It is almost December and I still haven’t found a rhythm for getting my kids ready for school. I admit to idealizing these precious moments before they head off to school where they will spend the majority of their day apart from me. I want to wake them up sweetly, hug them and have some joyful conversation around the breakfast table. I’d like to impart some wisdom and warmth before they set off to negotiate their blossoming world at school. I would like them to be cheerful as they brush their teeth, get on their shoes and go straight to the car where they would then buckle without being told.
But three months into this new routine and our morning does not even begin to look like the Norman Rockwell picture I hold in my mind. Instead it is a swirling flurry. I should really have at least four more arms to accomplish all that getting them to school dressed and fed entails. Just getting them out of bed (after attempting the sweet wake up call that flat out doesn’t work) is enough to qualify for an early morning work out. Add in a crying baby who wakes and wants to be held the moment I enter the room she and her older sister share, and the chaos is off to a racing start. The baby has a wet diaper and wants fed. My second-grader won’t get up, and I finally have to pull her into a sitting position because it is time to wake up her brother. I remind them the school will NOT wait for them. It is dark out now when I am waking them at 6:30am. This does not help. Someone always seems to be crying during part of this. We offer rewards. We hand out threats. We find them playing with toys when it is their turn to brush teeth. We hear things like, “But you didn’t tell me to put on socks” when we are trying to head out the door and it is cold and raining.
By some miracle we sometimes manage to get to the front door with more than enough time to get to school. When this happens I start to feel a hopeful bit of joy bubble up through my chest. This happened today. Then I realized my six-year-old son was trying to put on a pair of lace up shoes that he had previously tied in a myriad of knots. That bit of optimism instantly sank. I pushed down the urge to yell. I gently told him he could wear the lace-up shoes tomorrow, but he needed to wear another pair today. He went rigid with stubborn resolve. I could feel myself tensing too. He finally acquiesced and headed to the car. Thank you Velcro shoes ! I grabbed my purse and happily found him buckled in his seat only to realize his backpack was still on. We went over seatbelt safety, then I realized he had left his lunch inside. My daughter began to then squeal her displeasure at something. It was then I said, “Enough. I don’t want to hear one more negative word out of anyone’s mouth.” This was not my finest moment.
As I drove to school, I began to make peace with the realization that my children would be tardy. I hate being late. I don’t want to be that mom. You know, the one whose children always are running to beat the tardy bell. Their hair is disheveled. Their clothes don’t quite match, aren’t quite wrinkle free and their faces look less than clean. I have judged that mom. I have judged myself as I realize I am that mom! The problem seems to be that they are not little robots who are programmed to methodically complete the same tasks with precision and without emotion. The problem seems to be that I too, have days where I wake up less than rested and with an equally short fuse. The problem is that we are all flawed human beings who are in need of grace. We are moment by moment being handed opportunities to teach, to learn, to offer compassion and connection versus condemnation and judgment. Perhaps we should all be a bit kinder to ourselves as we shape these individuals daily and whose free will gets in the way of our picture perfect plans.
I am learning to let go of this perfect standard that I have set for myself and for them. It is too rigid. Do I want them to learn the importance of being on time. Yes. But do I want them to learn it at the cost of my sanity and their self-worth? No. They are far too precious for that. Exhale. We pray on the way to school and their requests are so sweet. I kiss them goodbye and wish them the best day. We will all make mistakes again. But maybe, just maybe I will get better at seeing the bigger picture each day. I am not just getting them to school, but helping to shape their character and build their self-esteem in the process. Tomorrow we will try it again.