The Diva walked into the kitchen yesterday wearing an old t-shirt featuring a quote from one of my stories. The quote: My family, like most Southern gentry before us, thrives on panic and distress.
“You need to get dressed for school, honey,” I said.
“I am dressed,” she replied
At the time I had a knife full of peanut butter in one hand, a cup of coffee in the other, and a dog leash under my foot. The 6-year-old was screaming, “TAKE ME POTTY!” and the boy was screaming, “COME GET ME DRESSED. RIGHT. NOW.” Also, I was trying to figure out why a small plastic rifle was lodged at the bottom of the jelly jar.
Hot Firefighter Husband sat at the table reading the news on an iPad. “Wow,” he said. “They discovered a meth lab at the Marriott.”
How fascinating! And scary! Good thing you’re here in this calm, safe environment devoid of all volatility.
So there may have been a little snap to my voice when I said, “No! You can’t wear a ratty old t-shirt to school! Go change immediately.”
“No! Just do it!”
A few minutes later she stomped into the kitchen wearing a different shirt and started making her lunch while noisily giving me the silent treatment. Isn’t it strange how the silent treatment can sound so loud?
“I don’t know why you’re mad at me, but cut it out right now,” I SNAPPED. “I don’t have time for this in the morning. I hate to snap. It just happens sometimes.
She looked up at me with tears in her eyes. “I only wore that shirt to make you feel good because I know you love it and the little kids were making you so mad and I just thought it would make you happy,” she wailed. Her little bird shoulders heaved and big fat drops welled behind her scratched-up glasses. “I was just trying to help and I didn’t do anything wrong and I’m sorry!”
I pulled her to my chest and kissed her hair and whispered my apologies for several long minutes. The Pterodactyl muttered BAD MOMMY under his breath and kicked a cabinet, and the Tyrant ate some chips and bitched about snickerdoodle cookies.
If being a mom is a job, and IT TOTALLY IS, it’s without any kind of performance review. I can’t get promoted, fired or reprimanded by anyone other than my over-developed conscience. SPECIAL THANKS TO THE SISTERS OF THE SACRED HEART!
Some mornings I do my job well – the children trot to the bus stop smiling, with hair and teeth brushed and bellies full with eggs and orange juice. Sometimes the Tyrant even wears underwear.
Other days, I’m dragging the bawling Tyrant by the arm threatening to send her to school in her pajamas, and the boy eats gummy bear vitamins for breakfast.
Who cares how many good days versus bad days I have? I realized over the holidays that I do. I care. I conducted my own performance review on myself and checked a lot of imaginary boxes marked NEEDS IMPROVEMENT.
First on the list is overhauling our morning routine, which means me waking at 5:45 to dress, make lunches and organize backpacks before the kids wake up so that I can set a relaxed, calm tone for the morning. I can make breakfast, give extra hugs and take Buddy the Wonder Dog out to pee AGAIN without falling into a time crunch.
Why do I have to set the tone? I ask Husband that all the time and he never answers. But here’s why: IT’S MY JOB. My children are a collective mood ring, and I am the finger. My kids feel what I feel, they act how I act, they reflect the very behaviors I seek to drum out of them through nothing more complicated that osmosis.
Did you see the Disney movie Brave? The main character, Merida the princess/tomboy, has long flowing red hair and shoots a wicked bow and arrow. She’s the only princess to end a movie happily without a man. YEAH! She kind of reminds me of me – the whole tomboy-long red hair thing, although I do like to have a man around.
One day last week, I came home from errands to find the Tyrant whacked out because her brother had chopped off Merida’s hair. Merida no longer looked like a princess wild child. She instead looked like….okay, you’re not going to believe this, but she looked like me. I mean, not that I wear Scottish gowns regularly, but it looked like a caricature of me: grown-up, no time for long hair, ready to tackle a day of wood chopping and stew boiling.
I’m not sure how much sense I’m making. I guess I just want you to know I’m changing. I’ve chopped off my hair and put a pot on the stove. I think I’m growing up.