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News & Features » July 2017 » “Love Given, Love Received” by Lisa Cole

“Love Given, Love Received” by Lisa Cole

Are you a parent going through the Terrible Twos? Did you live through them and survive? Terrible Twosdays is a place to commiserate over the unending shenanigans of your Darling Children (as the online parenting communities say). Nonfiction stories will be considered, so long as names have been changed to protect the guilty. Inspired by our best-selling gift book for parents, Go the Fuck to Sleep, Terrible Twosdays joins the roster of our other online short fiction series. Unlike Mondays Are Murder and Thursdaze, we’re looking for stories with a light and mischievous feel, all about the day-to-day challenges of parenting. As with our other flash fiction series, stories must not exceed 750 words.

This week, Lisa Cole’s four children give her an unexpected anniversary gift.

Love Given, Love Received
by Lisa Cole
One, Four, Six, and Seven

So there I was being selfishly glum after learning that tonight’s tenth anniversary dinner reservations had to be cancelled. Thanks to thunderstorms, the power company has my lineman husband turning on everyone else instead. So much for shaved legs and fancy dress. Back to bubble gummed yoga pants – and I am not talking LuLaRoe patterns.

After changing back into my mom uniform, I noticed the kids were quiet.

Too quiet.

The movie I turned on for them played to an empty den.

I’d lost track of time moping. A search and seizure was imminent.

I smelled them before I saw them. Dawn detergent and another indeterminable scent overwhelmed me. Rounding the corner into the front piano room, I found all four kids together.

Four-year-old Braxton was standing on a mahogany dining chair, holding a kitchen dish brush, scrubbing the large front picture window. Blue tinged suds and water splashed down to the wood floor in giant globs.

Six-year-old Bethany was on another chair by a smaller window, soaked wash cloth in hand. She was scrubbing furiously at that one. Up and down. Round and round.

Eight-year-old Braden was scooting around with a garbage bag picking up bits of paper from yesterday’s crafting festivities and what appeared to be the remains of an entire package of three hundred count Huggies baby wipes. It appeared as if every wipe had just been used to clean the wood floor.

Twenty-month-old Brianna was sitting on top of the dining room table, purple paintbrush in hand. Beside her knee, water colors were spread by a large coloring book open, pages still wet with paint. She grinned at me as she pressed the brush to her face, painting a long streak of red on her cheek and across her nose.

Yesterday’s mail sat on the corner of that dining room table. Right beside her. It was freshly painted as well.

I heard more water drip to the floor.

Tiny bubbles floated in the afternoon sunlight. Water. Soap. Streaks.

Paint. Wipes. Everywhere.

I watched, frozen, gauging the scene before me. Attempting to not panic.

“Mommy!” Bethany started when she noticed me there. Climbing off her chair she ran over and grabbed my hand. Braxton smiled at his ring leader, then at me. How can children look so innocent and so devilish at the same time?

“Mommy, we are cleaning windows so you can see. Because you love the pretty bushes outside. And we washed the chairs and table!!! And look! We painted some pictures…” She pulled me over to the book where four pictures were painted. On one, she’d written “We love Mommy” in red brush strokes. The same red streaked on Brianna’s nose.

“. . . and we cleaned the floor for you!!!” she rushed, “Because it’s your anniversary and you shouldn’t have to clean.” All 47.25 inches of her beamed up at me. Then she threw her arms around my waist. And squeezed.

“Mommy!! WOOK!!! I kweaned for you!!!” Braxton cheered, taking a diving superhero leap off the chair, darting his glance back towards the broad picture window as he crashed and tumbled under the table.

Braden, still on the floor clutching the trash bag, remained silent, unmoving, unsmiling, gauging my reaction. Eight years of life obviously comes with wisdom. Not always in time though.

I sensed he was worried. I smiled. He relaxed and smiled back.

I thanked them for helping me. And I meant it. It’ll be decades before they understand how this moment was the best anniversary present they could have offered.

See, my background is in management. I’m a career female. I often feel like I don’t belong in the tidy mom world. And with nearly nine years of motherhood behind me, I must admit I am more comfortable negotiating business deals with forty-two-year-olds than I am with four- and two-year-olds. Four- and two-year-olds bring me to my knees.

But this unsought for display of love they initiated for their mom spoke to my heart. And perhaps, just perhaps, I’m doing ok at this mom thing.

My time at home with them won’t pay for True Green’s next visit or the HVAC repair. But right now? The ROI feels pretty incredible.


LISA COLE has never met a Dad joke she didn’t like. In fact, five of her four children put up with her pun-filled corniness on a daily basis. Her family’s unwavering support acts as a motivational drip as she learns to Mom in a world full of contradictory advice. Personal passions lie in literacy, education and giving back. During more serious moments, Lisa serves on the Board of Directors of East Point Academy, a Mandarin Immersion Charter School. She is also the managing editor of the local Junior League’s print magazine. Read more of her southern-infused tales of parenting wit and woe at www.LisaBCole.com and connect with Lisa daily on Facebook (www.FB.com/writerlisacole).”


Do you have a story you’d like us to consider for online publication in the Terrible Twosdays flash fiction series? Here are the submission terms and guidelines:

—We are not offering payment, and are asking for first digital rights. The rights to the story revert to the author immediately upon publication.
—Your story should focus on the challenges of parenting. Ideally, stories should be about children aged 0 to 5, but any age (up to early teens) is acceptable. Stories may be fiction or nonfiction.
—Include the child’s age at the time of the story next to your byline.
—Your story should not exceed 750 words.
—E-mail your submission to info@akashicbooks.com. Please paste the story into the body of the email, and also attach it as a PDF file.

Posted: Jul 11, 2017

Category: Original Fiction, Terrible Twosdays | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,