We park at the school and when the car doors open, the three big boys scatter. It is the end of the day and it's a struggle to hold the boys in my heart when we need to be somewhere on time, my body is tired, Chris is on nights, I'm carrying James and he's heavy. Sometimes in situations like this, I can be revived by eye contact, a smile, a question that reminds me of their innocence. But at this point, they've all scattered. Matthew is already rolling down the hill.
"Boys, we need to stick together." That doesn't work. I should have "Called a meeting." That sometimes works because it sounds interesting and a little dramatic.
"Come back. BOYS. Borger boys. Stop running." They return, although distracted by that hill and that set of stairs with the fast railing and that bike rack perfect for balancing on.
"Guys, please don't run away as soon as you get out of the car. We need to stick together. What if one of us could use some help. Stick close by and make sure that everyone is okay. Take care of each other..."
When my words of wisdom stop... No one says anything, or even acknowledges that I've been speaking... they just scatter again. Back to the hill, Danny follows and everything he rolls over is now stuck to his wool sweater and he looks like a ridiculous hobo. And I am his hobo Mom who hasn't showered in three days, yelling while tying to free James from his car seat straps.
"Okay guys, come on let's go together. Okay, stop running." I get an idea: "Come sit on this bench with me a moment so we can talk. Get over here NOW and sit on this bench." SMACK. Matthew trips as he's running toward the bench and hits his chin on the edge.
I say "God damn it." He tries to be brave. The wound swells, but doesn't need stitches. I wish I hadn't gotten angry and said, "This is exactly what I was talking about! Stop being so wild!" because he really wasn't. In fact, rolling down a hill is probably safer than running towards a bench. And it's a normal thing for a four year old boy to do when he sees a hill.
I desperately establish the rule that they need to ask if it's a good time for running before they start. I'm uncomfortable with this new rule even as I establish it. It seems pretty lame and oppressive. I need to come up with something else. More lectures? Establish expectations before the van comes to a complete stop maybe?
When we leave the school I say, NOW you can run. It sucks to tell three young boys on the first warm day in months, so warm that they don't even have to wear coats, that they can or can't run and be wild. Of course that's exactly what they should be doing.
Tomorrow is coming. And that means I have a chance to make it better than today.