Once I was at Beth’s house for lunch and she asked if I could mind the kids for twenty minutes while she went to the bank. It must have been early on 2004; I’d been on my new hip for just a few months. Francis was a busy, busy boy and Caroline was a solemn little new walker. Sort of like her Grandma. Beth left and Francis was upstairs in a shot. Grandma took Caroline by the hand and we went up, one step at a time, to see what we could see. We definitely could hear madly running water.
Achieving the top of the second landing and turning into the bathroom Caroline and I found Francis at the sink, on the stool, both taps roaring. He was washing his bath tub toys. Being the child of children of the Great Depression, I firmly but pleasantly said “Turn off the water, Francis.”
“NO!”“Who’s the adult here!”
From the depths of a piercing, heart rending, screeching wail, “YOU ARE!”
Howling in misery and despair, Francis abandoned the stool, darted out the door and stormed downstairs. Never a pause in the howl. Caroline still clutching one hand, I turned off the taps, pushed the stool back into its corner, swabbed the floor with a towel and my foot. The solemn little girl picked up the towel and gave it to me to hang over the bath tub, and then the two of us set out, hand in hand, into the maelstrom below.
The little ball of misery was bent over in a chair, wailing in great breaking sobs. I ran my hand over his beautiful black hair and gave his back a little pat. Redoubled sobs. I tried some soothing words. No effect. Finally my practical self said “Think of it this way. Some day you’ll be the adult and can tell a little boy to turn off the water.”
“I’ll never be the adult!”“Francis, everyone grows up!”
“I can never grow up. It takes too long!”