Just this once, can you put your shoes and coat on the first time I ask?
Just this once, can you not pick a fight with your sibling?
Just this once, can you smile and look at the camera?
Just this once, can you sleep in past 6:00 a.m.?
Just this once, can you not spill your drink the second I sit down at the table?
Just this once, can you eat the dinner I spent an hour preparing?
Just this once, can you get ready for bed without 100 reminders and my patience hanging on by a thread, because I am exhausted. I am so close yet so far away from a moment of peace because bedtime is a behemoth task, and I just do not have the energy or patience tonight.
Just this once... can you... please...
The answer is always a resounding "No."
When I start thinking "just this once" and the exasperation and annoyance creep into my tone, the answer -- not spoken, but in my children's actions -- is always "No."
No, because I'm a child and you're an adult.
No, because I have an intense emotional world that I am still learning to navigate, and I need you to be strong and help me to do that.
No, because I'm tired, and I had a long day too.
No, because I'm a kid, and I want to keep playing, wouldn't you?
No, because I'm a little bit bored, and the most interesting thing to do is pick a fight with my sister.
No, because I sense your annoyance, which only makes me act up more because that's all I know how to do when I start to feel bad inside.
No. No. NO.
Not just this once.
Right now is the precise time when I need you to be strong and take one more deep breath, dig deep, and give me something that can only be brought forth by a great love.
Sometimes that thread you are hanging on by breaks, and you try to repair the damage. I can see you put a lot of hope in that final bedtime apology.
I always accept it.
Maybe, just this once, love will be enough to bridge the gap between Just This Once ... and No.