Thursday, September 23, 2010
Kids' chatter drifts in from their bedroom around 6:35 a.m. By 6:40, it's up-and-at-'em, with Late Blooming Dad standing over the kids urging them to dress in the clothes they picked out the night before, so as to avoid delays. What happens? Delays anyway. Little minds change: "I don't want to wear that shirt." "Where's my sweat band?" "Can you help me put on my socks?" If one happens to start playing with a toy, the other wants it ... even as dad insists, "This isn't playtime now."
The clock is ticking and by seven a.m. if no one has thrown a fit, the kids are seated at the breakfast table, food in front of them set out by Late Blooming Mom. Re-warmed pancakes (we make them once or twice a week), toaster waffles, some cut up fruit, some milk for him, some juice for her. There's much to-do over what to put on the pancakes (lately Thing 1 and Thing 2 are partial to a schmear of chocolate hazelnut butter) and how to cut them ("Pizza slices, please!"). Vitamins are distrubuted and chewed. Thing 2 eats everything on her plate and wants more. Thing 2 can't seem to make a dent in his breakfast; he's too distracted by an ad for a movie in the newspaper I've made the mistake of putting on the table.
If only they would just sit and eat. But somehow, Thing 2 invariably wanders into the kitchen in search of something else to eat; Thing 1 wants dry cereal only, but only certain kinds (Honey Bunnies, Gorilla Munch, and Life), and he's come to supervise the selection. If a toy has somehow found its way to the table, despite the rules, there will be disputes over possession. He uses the bathroom. She insists on washing her hands because they got sticky. All the while, Late Blooming Mom and Dad are barking, "Time's almost up. Keep eating!" as if this were the annual fourth of July hot dog-eating competition at Nathan's Coney Island.
It doesn't seem to matter if we set a timer to beep when breakfast is supposed to be finished, or keep reminding them we need to get to kindergarten on time. They have no concept of "late." They are not goal-oriented; the goal of getting someone on time is not only uninteresting to them, but not really clear. Even though mommy and daddy keep emphasizing, "We can't be late," they don't understand about having to go to the office for a "tardy" slip and being walked into class in front of all their classmates, already settled at their activities, and a stern-looking teacher who is no doubt keeping a mental checklist of which parents can't manage to get their five-year-old to school on time.
After breakfast, the kids still need help brushing teeth. And then there's getting their hair brushed (which involves spray in order to tame his bed head and her knots) and admonishments to put their shoes on, and finally, sunscreen is applied. Somehow that application of suncreen invariably cues the start of a meltdown. Thing 1 doesn't want to wear THAT jacket, but can't find the one he DOES want to wear, and isn't pacified by the offer to look for it at school. Never mind that we live in Southern California and the likelihood of him needing to wear the jacket is small at best. Thing 2 wants to bring bracelets, but only the ones that match, and she can't find them and we have no time to search for them. Late Blooming Dad, on drop-off duty, is already getting his colon in a knot. Late Blooming Mom hasn't even eaten yet and her stomach acid is through the roof (or at least gurgling up into her throat: what's better than reflux to kick-start your day?)
At last they are out the door, Dad strapping them into booster seats, then moments later acting as referee in an argument between them while in the middle of his tricky search for a parking spot within a few blocks of school (there's no school parking lot since we live in the middle of a city) amidst the cloud of CO2 that hovers around the school at drop-off time. Back at home, Mom scarfs down cereal and then exercises, getting the day's work started reading through documents while on the excercise bike. There's time for a quick shower, and then work begins for both Mom and Dad in earnest.
Late Blooming Mom is on pick-up duty, and post-school, there's homework to be found and mountains of papers sent home from the school to be signed (gift wrap fundraising, anyone? volunteers to car pool on field trips?). At the moment, Late Blooming Mom has some paid babysitting help so she can finish her work. But when that's over, the spin cycle continues, making sure homework's done and deposited in backpacks for the following day; lunches are made; and dinner is consumed starting promptly at six p.m.. Otherwise, there's no time for each kid to have a turn at the TV, teeth to get brushed, clothes picked out for the next day, and bedtime stories read. Like the 6:40-8:00 a.m. time slot, the 6pm-8:15pm time slot is passed with an eye on the clock and parental admonishments to eat, get ready for bed, and get in bed. Bedtime stories might be fun, in fact sometimes they are, but too often there are disputes over who gets their book read first or second, interruptions for one more drink of water/trip to the bathroom, demands for lotion or bandaids, etc.
By 8:15, the wee ones are usually out at last, and mom and dad can finish all that school paperwork, any actual work that didn't get done, do any household bookeeping/bill-paying/maintenance, and pass out in front of THE DAILY SHOW.
All too soon, it's 6:40 a.m. again, and we're all being spun around in what has, in a week-and-a-half scine school began, been our weekday spin cycle. I'd stop and breathe -- really I would -- if there was time to do it.