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The Problem Solver

The Problem Solver

I stare at the ceiling, aware of movement in a room not far from my own. He’s awake. My time is limited. He’s content for now—perhaps occupying himself with whatever is within arm’s reach. But soon, very soon, he’ll want out. He’ll want me. I can’t leave him in there forever.

Breakfast. He’ll want breakfast. Demand breakfast. The expectation to eat a meal every morning astonishes me. And his current fixation on cereal—

Dread fills my gut. I realize the unfortunate truth: No milk. There is no more milk in the house. Meaning no real cereal experience can be had. For any other person, this would be a simple bump in the road. No problem, a reasonable person might say, I’ll just have something else.

But the tiny human moving about in the room down the hall is no reasonable person. Far from it. No, he’s something else entirely. And he’s rather set in his ways.

No milk, no milk, no milk…

The scenario plays out in my mind’s eye: The explanation of why there is no milk this sunny Saturday morning. The disbelief in those large blue eyes. The tears. The screams. The slamming of doors. The inevitable rag doll effect of going limp in an attempt to express the myriad of feelings pulsating through his tiny body.

I must put a stop to this inevitable disaster. I must. I will.

I mumble my explanation and my rock-solid logic to my husband who has not yet managed to pull himself from sleep, much less ponder the effects of milklessness on the young offspring down the hall.

But I—the problem solver, the fixer, the restorer of true cereal experiences—I will make things right. Before they even have the chance to go wrong.

I shove glasses onto my nose, and bleary-eyed, gather my tangled tresses into the semblance of a knot on top of my head. I slip down the hall, impressed by my own stealth and the fluidness of my motions. Keys, wallet, phone, flip-flops. In the car, doors locked. The bright numbers on the dash proclaim the ungodly hour of 6:13 am.

6:13 am. On a Saturday. Madness.

I park and dart across the lot before I look down and realize that, yes, I’m still in my pajamas. I reassure myself that the store employees have seen far stranger sights than my multicolored boxers and oversized tie-dyed t-shirt. Surely. I hope.

I enter the store. Pass aisle after aisle. The hurried rhythm of my footsteps coincides with the steady mantra playing in my mind: Get the milk, get the milk, get the milk…

Whether angelic or manmade, the refrigerator lights shining down on the milk cartons also shed light on my soul. I cradle the carton in my hands, rush to the front of the store, and exchange my money for the liquid gold. In my car, on the road. 6:29 am.

Oh, yes. I’m good.

I roll into the driveway and climb from the car, careful to ease my door shut so as not to disturb the neighbors who are most assuredly still asleep. I enter my home, confident that I—the problem solver, the fixer, the restorer of true cereal xxperiences—have secured the peace and sanctity of this Saturday.

6:36 am. The small cereal eater’s door creaks. He is out. I am ready.

Footsteps, quick and purposeful. A tiny face appears, eyes bright and cheery and hopeful. Hopeful for cereal, no doubt. After a far-too-enthusiastic “good morning,” I announce, with great smugness, that it’s breakfast time.

My precious offspring looks up at me through those big blue orbs, his gaze shifting from me to the bowl, spoon, and milk that I, in great foresight, placed on the table.

He looks to me and speaks with the perfect blend of innocence and grit that only a toddler can accomplish.

“I want toast.”

By: Mary Holloman

Join us at for our parenting blog each Monday-Friday and for info about the Just 18 Summers novel.

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