Halfway around the globe, another storm was brewing.
Paris stared out the store window and sighed. He’d promised to get the kids outside today, but that just wasn’t going to happen. He didn’t mind taking them outside in the rain; in fact, some of his best times with Chessy and Herne had been rainboot-clad, stomping through puddles, looking for tadpoles, sailing hollyhock boats down the rain-soaked creek behind their house. But this rain was different, more like a monsoon, too dangerous for an afternoon ramble. This had been happening, he reflected, more and more often.
Herne wouldn’t be a problem. He was already snuggled into the beanbag chair that Paris kept in the office, sucking up the information from one of Paris’ old botany textbooks. That kid had an affinity for Latin names that most boys reserved for baseball statistics, or superhero stories, or rapper YouTubes.
No, it was Chessy who worried Paris this morning.
“Honey, eat your peanut butter sandwich,” Paris urged, watching his daughter push away the food he’d just fixed.
“NO! she yelled, “It’s bad. Mommy cuts it in triangles. And triangles taste better.”
“Chessy, be reasonable. The shape of the sandwich doesn’t affect its taste. Mommy would want you to eat your lunch.”
“No. I don’t like the way the square ones taste,” she insisted.
Paris groaned. He really needed to get this inventory finished today and, if he were honest, he needed to get a bunch of geraniums and asters into larger pots and placed out front for the ladies of Loudon who wanted to plant out their porches with Autumn flowers. He loved his daughter, but her insistence on what seemed to him to be silly things drove Paris nuts.
“OK, look, I’ll cut the squares into triangles and then you can eat them, right?”
“No! You cut them into squares first. Square peanut butter sandwiches are bad. I want Mommy!”
That was it.
Chessy had said the one thing that drove Paris crazy.
He’d been the kids’ primary caretaker since they were born. Gemmy had been in this doctoral program for a long time and their agreement had been that, self-employed, he’d do most of the day-to-day work of caring for the kids. Gemmy made their doctors’ appointments, scheduled school conferences, put birthday parties and playdates on the calendar — she had always been better at organizing appointments — but Paris managed the basics. He got the kids up, got them dressed (appropriately, for the weather; Herne couldn’t wear socks, long johns, and hoodies in August and Chessy couldn’t wear bathing suits in December), cared for them on days, like today, when school was closed, made sure their homework got done and that their uniforms (ballet for Herne and soccer for Chessy) were clean. He packed their lunches, made waffles for breakfast on Saturday, and tucked them into bed on the (increasingly frequent) nights when Gemmy had to work late.
The one time that Gemmy had fixed lunch had made an indelible impression on Chessy. However Paris did it, it was wrong. “I want Mommy” riled up all of his feelings of inadequacy as a parent.
“Chessy! I don’t have time for this. You’re being unreasonable. You will eat that perfectly good sandwich or you’ll sit in the corner until you’re hungry enough to eat it.”
Paris hated the way that he sounded like his own father, but that girl could drive a sane man to drink. He stormed off to his desk and started in on the inventory of perennials and garden statuary. Chessy started to cry and Herne got up, turned the beanbag chair around, and covered his ears while he read.
More than anything, Paris felt as if his son too often got short shrift, shunted off to the sidelines in response to Chessy’s temper. He’d tried to discuss it with Gemmy, two nights ago, but she’d fallen asleep three minutes into their conversation, And, he understood, he did. She was coming off a 48 hour stint on the weather trackers; she needed sleep like oxygen. But without her, he had no one to talk to and Chessy kept sucking up all of his attention, leaving almost none for Herne,
“I am a complete failure as a father,” Paris typed into an email to Gemmy. It wasn’t fair, he knew, to bother her at work with his problems, but he just needed someone to talk to — someone who could understand being frustrated with them.
“For the love of the Goddess, Paris, can you please just cope with the kids? I am dealing with a storm that threatens to kill half the bees in the Indian Ocean and I really can’t prop you up just now. If there are no bees left, what future do our kids have? Can you please just pull it together and manage one little girl’s food preferences?”
Paris took a deep breath. Gemmy wasn’t going to be much help just now. These were his kids and he needed to get both of them together and outside.
“OK,” Paris said, pushing back from his desk. “You guys have three minutes to get your rain gear on. Herne, can you help your sister? We’re going to go take some water samples from our creek. Who can get ready first?” Damn the inventory, damn the seedlings, and damn Gemmy. He had to get out of here and maybe some fresh air, no matter how wet, would do him and both kids some good.
Picture found here.