For those fiction fans out there, forgive my passing reference to the currently crazed Dan Browne movement, and join me again at my aerobics class, where recycling Dan's book title seems best to suit my needs. The crisis: the necessary destruction of my rear-facing adiposity. The setting: the church's old and cold gymnasium. The angel: My friend Cindy. The demons: My own, my very own, offspring.
We arrived behind the gymnasium at 5:28, with two minutes to spare before the class's official opening comments. The feeling of a routine was beginning to emerge among the children and I, so I left them behind briefly to unload and unfold the pack n' play inside the gym. I then returned, released the three year old from his carseat, and watched him pull his Thomas Tank Engine rolling backpack into the gym. In the meantime, I had unfastened his sister from her five point harness, only to discover that the plot had thickened. "Rank" only begins to describe the scent delegated to my nostrils through her two layers of winter clothing.
By the time I finished changing the recalcitrant receptacle of bio-hazardous waste, it was 5:31, and the strength training portion of the workout was about to begin. Though I felt chagrined to have missed my opportunity for a warm-up with the other ladies, my optimism held.
And then I had to take my son to the bathroom. He was surprisingly time efficient, and upon our return, I had only missed "mountain climbers," and as I am not much into scaling great heights quickly while maintaining a parallel relationship to the hard floor, I shed no tears.
A couple of minutes later, the group reached a section of stretch band exercises, and I realized that I had missed getting my stretch band whilst supervising the recent bathroom break. Consequently, off to the gear closet I went to get a spare band. I returned just in time to do bicep curls, when I was intercepted by my son, who had excavated a banana from my purse (intended for an after-class family treat), and insisted upon its being opened immediately. His sister saw the banana, and began to reach for it, so I instructed him to share.
Moments later, Maggie's cries of distress distracted me, and I ran over to find that her brother's definition of sharing was to toss the 2nd unopened banana into the pac n' play. I opened it for her, and she was content--apparently more offended at the inaccessibility of the banana than the insult of having food tossed at her like an monkey in a cage.
For about ten minutes, both mouths were full and kept full, so all was well; but just as my heart rate began to rise to an optimum level with the onset of the aerobic portion of the workout, Wade appeared at the front of the gymnasium, standing there authoritatively as if he were about to lead the jumping jacks. He cupped his hands to his mouth and shouted at me, "Momma! I have to go POOOOOOOPY in the potty!"
Once again, I sprang from the class, dragging all three feet and three years behind me. After setting him on the toilet to take care of his business, I ran sprints across the six foot bathroom, hoping to keep my heart rate high. When we returned, I directed him to the train he had brought with him to play with, and ran back to my position, where a new set of exercises had commenced.
I spent the next three exercises watching my daring demon, squirrel back and forth between the ball closet and the pac n' play, each time carrying a new ball with him. At one point I caught his eye and mouthed "No!" but he pretended not to see me, and not wanting to leave the class again, I vowed to address the disciplinary situation directly after class. Somewhere between ball 9 and 12, he emerged with a softball
. . . which he threw at his sister's head.
The onset of a new chorus of screams caused me to move forward with a more immediate plan of disciplinary action, following which, I tried to comfort my daughter and then return to class. She wanted nothing to do with the later, and cried with excessive determination. Her incendiary objection echoed throughout the gymnasium, at which point I gave audible expression to my heartfelt exasperation: "Why do I even TRY?!"
Enter the angel. My friend Cindy is a joy to know, and believe me, you can't be around her, and not know her, because her enthusiasm for life and God are infectious. When excitement overtakes Cindy, her charismatic expressions make everyone around her smile; and confronted with pessimism, she is the first one to point a finger toward heaven and take the first steps in that direction. Yes, on this day, she was definitely my angel. She looked me in the eye and said, "Don't you let your mind be filled with thoughts like that!" and then she jogged from the group, picked up Maggie, and ran laps with her until the next exercise, which was one that Maggie could pretend to participate in.
Ten minutes later, I was encouraged, Maggie was back in the pack n' play along with her brother, and I had hope of finishing class without further incident. However, more screaming ensued, and casting an embarrassed glance at my children yet again, witnessed Wade knock his sister over and proceed to lay on his back and kick her. I could not believe my eyes. My children are by no means perfect, but 80% of the time, they are fairly well behaved.
I picked Maggie up, promised her brother consequences, and proceeded to run my final laps around the gym with my daughter tossed over my shoulder like a sack of potatoes. To make matters more comic, the instructor's CD had begun to skip sporadically throughout the class's final minutes. The auditory mahem, combined with the class's confused steps, and my childrens' misbehavior created anything but utopia.
But who lives in utopia? Not me, that's for sure. I live up there. Right up there in those paragraphs you just read--with the angels and the demons. We all have our demons (mine aren't usually my kids)--our schedules, our bosses, our bills, our dreams on hold, our failures--just life. We all have our angels too--the people who encourage us and cheer us on. The people who read our blogs. =)
But in order to have angels, there have to be people who choose to BE angels. Who have I encouraged today? Who's low-hanging head have I been the one to lift-up with a hug or a few well-spoken words? Who's dragging south beach have I been the one to light a fire under with a little inspiration?
In the meantime, take your demons to the ball closet and have an old fashioned heart-to-heart with them, do not pass go, do not take them to McDonald's on the way home. Put them to bed early, and next week on the way to aerobics, remind them that cheese-burger-less-ness is not a good way to be. Unless you're me.
And maybe, just maybe, next week your demons will act a little more . . . like angels.