Janna Urschel essays

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Recently, I found myself sympathizing with old King Derwin of Didd. I was growling at the same predictable forces of nature that greeted me every morning invoking dark powers to make a change. On a morning like any other, we were late getting out the door to daycare (Bah! This lateness!) and Rowan refused to wear anything other than the two-sizes too-small heel-falling-off buckle shoes that we couldn't find (Bah! These shoes!). Not in her room. Not in mine. Living room. Kitchen. Under the couch? Under the dog? No, no, and no. And no, no, and no to my suggestion that she wear flip-flops instead. (Bah to these same old things! I am King and I must have something new come out of my sky!) “It's hot, so flip-flops are better anyways.” “No!” “You're going to miss breakfast.” “No!” And for every rise in her decibel, I could feel a dip in my self-control. (“Shuffle, duffle, muzzle, muff” say the royal magicians). “We can't find those shoes, dear, I'm sorry, you're just going to have to wear these.” “NOOO!” And here it comes, the full force of dark magic let loose upon the kingdom: “Fine, get in the car! You can just go barefoot, goddammit. But when your feet are all full of splinters and cuts, don't come crying to me!” (“Oh, snow and rain are not enough! Oh, we must make some brand-new stuff! Go make the wondrous oobleck fall! Oh, bring down oobleck on us all!”)

The fallout, of course, is epic. Greenish specks become greenish blobs become greenish bucket-fuls. For a moment the temptation to out-yell her rises, then subsides, and the guilt rushes in. I just chewed out my four-year-old, who, for no fault of her own doesn't have any conception of time. And since this is a daily drama, it’s not the one actually making us late. (Note to self: find and lay out indispensible shoes the night prior to avoid daily drama). But that's not the lesson here. The real lesson is the part that comes next. I was at a crossroads in which I could A) stand my ground since I'm the parent and she needs to listen and do what I say, or B) admit I'd crossed a line and apologize. Like King Derwin up to my chin in oobleck, I had to decide which was worse: loss of face or being stuck to my throne forever (thank you, dear Dr. Seuss, for the bottomless reservoir of moral analogy). And there's Bartholomew Cubbins chiding me, “If you won't even say you're sorry, you're no sort of a king at all!” Lesson for kings and parents alike.

Deep breath. Here goes nothing. “Rowan, hey look, I'm sorry. I shouldn't have yelled. I was frustrated about the shoes, but it was wrong of me to lose my temper.” Wide eyes, tears stop, sniffle sniffle. “Mommy, I don't like it when you yell.” “I know, I don't like yelling, and I shouldn't have done it.”  “Maybe there was something magic in those simple words, 'I'm sorry.' Maybe there was something magic in those simple words, 'It's all my fault.' Maybe there was, and maybe there wasn't. But they say that as soon as the old King spoke them, the sun began to shine and fight its way through the storm. They say that the falling oobleck blobs grew smaller and smaller and smaller.” “Mommy, where are my flip-flops?”

About the Author

Janna Urschel

Janna is currently a part-time instructor at Montana State University in Bozeman, MT and professional juggler of school, work, and her two goofily gorgeous daughters, aged 1 and 4. She has at one time or another been a harpist, linguist, Spanish teacher, and dog musher, with a perpetual undercurrent of aspirations to the literary.

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