Tessa was angry. I am not sure what set her off, but I think it was when Ethan not-so-gently escorted her from the room while I dealt with a phone call. She had been making noise and I couldn’t hear. Ethan was trying to be helpful as he flung her into her room.
When she came out she began a tirade that would last nearly two hours. It began with a simple statement.
“I hate it heaw. I’m weaving.”
Before long she had her plan roughed out. “I will go fahw, fahw away to a house wiff a new mama and a new dad and a new bruddahs and sistahs. It will be so fardder than grandma’s and Auntie Joyce and Francine. Fahw, fahw, fahw. Dey will be my new famwee and dey will not be mean at me and get me in into twouble.” She went on for some time about how miserable we all were to live with, that I get mad at her and scold everyone, and that nobody is nice. She wept and buried her head in my side.
I had the kids go make themselves some oatmeal (insta-dinner on nights daddy is not home), while I tried to console and settle a now sobbing Tessa. The noise level from the kitchen elevated as the kids began to laugh at the effectiveness of a our newly inherited microwave that actually worked. Boiling oatmeal expanded in a bowl with lava-like bubbles. Ellie decided it was done, and as she pulled it out she burned her hands on the hot bowl, dropping the entire thing to the floor. The impact sent scalding oatmeal blobs flying through the room and plastering it onto the chairs, walls, and smacking onto the back of Adam’s neck.
Suddenly Tessa's sobs were muffled by screams from Ethan as he reprimanded Ellie, from Ellie as she bellowed that she hadn’t meant to and that her hands hurt, and from Adam, as he clenched his neck in his hands, screaming over the molten oatmeal anchored to his skin.
It was some time before I got things calmed down, burns treated, messes mopped, and tears wiped. Then, undaunted by the chaos, Tessa reminded me she was leaving. Can’t say as I blame her.
I asked wouldn’t she miss us?
“No.” she said through cascades of tears.
“Wouldn’t you miss your toys?”
“I would take them wiff me right now, only I don’t have a big, big bag!” she wailed.
“How will you get there?”
“I will call my new mom. Her numbah is 11229966. She will dwive to get me.”
I asked if she wouldn’t be sad that she would miss meeting our new baby. A wave of grief poured over her as she explained that she would come back, only once, to meet the new baby and say goodbye. Then she would tell her new mom to get a new baby. She sobbed anew.
I worked on her for a while, explaining that I would miss her and all of our snuggles so much, and wouldn’t she miss them too? No, came the firm reply. I knew this was a cute pre-schooler moment that I would recount like the time Ethan packed his bags and went door to door in the apartments looking for a new family that would take him in where he wouldn’t have to do jobs. He was back soon with the dreaded news, “I guess I’ll live here. All the other moms said I would have to do jobs at their house, too.” Still, she was completely serious, and her little heart was breaking as she decided to leave all she had ever known for the great unknown.
“So I guess this is goodbye?” I asked.
“Yup.” She replied, straightening herself up, wiping her eyes and acting brave.
I felt a true wave of emotion wash over me. I knew she had no capacity to leave, yet she believed so strongly that she was leaving that for a moment it all seemed real to me. What if she really were not here? I felt a huge lump raise up in my throat, and my eyes burned.
Ellie stood a ways off, listening. They boys tried to convince Tessa to stay. Tessa grabbed the phone to call her new mom, and began dialing. “What was the numbah I told you?” she asked. I dialed my friend Nicole. I knew she would play along and try to help. They talked for over 10 minutes. Tessa would not be dissuaded, even at the prospect of leaving all her toys behind and sleeping on the floor at the new house. “Dat’s ok. I don’t need all my toys. Maybe I could just bring two.” She insisted, her mood hopeful.
“You will have to pick up dog poop if you come to live with me, just like all my other kids.” Nicole informed her.
Her face fell.
It seemed we had hit upon a deal breaker. “Oh… Goodbye.” Came the disappointed reply.
“You can still come…” Nicole invited, sweetly.
“No. I sink I will call my fwiend Benjamin and live wiff him.” She said, crafting a new plan. “Goodbye.”
Moments later she got the same basic reply from Benjamin’s mama (I love my friends), only this time the deal breaker was cleaning out the cat-box. Dejected, she decided she had no choice but to stay. She looked miserable. It was not the ending I had hoped for. I had envisioned a change of heart that lead to my holding my happy daughter in my arms, telling her how glad I was that she was staying. I saw myself wiping away tears from her smiling cheeks and exchanging I love yous.
Instead she grumped off in defeat to eat some of the oatmeal.
Then, Ellie approached me, red nosed and watery eyed.
“Mom, I know it isn’t real, but when Tessa said she was leaving my eyes started to water a whole bunch.” Finally, someone in this family with some compassion! And finally, a child I could comfort after all the drama.
“Mine too, honey.” I hugged her. She started to let go a little, and I lovingly held her in my arms and stroked her head, until she farted really hard and loud right on my lap, and began laughing hysterically through her tears.
“Gross! You little cochina! I was being all sweet to you, and you go and do that!? Get off my lap!” I said with an annoyed smile.
“See,” Tessa said sternly to me from the kitchen door, “dis is why I wanna leave. You is always getting us in twouble.”