Because we were out of hot water, because he lingered too long in the shower, because I needed well-being restored, I told him to sit on the stool while I did the dinner dishes. Showing him the full dishwasher, I pointed to the sink still filled with dishes, explained how I couldn’t clean them without hot water, asked him what I should do. He shrugged. I smiled.
If I lived in the Middle Ages, I would walk to a frozen creek and chip a hole in the ice. If the creek was too far and the Black Death was upon us, I would settle for the ash-stained snow outside our door. I would fill my leaky handmade bucket, haul it into my one-room home, place the icy contents in my black kettle, swing the kettle over the fire, and wait for water to boil. Then, I would pour it into the basin with my dishes and my best lye soap.
Thankful my reality is in this century, I pulled my Dutch oven from the cupboard and filled it with tap water. I placed it on the stove and turned it on high.
“Bring your stool over here and watch the water until it boils,” I said.
With a mixture of slight reluctance and idle curiosity, he did.
“Is it boiling yet?”
“How about now?”
I leaned over the edge of the pot.
“Boil!” I yelled to the water.
“Boil!” I demanded.
“You know, you were like this water today.”
“You had a hard time starting your day.”
He nodded again.
“But, it didn’t work when I told you to get started. It was like telling this water to boil when it wasn’t warm enough.”
His eyebrows creased in thought.
“So, I waited for you to start ‘boiling.’ But, I didn’t just sit and watch. I did what I could, just like we are doing now without hot water. I figured out what I could do and did it while I waited for you.”
I told him to go get a book and read while he waited for the water. He read and watched. Soon bubbles began to pop to the surface.
“Here’s the tricky part,” I said. “I want the water to boil, but not too much. I don’t want to burn my hands or have the pot overflow. This water has just enough heat to help me do my job.
That’s the tricky part with you, too. You need just enough energy and willingness to work without getting frustrating. I need just enough patience to wait without getting frustrated, too.”
I poured the water into the sink and washed the dishes while he waited for the rinsing water to heat. Then we dried the dishes, put them away, wiped down the counters.
“Can I play the Xbox now?”
Because he promised tomorrow would be better, because I promised the same, because the sink was empty, because the day’s lessons were fulfilled, I nodded.