Lately, on our walks home from the kibbutz to our house, my kids have started exploring an enchanted forest.
The muddy puddle in the middle of the road is a lagoon with mermaids.
The bent and bumpy tree is a beleaguered wizard with knobby knees.
The dust motes that flutter in between the layers of sunshine are teeny tiny fairies.
I guess it isn’t THAT big a stretch of the imagination: When the sun drips through the citrus trees into pools of sweet gold, and the sky winks through the shimmering leaves, there is something fairytale-esque about the whole walk home.
“Princess! Princess!” my son screams after his sister as he runs on his bandy legs, knees knocking. “Wait for me!”
“I can’t wait!” she shouts over her shoulder as her hair streams out like wild reeds.
“The witch is after us.”
“Is she a good witch, or a bad witch?” my sons asks.
“You never can tell!” she replies.
He picks up the pace, and they race through the enchanted woods while the witch follows.
My daughter is right: You never can tell. Am I a good witch or a bad witch? I guess it depends on the moment, and the child.
Sometimes, I yell so loud I feel a hole tear through my vocal chords:
“STOP THAT RIGHT NOW! WHAT THE HELL ARE YOU DOING TO YOUR SISTER??!!??!!”
“GIVE THAT BACK TO YOUR BROTHER THIS FREAKING SECOND, OR YOU WILL RUE THE DAY YOU EVER TOOK IT.”
And the prince and princess cower together — a wide-eyed duprass in the wake of the wicked witch’s wrath.
(Yeah, color me green, because sometimes I scare myself.)
And I’ll use my magic for good: My kisses heal bruised knees. My back rubs banish nightmares. My funky chicken dance can undo the spell of the wicked witch.
The thing is, every parenting book I’ve ever read says that kids need consistency – they need to know what to expect to feel safe. But on my days solo with the kids? Dr. Spock et al can suck it, because consistency is soooooo not an option.
I can’t always be a hardass, because if I am, then who’s going to lighten the mood and make my kids laugh? And on the flip side, believe you me, dancing the funky chicken doesn’t get dinner cooked, teeth brushed, and hair deloused.
Besides, you know what else isn’t consistent? Life.
Life is one big old churning, roiling mass of moments — some good, some bad, and rarely predictable — just like the my children’s mother.
And so, on the long walk home, I cackle on purpose, high and unhinged. I tear after them through the enchanted forest while we tumble through the fields, laughing and shrieking all the way home: “I’ll get you my pretties, and your little Flounder Doll too!”