I have one sharp knife in my kitchen. One. That’s it. I use it for everything. Sure, I could buy a knife set here, but with two crazy boys in the house, I like knowing where my one sharp knife is at all times.
I bought this awesome, versatile Chinese chopper last year when we arrived in a new city and left behind the hand-me-down, almost-not-sharp-enough-for-anything knife behind in the old city. What a difference it made to have a brand new, super-sharp cutting utensil in the kitchen! Sadly, it didn’t stay new or sharp for long. There are now 3 large dinks in the blade of the knife that have been there for about a year now.
This is the previously untold story of how those dinks got there.
We had just arrived in a new city, my husband started a new job teaching at an international school, my oldest son started junior kindergarten, and I started attending language school for four hours each weekday morning. My second son, who was almost three at the time, stayed at home with our new Chinese babysitter.
Everything was off to a good start, except for the little guy who didn’t speak Chinese and his new caretaker who didn’t speak English. We knew this would be a hard transition for him, but I was determined to go to language school. I had lived in China for 5 years and had learned all I could on my own. I craved classroom time and a chance to increase my language proficiency.
My husband and I decided in the beginning language school was worth the extra stress it put on our family, but I don’t think we knew how stressful it would be. The first few months, I would come home to find my previously underwear trained little boy in wet pants. The babysitter informed me that they had been wet most of the morning because he wouldn’t let her change them. Our previously obedient, calm kid transformed into a needy, naughty and explosive toddler with no boundaries. The babysitter told me he jumps on our bed and she’s scared he’ll fall on his head. She said she’s worried he’ll lock himself in the bathroom. We pressed on. I was determined to go to language school.
Then came day I’ve left untold for a year. That day, I left for class and put my older son on the school bus just like every other day. However, instead of going to class, I decided to go to a clothing market across the city because the kids needed long johns. I arrived at the market, and not even thirty minutes later, I noticed that the babysitter had tried calling me 5 times in 5 minutes. That’s never a good sign.
Already alarmed, I stood in the middle of the crowded, buzzing clothing stalls of the market and called her back. My Chinese wasn’t that great at the time, so communicating on the phone was quite a challenge. I could hear the shake in her voice and knew she was extremely worried and on the verge of tears.
I thought I heard her say “He fell in the bathroom and won’t wake up.”
Somehow, I continued breathing, held back tears and realized she said “He’s locked himself in the bathroom and won’t come out.”
Okay. That situation, ever so inconvenient, was way better, but my mama bear heart wouldn’t stop beating in overtime and the tears were already flowing. Had I been at school that morning, I could’ve easily walked home in 20 minutes. However, I was at least a 40 minute cab ride from home. And she wanted help, now. So, I told her I’d call someone to go lend a hand. I also suggested she try using a tool to open the door (big mistake).
I quickly called a teammate who works from home and lives in our neighborhood. After about 20 minutes, my teammate called me back and said he went over to our apartment, but my son was already out of the bathroom by the time he got there. He also added we were going to need to call our landlord because the babysitter busted a glass pane in the bathroom door in order to get him out. So, I’m still standing in the middle of the crazy market, now imagining the babysitter banging a hammer through the glass-paned door while my son is inside getting sprayed with flying shrapnel. More mama bear freak-out.
I dashed out of the market, jumped in a cab and headed straight home, emotions swirling into a frenzied state. The feeling of being totally out of control of my small child’s safety was overwhelming. Upon arriving home, I examined the bathroom door and found that the glass wasn’t shattered at all. The bottom pane of the door was just cracked in the corner. The babysitter had somehow removed the molding that held the glass in place, carefully removed the glass to unlock the door, and upon replacing it, the glass had cracked. The flying glass shrapnel incident I had imagined never happened. My little boy seemed happy and unaffected by the whole deal.
Even though my son was fine, the door wasn’t that broken and my brand new butcher knife only had a few dinks in it (turns out my new knife was the choice “tool” to cut the molding around the glass door pane), the babysitter and I were both extremely emotional over the whole ordeal. After I put my son down for a nap, we sat across from each other at the dining room table and cried. She said she wanted me to find someone else for this job and left. It was Friday afternoon. Monday morning, I really didn’t know if she would come back or not. Thankfully, she arrived on time, ready for another round!
“Conflict is the price of deepening intimacy.”
This quote from our pre-marriage counseling back in the day has stuck with me, and in times like these, it is so true. I look back on the day the babysitter almost quit and see that as one of the times when my relationship with her deepened. She has now been working for our family for a year, and we view her as part of our family. My son loves her like his very own grandma and I am blessed by her love for him and for me. I’m so thankful neither of us quit that day. Now, when I chop vegetables with my less-than-perfect knife, I can actually laugh about the day the babysitter used it in her rescue mission.
Where have you seen conflict lead to deeper intimacy in your story?