The right amount of ‘Mad’?

Last Friday was a half-day of school for my 1st and 3rd graders. On days like this my so-called ‘productivity’ ends at 11:00 am when I hit the showers and then haul ass to the car pool lane. The rest of the day is routine: Pick up the boys at Noon, stop somewhere for lunch so as to avoid making any mess I’ll have to clean up, and allow them to flop on the living room couch in front of the TV where SpongeBob SquarePants teaches them life skills they aren’t gonna learn at school. Welcome to “Friday FunDay” folks!
So as I’m cruising home with my precious cargo in the back seat and contemplating the neutered possibilities of my afternoon within earshot of the living room, an unusual serenity in the passenger cabin draws my attention. I glance back over my shoulder to admire my brood when what to my wondering eyes should appear? – It’s my 3rd grader doodling with a pen on the faux leather veneer! I didn’t realize it at first, but as I turned to the road before me, it begins to dawn on me: Hmmmmm… huh? … Wait a minute. What was he doing? He had a pen in his hand… and was very deliberately working on some great masterpiece against the door… but…. where was the goddamn paper?! THERE. WASN’T. ANY. He’s not drawing against the door. He’s drawing on it!” I did a double-take to catch my little artist at work on the armrest. 
“Hey! HEYYYYY!!!!!! WHAT THE HELL DO YOU THINK YOU’RE DOING?! DID YOU JUST DRAW ON THE DOOR OF MY NEW CAR? SERIOUSLY?! ARE YOU OUT OF YOUR DAMN MIND?!” My brain was seething. “HOW’D YOU LIKE ME TO COME BACK THERE AND WRITE ALL OVER YOU?” and so on and so forth. Just imagine that mixed with a handful of stifled sputtering profanity and you have the soundtrack to my crazed thoughts while the blood rushed to my eye sockets and I struggled to keep the car on the road. Thankfully, only a slightly milder version escaped my lips. “GIVE ME THAT PEN!” He’s welling up with tears, but I don’t give a shit, yet. How can he possibly think it’s OK to desecrate this sacred interior? HOW? And then he says “But Dad, it’s invisible ink.” I am incensed. Unbelievable. Drawing on the car? Who does that??? … Wait. What?
…………………. Sooooooooooo…….. what’s the right amount of ‘Mad’ to get when you catch your son writing on your car seats with invisible ink? That revelation was a curveball. I had already envisioned the ink of his juvenile drawing bleeding into the material. But now I’ve got to investigate the crime scene with one of those fancy UV flashlights like they do on those CSI shows to reveal blood spatter and semen stains on the sheets of yet another seedy motel after a murder. Then again, it is invisible ink, right? So what do I care? I’m coming back to my senses. Crap! – All of a sudden I fear I may have overstepped good parenting boundaries. In the end, closer inspection would revealed that he’d only managed to draw a quarter-sized cloverleaf pattern before I had interrupted his creative process….
It’s funny – at least a couple times recently, someone has remarked how calm I am. “Even keeled” I believe was how one person put it, though that is high praise I don’t think I deserve. I lose my mind on a regular basis. It happens when they’re screwing around in the last 5 minutes before the bus comes in every morning. It happens after the fifth time I’ve told the third child to brush his damn teeth for the umpteenth day in a row. It happens ….. a lot. It just doesn’t happen in public. Somehow, I manage not to blow a gasket when there are other people around. No witnesses. Unfortunately I tend to forget that the three most important little witnesses have front row seats to my frustration right there in the back seat of my car. Put another scrutinizing grown-up in the passenger seat to keep me in check and my meltdown might have sounded more like this: “I beg your pardon, son, but I must inquire as to the nature of your artistic endeavor. I do believe the canvas that you have selected appears to be ill-suited to your selected medium. Perhaps you should reconsider so as to illicit a more positive response to your creations without inflaming the passions of judgmental critics such as myself”. OK, there’s probably a more realistic middle ground between here and there. I’m still trying to find it when nobody is watching me… nobody but THEM.

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