It was a dreary English February morning, the sky was an oppressive grey and cold, wet mist enveloped everything. The kids had mad cabin fever and my husband was deployed to an un-namable location. We were nearing the end of a trying Christmas holiday--everyone had had strep, which, when you have a child with Asperger's and the doctor wants a throat culture means you've just gone to Hell and Back; Thing 1 had climbed atop a radiator and pulled it off the wall, dumping gallon upon gallon of boiling black water onto the office floor; it was our first holiday without Daddy, you get the picture--and I was pushing aside my guilt and instead allowing myself to revel in excitement that the kids would soon be going back to school. And then, red gatorade.
An entire 20 oz bottle of red Gatorade spilled on my my landlord's carpet! In the middle of the living room. No furniture was going to hide this stain. My children shook in fear as I bellowed, "Who did this?"
Of course, it was Mr. Nobody's fault. He causes all kinds of mischief at our house. I always know it's him. The kids are impossible tattle tales. They always give Mr. Nobody away, even when they're trying not to. But I can read between all their I-didn't-do-its and find Mr. Nobody at the bottom of it all.
But something in me changed in that moment as my children cried and hid behind the couch pillows as I screamed for Mr. Nobody to show himself and take responsibility for his actions. And I realized didn't want to be the mommy monster. I didn't want my anger to mar our last day of holiday, though I was looking forward to getting back to routine, I wanted to have good last day with them at home, not one that all we would remember about was the yelling and fighting. So, I took a slow steadying breath and thought about how to salvage the situation. I won't claim all the credit for the solution. I know that Heavenly Father whispered to my heart as I became calm and willing listen.
I quickly went into the kitchen and grabbed all the needful things: rags, sponges, spot cleaners, a bucket of warm water. When I came back into the room the kids were still hiding and I knew was doing the right thing, as hard as it was, as angry as I was. Because what I really wanted to do was scream and stomp my foot and shake my children for being careless and wild heathens. I wanted them to rue the day they brought red gatorade into my living room. But the Holy Spirit was teaching me a better way and, thankfully, I was listening.
"Do you remember what we just celebrated?" I asked the kids as I moved the coffee table aside.
"Christmas!" Baby girl said, her excitement betraying her as she popped out from behind a cushion. "Jesus' birthday," Big Brother half-questioned from where he was still hiding.
"And do you know what Jesus did for us?" I asked as I sprayed the stain with spot remover and began scrubbing.
Big Brother hesitantly peered out from around the bright yellow pillow, clearly unsure whether or not it was actually safe. "He died for us," he said.
"He did," I said. "But He did something more. He washed away all our stains. He takes the pain and the anger out of all our ugly red spots. Come see," I invited them down to the floor with me.
I handed each of them a rag and they began scrubbing, fascinated as the stain faded. We sat and scrubbed, talking of the Atonement for a few minutes.
"But it's not all coming out," Big Brother said. "This is really hard, Mama," Thing 2 said.
And tears came to my eyes as I learned in that moment with my little ones. "It is really hard work, and it probably won't all come out," I lamented with them. "No matter how hard we try, we can't remove the stain ourselves. To get this stain out, we'll have to call for help. Just like when we make mistakes, like yelling at the people we love or being disobedient or acting out in anger, we can't undo those things on our own. We have to ask for help. And the help is already waiting for us to just come and get it."
We used that spot for a long time to learn and relearn that lesson, our understanding growing as the red faded to pink. When I was at my boiling point, I scrubbed instead of lashing out at the kids. I scrubbed the angry out the best I could and let the Savior take care of the rest and He did. When the kids fought, they scrubbed, side-by-side. Never in my life was I so grateful for red gatorade.
Some time later, months, maybe even a year, I covered that still slightly-pink patch of carpet with a beautifully bright flowered rug. And I forgot about it. A year after that, we moved out of that house and the angry spot slowly melted into my memory, a far off, long ago thing. I've seldom thought of it. Until this morning, when I was seething for no reason at all, snapping at the kids, rolling my eyes and sighing at them, exasperated with their very existence, there came a quiet tapping at my heart. Tap, tap, tap: "Remember. The angry spot. Go find one. Scrub it out, let it go. Let me handle the rest."