by Linda Sharps
The other day I was putting dirty clothes in the washing machine when I noticed the box of dryer sheets had gone missing. Not the contents of the box, mind you, the sheets themselves were strewn all over the place nearby: piled haphazardly on the shelf where I keep the detergent and whatnot, scattered across the tops of the washer and dryer, and drifting gently around the floor.
You've heard of the idiom the straw that broke the camel's back, right? The idea that cataclysmic failure is triggered by a seemingly inconsequential action? In terms of overall parental frustrations for the day, that stolen box of dryer sheets was definitely my final straw. It's always something dumb like that, something that in the grand scheme of things doesn't seem worth getting mad about. But that's the thing about having a breaking point … eventually, you break.
See, if I'd discovered the dryer sheet mess first thing in the morning, I'd probably have filed it under a minor annoyance and moved on. But on that day, the kids had been testing my patience for hours on end, and I'd been cleaning up messes left and right all day long. I was feeling crushed by the Sisyphean tasks of parenthood (clean the kitchen, make lunch, oh look, I get to clean the kitchen again!) and I remember just looking at the zero-fucks way the dryer sheets were flung around and thinking, Really? Really, I even have to pick up the LAUNDRY AREA, where I am already CLEANING YOUR CLOTHES?
Frankly, this summer has been jammed full of back-breaking straws. There have been amazing camping trips and glorious family vacations and hot sunny days filled with ice cream cones and swimsuits and general happy shenanigans … but there have also been plenty of long restless afternoons during which no child can find anything to do but whine for TV, loudly fight with each other over god knows what, and carelessly drop piles of clutter all over the house. Those are the times when I'm likely to lose it, when one specific incident manages to obliterate my very last reserve of patience.
When I say "lose it" I'm talking about your basic motherly meltdown, by the way. The kind where you stop being polite and starting being real, and by real I mean real loud. Things I typically yell when I've reached this point:
• I am OVER IT, you guys! OVER! IT!
• I am so sick and tired of this, you guys. SICK AND TIRED!
• I've had it up to HERE! *gestures wildly somewhere around top of head*
• I JUST -- WHY CAN'T YOU -- I CAN'T EVEN!
• Everybody go to their rooms and do NOT come out again until NEXT TUESDAY.
The worst part about the Final Straw Syndrome is that I doubt it does anything to teach my kids to avoid the cumulative effect of being loud-ass miscreants. Instead, they probably just think I am really, really into dryer sheets.
Do you tend to snap over that 'one last thing' too?