Preparing to adapt to Girlchild’s new kindergarten schedule and commute has been weighing on my mind all summer. She is attending kindergarten at a private school that is a 20-30 minute drive from our house. I had planned on starting “drills” two weeks prior to the school year. This meant getting the kids up earlier little by little each day, and getting them transitioned to a wake-up time nearly two hours earlier than was required last year for preschool. The drills were to train myself as well. And they also included a few days of actually driving to the school to record “real time” morning commute length.
I am not going to lie; this two-week commute drill idea was loosely inspired by Chas Tenenbaum and his fire drills in The Royal Tenenbaums. While I had decided on a gentler approach, I pictured myself holding a stopwatch while Girlchild and Boychild raced down the stairs toward the car.
I have grand ideas, but sometimes fail in execution. Like the time I wanted to start an aerobics club in second grade, but realized I could not possibly lead a class in the Olivia Newton John way I pictured, due to 1) lack of boom box/portable music, 2) lack of cojones and loud voice, 3) lack of any aerobics knowledge, and 4) lack of any resemblance whatsoever to Olivia. So, after obtaining a full page of signatures from interested fellow students, I flaked out.
I chickened out to a large degree on my kindergarten commute drills as well, and the 2-week time length became more like 3 days. I did not want to get them up earlier than necessary when I thought they could use the sleep for one last week. Or two.
One week before school I woke them around 7am. The ultimate goal is 6:15 since we will have to leave home at 7:15 since they stall more than defense attorneys in capital punishment trials. Up at 7 am, they complained, we all walked around like zombies, and they just watched TV first because they weren’t yet hungry. After I actually fed and dressed them, like an hour or two later, I wondered what exactly the point of that was. It was all very depressing.
Enter last week. Go time. Monday was 4 days before Girlchild’s first day of kindergarten. I woke at 5am with Manchild on his schedule. I intended to hop straight out of bed and exercise until 5:30 before showering, but when Manchild left for work at 5:40-ish I was still in bed checking my email on my phone and reading. I rolled out of bed late and was done showering at 6:35, 20 minutes late. I could tell I was still stalling. Angels and devils on either shoulder were actively engaged in an internal heated debate. Doubt and excuses for not moving faster were given from the dark side. From the other side, over and over the phrase repeated, “Keep going.”
As I walked toward Boychild’s room to wake him, at 6:35, internal alarms were sounding loudly in my head. This…was everything I’ve trained us all not to do. When the kids were babies, but old enough to not wake up starving (I’m talking 9-12 months here, I’m not heartless), if I heard them much before 7am I would ignore them unless I could tell they really needed me. Why reinforce early birds when I have the choice to stay home and they have the luxury of sleeping in? Bear in mind, too…it’s not because I was lounging around. I have risen around 6am or 6:30am from the beginning of my stay-at-home-mom-dom. Anyone who knows me at all knows I am not lazy. But I enjoy a quiet leisurely shower (i.e., shaving legs, shampooing hair) before they are up, and I check email and make my daily to-do list, etc. Mama operates best with some quiet time.
So my brain was distraught that I was undoing 5 years of training in one morning.
I opened the door and Boychild was so sleepy I had to drape him over my shoulder and carry him downstairs. I set him in front of the toilet and he just crumbled in a ball before finally having the strength to stand and use it. Ditto for Girlchild, who also tried to convince me to crawl in bed with her and cuddle. I had to resist and refuse but offered to carry her downstairs. I was carrying so many draped kids over my shoulder downstairs that if I’d running I would have felt like a firefighter.
Clearly this crowd needed a little enthusiasm. So, I bribed with donuts: if we could get to school in what would have been a timely manner had there been school, I would go through the Dunkin Donuts drive-thru. But my enthusiasm didn’t end there. I said in a Mr. Bill voice, “Look! We get to see the sunrise!” and then a few minutes later, “Eat up!” when the pace of consumption wasn’t steady. Their response and excuse for not eating more quickly was, “I was watching the sunrise.” Smartasses.
I decided I personally was running too late to eat a proper breakfast so I quickly grabbed a Think Thin protein bar. Except they can identify the sound of that wrapper. They both spun around in their seats and demanded one for themselves. These bars are Creamy Peanut Butter flavored (and covered in chocolate) and they are pretty good, thus difficult to keep secret from The Children. There was some yelling, but I held firm to not sharing.
We survived breakfast. While I went upstairs to prep toothbrushes and go on with the routine, Boychild moved the tall bar stool chair over to where he could climb and reach the Think Thin bars. Or could topple over and necessitate an ER visit. He continued to fight and challenge with every part of the new morning routine…and we left 10 minutes late. Yet…. we still managed to arrive within the punctual timeframe. Yesss!!!! Celebratory donuts on the way home.
Coming away from Monday with an inflated sense of confidence, Tuesday morning I decide to exercise before showering and waking the kids. This is stupid. I’m 20 minutes late waking up the kids due to this, and I’m angry at myself, but I tell myself I’m still proud because I exercised. We head out around the same time as Monday and make it there punctually, but today other schools are in session, and the traffic tension is palpable. I am also completely exhausted for some reason, though I slept 7 hours. I do not bribe with donuts for a second day in a row because this feels wrong. The morning is fine. Weird…and suspicious, right?
We are on our way to visit a friend and the kids are en route via wagon. They are fighting nonstop, par for the course in recent days. I am out of patience with this and I bend down and look at them under the wagon canopy and shout in a deep, death metal, gritted teeth voice, “YOU HAVE 2 DAYS LEFT TO NOT FIGHT, AND THEN YOU WON’T EVEN SEE EACH OTHER VERY OFTEN. SIT IN THE WAGON AND DO NOT TOUCH EACH OTHER.” Girlchild begins crying. But the fighting stops.
Later I get Boychild down for a nap. He is quiet, cuddly…. I admit to Girlchild how it’s not so bad getting a break from him sometimes. I am in the hallway near his room a few minutes later and I notice he has broken the safety tab from his doorknob (that keeps him from wandering outside his room) and slipped it under the door. Funny, I think, that he would break that middle piece off (and possibly the whole knob) and yet not have busted out. Then I hear thumping. More thumping. Ugh, he’s not asleep at all…I go to the door and intend to open it and lecture him, but it’s locked. He has broken the knob enough just to be able to lock his door. A toddler’s locked door is never a good sign. I open it with the key and inside I find him taking every clothing item out of his dresser drawers…all of the drawers, all of the clothing. And sheets and blankets. So now this kid has been up since 6am and he is a wreck, and it’s too late in the day to try to get him to nap again after picking up all his sheets and clothing. I am feeling frazzled, and soon Manchild texts me to let me know he will be home later than usual this evening due to yet another train mishap. This is out of his control so when he DOES come home, he’s not happy, either.
In the meantime I get the kids bathed and put to bed, but not before some arguments. These arguments are what I call Mad Hatter Time. In which the arguments make no sense, yet are rigged such that you will always lose.
Me: Boychild. Go sit on the potty and poop. It is time.
Me: Walk upstairs and potty before your bath. If you choose not to walk, I will carry you.
[No movement. I go to pick him up.]
Boychild: WELL, MY WANT TO WALK!!!
Me: Please walk then.
Side note: Mad Hatter Time often occurs at the table. As in, me saying, “Do you want your chicken cut up or not?”
Boychild replies, “No.”
[I give the chicken whole.]
Boychild [shouting]: “Why my chicken not cut up? My can’t eat this!!”
[I cut up the chicken.]
Boychild: “Why you cut up my chicken into small pieces? Ugh!”
A very merry unbirthday to you too, kid.
Later when I work on the bathing assembly line, he is outside wrapped in a towel yelling, “My a bagel! My a bagel!” (I have no idea) and she is getting into the next tub of water saying, ”Pretend that I am a dog but I have not been fed my magical food yet…” and describes a scene opener with details such that Scorsese would be envious. The Bagel runs into his room, and inside one closet door to hide (It’s one gigantic closet with two accordion entrances, so technically 4 doors…. yeah that made total sense, Builder). And I can’t help it. Death Metal Mama returns: “Boychild! GET OUT OF THERE RIGHT NOW!” He looks at me like I am the biggest funhater in the entire world, like there is something wrong with me that I don’t double over laughing at his antics.
There are several other appearances of Death Metal Mama on Tuesday.
After bedtime, I realize I am completely out of deodorant, and I still need to run out to replace it. All I want to do is fall into a heap of person in my bed. Longest day ever.
I am so worn out on Wednesday that all of us just sleep in. No drill today, kids. They both sleep in until after 8 am, which now feels like lunchtime. I am grateful and rested, and Death Metal Mama seems to have disappeared.
And the day of the real deal? We get there on time—even with some extra time for photos and a quick hug before she walks into her new, Very. Big. School.
We did it, kids. You make Death Metal Mama proud.