The morning begins with my beautiful, newly-5-year-old boy poking at my eyelids. (His birthday was Saturday and I can hardly believe he will soon be a kindergartener.)
“Shhh….” I say, drowsily.
“Mom, it’s time to start the day,” he says. Our noses are touching and I can see only his giant, blue eyes.
“Uh-huh,” I grumble.
“Can you get up and put Super Hero Squad on for me?”
“Go pee-pee, Luke.”
I peel myself off the bed and go into the kids’ room to get Madeleine out of her crib.
“Mommy, I want my vitamin,” Madeleine says immediately. “I want a waffle. And chocolate milk, Mom.”
She scoots into the bathroom to observe Luke, who becomes distracted by his sister.
“Go, Madeleine! Go away!” He turns toward her and shouts.
There isn’t time for me to intervene. Suddenly it smells like we’re in a train station bathroom. He had squirted urine between the toilet and the wall. Enter bleach. Oh, how I enjoy donning rubber gloves and bleaching the bathroom upon just opening my eyes.
Brush teeth, TV on, diaper change, breakfast, COFFEE. Now it’s time to leave for camp.
“Luke, please put your sneakers on.”
He jumps beneath the table.
“Please, put your sneakers on.”
“You can’t see me,” he giggles from his hiding spot, “You can’t hear me.”
“PUT. YOUR. SNEAKERS. ON. Now I’ve said it three times.”
I turn to take a last sip of coffee.
“Madeleine hit me!”
“I hit brother!” she laughs.
“Madeleine hit me, again! She hit me, again!”
I won’t lie. I wanted to cry. Not about the kids being kids who, reasonably, have no concept of time or punctuality. That wouldn’t be fair. I wanted to cry because in that moment I felt frustration rise in my throat as I looked around at our small, crowded home. Which, normally I have affection for and think of as charming and well-loved. But today all I could see were the fives piles of laundry arranged on the floor in the hallway. (We don’t have a laundry room, just a closet with a stackable, so my laundry room is the hallway or kitchen or bedroom.) I could see only the dishes in the sink, toys scattered about, the food shopping list on the table, and the grayish footprints in the bathtub that I was too tired to clean last night after the last bath had been taken. There were pint-sized attitudes to deal with, errands and calls to make, and the icing on the cupcake – my “ladies” issue going on (let’s just say a wet bathing suit all weekend is not a girl’s friend come Monday). Oh wait, here comes the rationale…Why am I upset? I’m my own boss, aren’t I? If this stuff doesn’t get done it’s no big deal.
The kids are loaded into the car. I buckle Madeleine and Luke starts screaming. Not about anything specific, he just enjoys yelling at the very top of his newly-5-year-old lungs. I close the door on Madeleine’s side and I can still hear him belting it out although no doors are open. The sound slices right through me. Why does he have to scream?
I open the door on Luke’s side and buckle him a bit more firmly than usual.
“Ouch! That hurts my pee-pee!”
I loosen the harness and whisper in his ear, “Stop shouting. Stop. Shouting. Please.”
I had read somewhere that when a parent lowers their voice it takes the child by surprise, since they’re expecting to be yelled at, and therefore helps them to calm down.
It works. He settles down. I turn on the Sesame Street album.
“Sing…sing a song…make it simple….”
For some reason, you know when something clicks and your mood changes, I begin to relax. Maybe it’s the abscence of shrill shrieks in the air and instead the lovely sound of silence. Or maybe I took the advice of a muppet. Elmo, you smug bastard.