"Are you sure?"
"Yes, you can't come in."
"So I can stay in bed for a while?"
"Don't get up until I tell you to."
Hard to argue with that. Jack and I played on the computer for about 15 minutes, but she was still busy in the kitchen.
I yelled from the bedroom, "Can I send Jack in to watch TV? Do I have time to take a shower?"
She called back, "Yes, I think I need Jack's help. You have plenty of time to take a shower."
I wondered what was taking so long - I bought a rare treat, honey buns, for the holiday, and she popped her head in earlier to ask for the 10 second microwave instructions. But I really wanted a shower, so I didn't ask.
I yelled, "You know I don't want a honey bun, right?" Too sweet for me.
"Don't worry, mom, I already knew that."
As I was washing I tortured myself with my thoughts. I texted my babysitter the night before to ask her to come help out with one of the kids for a few hours so I could run errands with the other. I didn't really need help but felt guilty for the lack of work I had provided over the last couple of weeks - she normally picks up my kids from school and takes them to activities or gets them home but I and their father had been able to cover it ourselves. I made up my mind to call and cancel and then told myself I would look stupid for being wishy washy. I was also concerned that both kids would want to go with me and that would be another battle. Oh well, I decided, I would split the time evenly between them. As I climbed out of the shower I called, "Don't turn on the stove unless I am in the kitchen."
Sicily wandered in, "Too late, mom, we've already cooked your eggs. Jack helped me, but now he is mad that I am doing everything and he won't help me cook your cheese toast. How do I work the toaster oven? Which dial do I use? Do I switch the setting from pizza to toast? I am worried that your eggs are getting cold!"
I silently laughed that my seven year old was depending on my five year old to learn how to work the various kitchen appliances. Is this girl vs. guy or personality? He watches everything I do, always wanting to help - he can even run the coffeepot. She could care less if I am making her breakfast or it is materializing out of thin air. Until today. My heart went out to her.
"Don't worry, C - you can always heat up the eggs in the microwave." I explained to her how to work the toaster oven and assured her I would be out as soon as I got dressed. A few minutes later I called, "Can I come out now?"
"Yes, please! The breakfast is ready."
When I walked out the card table we have been using since we moved was decorated with leftover Christmas trinkets we used for making her school Christmas goodie bags the day before. Tiny snowmen, snowflake, and candy cane erasers were adorning the plates. She poured our favorite juices/water into glass cups and each had a candy cane twirly straw in it. My egg and cheese toast were on my plate and she and Jack had warm honey buns on theirs. Baby candy canes were artfully arranged as a centerpiece. She even had their vitamins out. I sat down and gushed over every detail. When I reached for my absent honey she jumped up to get it from the cupboard - telling me not to get up. This was a far cry different from most school mornings when she is lying on the couch moaning over my requests to help put out napkins and forks while I rush to get the cooking done. I was overwhelmed.
I put my fork into my breakfast and noticed the smoked cheese was hiding it's paper separator, which she had accidentally cooked. I said, "Oh! Is this a little present?" She looked down shyly and apologized. I told her it wasn't something I hadn't done myself, and was easily fixed by scraping the cheese off onto the top of the eggs. It didn't change the taste, I added, of the best egg and cheese toast I'd ever had. I asked her what the hardest part of cooking breakfast was, since she made it all look so easy.
"Well, keeping everyone's meal warm enough in the microwave - it was hard to get it all ready and get people to the table on time." I certainly did not have this level of awareness about meal preparation at her age.
Later in the day, after we ran errands - my babysitter had arranged a play date with my son and his old best friend from last year that he hadn't seen in months - she is in nursing school with the mom - so he was over the moon and my anxiously anticipated battle was a non-issue - Sicily and I were making Christmas presents for her dog and her dad. She looked up at me and asked, "What about you, Mom? What do you want for Christmas?"
I smiled at her. "You already got me a Christmas present. One that I'll remember forever."
She looked puzzled. "What are you talking about?"
She smiled, clearly pleased with herself. "So now what?"
"How about another round of Old Maid?"
She happily picked up the cards, and we played.