I laughed at a first grader who knocked over a row of bikes this morning.
She was late to school, walking her bike the last few steps before parking it in front of the principal's office. "Come ON!" her mom begged. "The bell just rang!" Their footsteps tapped along the sidewalk in a familiar, choreographed dance. I was on the last eight-count of my own uncoordinated morning performance, having nudged and prodded and rushed my 5-year-old into his kindergarten class just seconds before.
I had already walked past Little Miss Tardy when I heard the crash. Caught up in the rush of the morning, she had flung her bike into the carefully-arranged line of bright colored handlebars and carefully hung Elsa helmets. They fell like dominos, and when the last bike landed (at the foot of someone else's dad, who was just as surprised as Little Miss Tardy was), I started laughing.
Not to embarrass her (though I may have infuriated her mom), but because mornings suck. I feel ya, 6-year-old ponytailed sister. If I had a bike and an Elsa helmet, you could be damn sure I'd throw them into the bike rack and hope they fell over, too. That would be my early morning "F you" to a world that moves too fast and expects too much.
Every single morning, my husband and I fight over the (completely ineffective) morning routine that we have developed. "We HAVE to figure out a better plan," I hiss at him, as I yank Max's shirt over his head and steer him toward the bathroom to brush his teeth. We've seen a parenting coach. "You need to find what motivates him," she sang, in that this-is-super-simple if-you-only-pay-attention voice that all experts seem to have. So we tried. There should be a law against sticker charts in the morning. Five-year-olds don't give a rip about sticker charts when they are determined to squeeze every last ever-loving drop of goopy toothpaste out of the tube and onto their toothbrush. You know what else there should be a law against? Having to be anywhere at a decent hour when you are in charge of small humans.
Here is my typical day: Potty, underpants, pants, shirt, socks, I can't find my shoes. Brush teeth too much toothpaste wrong color toothpaste spit your water all over the counter. Comb hair yell that it hurts smoosh it back because MOM THAT'S HOW I LIKE IT. PJ's in the hamper please, not on the floor in the hamper. Make breakfast argue about breakfast spill breakfast make another breakfast yell something about being hungry eat breakfast whine about breakfast yell something else about refusing to eat breakfast clean breakfast off of face. Wash hands. Make lunch (really, who does this the night before? No one). Fill water bottle. Throw everything in backpack.
... And that's just for ONE of the children. Every morning, we screw this up. The kids move like the sap that crawls down tree branches in the winter. I yell like the crazy mom at the park who is terrified that her kid is about to fall off of the play structure. Frantic chaos. And that's on days when I don't even shower. Or put makeup on. Every morning, we are out of time. Out of patience. Out of motivational ideas worthy of the pages of glossy parenting magazines. I don't have a bike to throw, but I'd toss my cup of coffee at something if I didn't need it so much.
I get that we are trying to raise our kids to be good citizens. Worker bees. Responsible for their own time management. Accountable. Aware that their behavior affects the world around them.
There are hundreds of articles that have been written about how to do that.
This is not one of them.
This article is an invitation to the "Glad You Made It" club.
Mornings suck. They suck at my house, and they suck at yours. So, parking lot attendant lady, instead of clucking your tongue and yelling at us that "The BELL just rang! Hurry! Hurry!" when we arrive at school, from now on, I'd like you to take a different approach.
On behalf of tired, frustrated, frazzled parents everywhere, I'd like for you to greet us with, "Good morning! I'm glad you made it!"
"I'm glad you made it," when you see the mom with a wet ponytail dragging the baby out of his car seat and grabbing her kindergartner's hand in the parking lot. "I'm glad you made it," when the first grader throws her bike into the rack because mornings are so frustrating. "I'm glad you made it," when a 5-year-old with bed head slides through the classroom doorway at 8:34 a.m. "I'm glad you made it." I see how hard you're trying. I know that you are learning to move through this world, and that most of the time you don't do it quickly enough. We will learn together.
We have all the time in the world to berate ourselves for how quickly the minutes pass. When we tuck our children in at night, and their bodies are finally calm and still. We count the seconds between breaths, count the books before their eyes close and count the minutes before they are asleep and we can disappear into the sofa and Netflix and a glass of wine. We count the hours that they sleep until waking up again, count the years that have passed that we can never get back, count the days that we are grateful for and guilty of and hoping will never end.
Don't rush us. Not yet.
Our children will spend the rest of their lives feeling responsible and berating themselves for not being fast enough. We know this better than anyone. Mornings suck. If I could play with Legos on my way to the bathroom, or throw my bike into the rack in front of the principal's office, I would.
Sometimes, we do get points just for showing up. So tomorrow, when your daughter drops her backpack in a puddle and my son stops to pick up every stick on the playground, I'm going to catch your eye and laugh with you. We can hurry later. This morning, I'm glad you made it.
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