It started in the middle of the night, coming out of nowhere, so there was no time to prepare. And now, 2 days after it began, there was no end in sight. It was relentless, gnawing at us like a rabid coyote. The anxiety was thick enough to breathe, and the silence was deafening. And then, out of the stillness, a small voice asked “When is it going to stop, daddy?”
“I don’t know, honey.”, I answered helplessly. “I just don’t know.”
“What are we going to do now?”, my wife asked, seemingly as frightened as my daughter was.
“I don’t know.”, I answered, racking my brain for some way out of this nightmare. “The only thing I am sure about is that I can’t play another freakin’ board game!”
“We have to do something.”, she stated. “Look at us. We’re like animals, here!”
“Its okay.”, I assured her. “It will all be okay.”
“It will never be okay, again.”, she sighed.
Deep down I knew that she was right. It never would be okay, again. It never could be.
“Why don’t we take the kids and go to your mother’s?”, I suggested.
“Can we?”, she asked.
“Why not?”, I said. My wife paused for a moment, and then looked at me with those black, Moroccan eyes.
“So, why didn’t you think of this days ago?”, she demanded to know.
“I’m not particularly fond of your mother.”, I answered.
“You are going to come with, right?”, she asked.
“She doesn’t have the room for all of us.” I told her. “I’ll be okay here.”
“I don’t think so.”, she said. “You’re not sending me with all of the kids while you stay here and do nothing.”
“I’m not going.”, I insisted.
“Well then, neither am I.”, she stated.
“Well,”, I told her, “the only thing left to do is plug the modem back in, and surrender.”
“What do you mean?”, she asked.
“This is harder on us than it is on them, I think.”, I suggested. “I hate to give in, but there’s no other way to get out of this nightmare.”
“Are you sure?”, she asked.
“Yes?”, I said with some reluctance. “I’m sure.” We called the kids into the kitchen and sat them down at the table. “Your mother has something to tell you.”, I informed them. She sat there as stoic as a statue, and I couldn’t help but wonder when he pigeons would come to land on her. She folded her arms across her chest, and sat back in her chair.
“Your father and I have been quite upset by the way you have all been abusing our good nature. We pay for the internet, and we expect you to respect our rules about using it. We would like to believe that you have learned a lesson here.” She paused, and leaned forward, looking at all of them one by one, as they sat around the circular table. Boy, she was good!
“So, today,”, she continued, “we are willing to bring the internet back, but with conditions.”
“What conditions?”, one of the kids asked. Good question, I thought as I wanted to know what these conditions were myself.
“No streaming, no game playing, no social media, until all of your homework is done. Agreed?”
There was, what sounded like a somewhat reserved heavenly chorus response of “Yes”.
“And”, she added, “all of your devices are put away by 10 o’clock, every night. Agreed.”
“Yes.”, came the reluctant chant.
My wife continued to look them in the eye, causing them to look down at the table. “If this happens again”, she continued, “there will be no internet. Ever. Your father and I will change the password, and we will have the exclusive use of it. You will have nothing. If you need it for school work, you can go to the library, or Tim Horton’s, or any where else you want and use their wifi. Are we all clear?”
“Yes.”, they said.
“In one hour”, she added, it will be working. Now, go and clean your rooms.” Like antelopes running from a lioness, they ran up the stairs faster than I had ever seen them move before.
“You’re very good.”, I told her.
“You’re just figuring that out now?”. she replied.
“I guess so.”, I told her. “That look worked great on the kids.”
“Not just on the kids.”, she stated.
“What do you mean?”, I asked.
“How do you think I get you to clean out the garage, cut the lawn, or anything else I want you to do?”
“Just so we’re clear”, I answered, “I am not afraid of you.”
“I don’t want you to be afraid of me.”, she replied. “You just have to be unsure about what is going on in my head.”
“Well”, I told her, “I just assumed that it wasn’t much.”
“Pretty funny.”, she said, as she stood up from the table. She walked past me, and almost whispering said, “You might want to sleep with one eye open tonight.”
“I always do.”, I reminded her, as I pulled her towards me, and gave her a hug. “Sometimes I keep them both opened.”