On weekend mornings I have a hard time getting off the couch. Even for coffee.
The kids play around me in a low growl that is a mix of fighting and fidgeting over various tiny toys. Any one of which is destined to puncture my sole if I were to venture into the kitchen for a warm-up. I stay put drinking cold dark roast and hoping the caffeine will start to do its work soon.
Every so often Ittybit ventures over to the place where I’m entrenched and tries to coax me out of my imposing quiet.
"Will you put the wings on my Angel Polly Pockets doll for me?" she asks.
"Do you have a ‘please’ for that request?"
"Please?" she says sweetly.
I reiterate my long-standing mantra -- Moms Don’t Play -- but I take the doll and try to affix the wings.
It’s not working, they won’t stay put.
I hand her pocket doll back with an apology and a recommendation. "I think you might have to hold your thumb on her back when you play with her to keep her wings stable."
She narrows her eyes at my idea, a look I know to be questioning my sanity, but disappears upstairs.
Small objects have a tendency to disappear around her brother, who is heading over to the couch full-speed ahead in his too-big shoes.
"Mommeee! Want watch ‘Diego GO!’"
My head hurts at the temples.
I click on the T.V.
I want them to play quietly. Be invisible. I want to finish my coffee. "Television … take them away."
But instead of the colorful ’toons they are used to, pictures of real suffering fill the screen.
What is this? Ittybit asks, lured back into the living room by the sound of television voices.
"This is a news story about a disaster that happened in a place called Haiti," I tell her.
My husband comes in from his desk and sits next to me. The Champ climbs into his lap, bringing with him a car he’s dismantled and packed its trunk with pilfered parts of Lego sets and other toys he’s gleaned. Ittybit sits in mine, forgetting her brother’s recent trespasses.
They don’t ask me to change the channel. No one can look away.
"What happened?," she asks. "Why are those people living outside? Why can’t they go home?"
We answer as best we can. There was an earthquake. Their homes are destroyed. Places nearby that could help them were destroyed, too. They have to wait for help from elsewhere. Help from elsewhere takes time.
The announcements from the broadcast keeps coming as I try to explain: No water. No food. Survivors still buried in rubble. Hope diminishing by the day.
A doctor talks about the suffering, the lack of supplies and infrastructure. The numbers are hard to picture.
On the screen a little boy screams in agony and shock, "why me," as he lays gripping a stranger’s hand in a make-shift triage center. He is waiting for someone he recognizes to comfort him. His parents are gone.
That was too much for ittybit, who understood the sentiment and urgency if not the boy’s words. It was too much for me, too. In that moment, that boy was my child, too.
They cut to a commercial. … A woman talks about dessert cups.
Ittybit brightens as her brain switches deftly from the confusion of what she’s just seen to a familiar game she plays with her father.
"What are they trying to sell me," daddy, she asks?
"Crazy, isn’t it?" He answers. "People are suffering in Haiti and here in America we’re trying to figure out what pudding choice is best."
We are silent again switch off the television, get off the couch. I can’t keep them away from the world or its suffering forever. But I really don’t want the television to take them away.