There is a magic word in this house, a word that can create a state of meltdown faster than any other. Just the idle breath of this word sends my children into spasms.
The word is "quickly."
This well-known casual prompt to keep young children from dillying and dallying brings on utter panic to Joey. The world is racing past, time goes into warp, and like the White Rabbit, we will now be Late!
It is 8:42am, and we need to leave the house at 8:45 to get Andy to camp. Joey discovers he has no pockets to stash his mini-clock.
"No pockets!" he complains, slapping the sides of his legs where pockets ought to be in any shorts sold for young boys. But Walmart begs to differ. "No pockets!" There is a glisten in his eyes, a strain in his voice- this will not do. I try to think fast, while trying to gather up the things Andy will need at camp and find my shoes, which have mysteriously walked away from the front hall.
"Well, run upstairs and change into another pair of shorts, then, quickly!" The last slips from my lips involuntarily. If I could have, I would have reached out and snatched the word back and jammed it down my own throat. But it is too late. It hangs in the air, as Joey lets out a screech and races up the stairs with screams of "Quickly! Quickly!"
8:44 am. I still hear the screams of "Quickly! Quickly!" upstairs as I manage to get Andy into his flip-flops and out the door.
"Come on, Joey," I call encouragingly, resulting in more frantic chanting of "Quickly! Quickly!" He appears at the top of the stairs, holding another pair of shorts, this one a pair of converted boxers- he is particularly fond of them, but they also have no pockets. "Quickly!" he squeals at me plaintively.
I avert the meltdown by coaxing him down the stairs and helping him into these new shorts, without mentioning they do no have pockets, nor does he have his clock. Fortunately, his watch is strapped tightly to his wrist. This would have taken a lot less time if I had just stopped and instead of using The Word, had gone upstairs to help him with his clothes.
Never has there ever been a more counter-productive word invented in human language. Irony at its best.