last words out of his mouth, which I heard through a fog of clogged ears, pounding feverish heart, and near loss of self-control after holding onto my sanity throughout his explosion were a sobbing, "I'm really soooorrryyy. I can't stop thinking about what I diiiiid!"

I don't know if all of this evens out for him eventually. Does his heart swell enough, memorably enough, to block out our mutual failures? His explosions never happen in a vaccuum; like SuperNanny, I look back on the emotional re-play of the worst moments and feel complete condescending frustration towards the mother in the "video," her stomps through the rooms, her sarcastic comments, her heavy sighs, her quick temper, her loss of control mirroring the child's. For me, it's almost an instant re-play, the condescension and disgust starting to work their way in while my heart still pounds in anger as I leave his room for the night, the air from my lungs being pushed out violently, having no way to fill up the cavity so swiftly taken over by anger, rage, fear, and almost immediately, self-loathing and regret.

But then I hear his own teary sigh from under the covers and his well-timed "I love you." He says it right before I'm out of ear-shot.