Every week day I celebrate a small victory. I’ve written before about how my house seems to expand and contract with our daily routines, and the morning is when the first big expansion starts.
It isn’t always a smooth expansion, and you wouldn’t be totally off the mark if you called it an explosion instead of an expansion. When I’m on the top of my game the clothes are already laid out in their closet cubbies and we have plenty of breakfast options. Other days, not so much. There is a slightly frantic rush to find clean clothes starting with the always popular “Are these clothes clean or dirty” game down in the laundry room. Socks are located, outfits are put together, and with pajamas strewn across the family room floor the kids are finally dressed to leave the house. Then there is the dreaded school paperwork. I don’t know about your kids, but my kids come home with what seems like thirty sheets of paper every day. What is homework? What was stuff they already did at school? Do I return this? Sign that? Oh you need lunch money again? Where is my checkbook?! And the library books? I think I saw Jack take one into the living room last Friday but I can’t be quite sure.
Breakfast is another marathon sometimes. Me: “What do you want?”
Finn: “Do we have waffles?” No.
“Can you make pancakes?” No time.
“Egg sandwich?” No eggs.
This also happens with lunch. Trust me, I am not offering a myriad of options each day, I like to keep it pretty simple. But my kids can somehow come up with combinations so complex that literally each day is a different combination from the previous day. Tuna yesterday but no tuna today, gummy snacks and a banana, NO APPLES cause they got brown, ew. The next day it’s all tuna and apples. Or one of them will go a long stretch with one favorite, something I will literally stock up on, only to have them decide eleven minutes before the bus arrives that they hate that option now. Have I done the “You will eat what I give you and like it” thing? Of course I have. But I still do TRY to give them what they want and avoiding having them waste food (which I HATE).
The clock on my stove might as well have one of those old timey bombs attached to it, tick, tick, tick, because as each minute counts down I get more and more frantic. “FINN GET YOUR SNEAKERS ON” as I try to brush Levy’s hair with the least amount of tears. All through this there is a small child wandering around still in pajamas, half a piece of toast and a milk cuppie in both hands also demanding attention and two dogs looking at me like I have been neglecting them for months because the dog food breakfast is four minutes late. Sometimes I wish I had a pack of wipes that could attach to a belt loop because I need to be armed with two wipes every morning, making sure I get a good swipe to each face before I send them out the door.
But no. They are still not ready. One of them has to go to the bathroom and it is literally the EXACT minute the bus is supposed to arrive. So as I say a silent prayer to the universe for the bus to be late I rip off Lev’s backpack so she doesn’t let the straps fall in the toilet and wait by the door in case the bus arrives while Finn tells me a story about robot Lego Star Wars zombies and Jack feeds his toast to the dog.
Somehow, moments before the bus arrives, I have two clean, fed, ready for school children. They have no dirt on their faces and I am fairly sure I have signed all the school slips and packed the correct food for each child. And they are smiling, and I kiss their little faces and wave as they walk down to meet the bus. And in that moment, as I wave and blow kisses, I have to admit I feel pretty smug and self satisfied that I once again pulled it off.
Should I feel smug about doing what is pretty much a basic, standard parenting chore? Yes, I think I should. It makes me feel good that I can pull it off, especially on the craziest days when I am under deadline, or have a meeting to run off to, or am just plain exhausted. The small victories help me feel better about the times I screw up, when I miss things because of work or when I snap at the kids over something unimportant. You can build a life on these small victories, let them buoy you up during those dark moments, the difficult times. You can build a happy childhood on small victories, they all add up into something bigger, something lasting.
In those first few moments as the bus drives out of sight, I feel good that I have met their little needs, and my house is quiet for a second (relatively quiet, I mean, Jack is climbing over the side of the couch and shouting “Luna! Luna!” at the dog but that is considered “quiet” in this house), and I get to exhale for a second. What did I do this morning? I got two kids on the bus on time. Go me. xoxo