I think the heat is getting to us.
There have been some grumpy, ugly attitudes at my house lately. Complete with nasty looks, eye rolling, voice raising, door slamming, and purposely irritating.
And the children haven't been too nice either.
I kid. Mostly.
Really, my darlings seem to be getting under each other's skin. Possibly the most disturbing sound to this mama's ears is a sharp word spoken by one of my children to a sibling. Let them jump on beds, slide down banisters, leave a trail of Oreo crumbs on my clean floors, forget to shut the freezer after sneaking popsicles, put a hole in their best shirt, and neglect to flush the toilet where Juni likes to splash. I'll take all of these over hearing my kids speak unkindly to one another. Harsh words between my children are like little bees stinging my heart, making me flinch and recoil. Their unwelcome stingers injecting feelings of frustration and fears of failure. After all, if I were creating my ideal home atmosphere of peace, love, and unicorns, this wouldn't happen, right? Maybe. Maybe not.
How much of this is really my fault and how much of it is just plain ol' pesky sin nature is hard to say.
All I know is this. I want to fix it.
As I tidied up (my Mary Poppins imagery for today) the downstairs this afternoon, all 6 of the kids played together upstairs. Usually, this goes very well. Not today. Instead of the melodic tones of chiming giggles and sweet loving words, or the quiet shuffle of toys being exchanged between gentle sharing hands, this is what I heard:
"GET OFF ME!"
"GIMME THAT BACK, 'TUPID" (That's "stupid" minus the "S", for anyone who is not familiar with Ezra-ese)
"JULIA, I SAID STOP MAKING THAT NOISE, YOU'RE ANNOYING ME!"
"OW OW OW!" (followed by dramatic wailing)
"OUT OF MY CHAIR OR I'M PUSHING YOU OUT!"
"I'M TELLING MAMA!" (followed by angry feet pounding down the stairs)
At this point, I couldn't decide whether to run or play dead. Unfortunately, I had time for neither before the wailing one and the telling one found me in the dining room, on my way down to the floor, attempting to assume the fetal position until bedtime.
I put my finger over my lips to silence them and walked upstairs, followed by a satiated wailing one, who thought vindication was coming, and a smug telling one, who thought someone up there was about to get in trouble. I stood in the middle of the play room.
"Everyone put down whatever you're playing with and come stand in front of me." I ordered in a stern tone.
Five pair of uncertain eyes paused and looked at me. Juni just babbled and rolled a ball across the floor.
"Why? What are you doing?" they asked.
"I'd like to make one thing quite clear: I never explain anything."
(Okay, I didn't really say that, I just wanted to throw in another Mary Poppins reference. Did you catch it?)
"You'll see. Just come here."
I bent down to look them straight in their trepidatious wide eyes.
"I have had enough of this. The way you speak to each other is so ugly. I can't take another second of it. So I'm going to do something about it right now!"
Concern flashed over 5 little brows. "what...?" someone cautiously asked.
I paused. For effect, of course.
I enveloped 5 relieved offenders in my embrace and 10 happy arms hugged me back. They smiled, and giggled, and planted random kisses on whichever head was closest.
"Now, play nicely, please. Love more. Yell less. Ok?"
As I walked out of the room, Ethan called out to me.
"Thanks. I really liked that. It actually does make me want to be nicer now. That felt good."
I smiled at him. "I'm glad. Me too."
And it did feel better. Imagine that. A simple hug and, at least for the moment, my ideal atmosphere was back. Minus the unicorns.
I will not play at tug o' war.
I'd rather play at hug o' war,
Where everyone hugs
Instead of tugs,
Where everyone giggles
And rolls on the rug,
Where everyone kisses,
And everyone grins,
And everyone cuddles,
And everyone wins.