Now that the school year is in full swing, I’ve been thinking about the way we start the weekday around my house. Today, for example, was a day that did not start especially well. It was picture day (of course), so my first task was to attempt to coax my youngest child into some adorable clothes while she declared mightily that she did NOT want to go to Kindergarten, except okay, actually she did want to go. Then I spent half an hour following her around with a hairbrush trying to convince her to let me put pigtails in her hair for picture day, so that we might remember these days as we wish they were, instead of how they actually are (I’m lucky if my child allows a brush to run through her hair once, let alone some kind of “do”). She tolerates having her hair brushed, but she despises having her hair put up in any fashion. She prefers to look like a ragamuffin child that nobody cares about — it is an angle that works for her, as I think it makes people take pity on her and give her treats.
At any rate, it turned out that she did not care that it was picture day — she wanted instead to rip out each pigtail as I put it in and weep about how she didn’t know what she wanted for breakfast. My son, meanwhile, was instructed to put on clothes, but instead rolled around on his bed for 45 minutes. When I came in and expressed exasperation that he was not yet dressed, he declared that this is because he was “too cold” to get dressed. Since it is only September, I can only imagine what this will mean for decidedly colder months like December or January. But anyway, I helped his small, whiny shivery body dress in the picture day appropriate clothing I had chosen, steered him towards the table where I asked him to choose a breakfast option, at which point he began to weep that he didn’t KNOW what he wanted for breakfast. I finally convinced the two of them to suck down an applesauce pack each, and then I set to work finding shoes, sweaters, jackets, bike helmets, a pencil case (“because Colby has one!!!!”), their planners, the lunches that, as luck would have it, I had prepared the night before, library books, signed notices, backpacks, water bottles, etc, etc, etc. A friend was coming to walk them to school, so I tried to hastily kiss them and send them on their way. My daughter was having none of it. “Mamaaaa. I WANTED cereal. Can’t you come with us?! Mama … We didn’t brush our teeth!”
In the end I promised to stop by her class on my way out that morning to a work event, and I did, and she was totally fine by the time I got there. Of course.
This type of morning, though so often unavoidable, I find so devastatingly unsatisfying. Sometimes the only moments I get with my children in any given day are those morning moments, as a few days a week they have after school care and then their Dad puts them to bed on the evenings that I’m at work. And I can’t feel guilt over this reality, since it’s a necessity for us that we both work, but I can and do feel the guilt over the days when we have a bad start together, realizing that that’s the taste I’ve left in their mouth of their Mommy — a harried, stressed out, panicking woman who appears to care more about the number of lates on their report cards than that they get another bowl of cereal or another lingering hug.
And so I’ve resolved to work hard to shift this. At the very least, I’ve decided, I will hold them for at least five seconds, laugh with them once, and tell them how much they mean to me. These are the things I want to warm them throughout the day. These are the memories of me I want to linger. And I know there will still be rough days, and on those days I resolve to make repair attempts whenever I can, and let them know that even though it was a rough morning, Mommy loves them so very much, and always will. Even these gestures will allow me to warm their little hearts, and that’s not a bad start to the day.
Maybe I’m letting the cereal commercials about kids getting a “good start” or a “strong start” get to me. A good start would be hard, and that I don’t think I can achieve. But a “not-bad” start is something I do think I can achieve. One more hug. A ziploc bag of cereal that she can take with her out the door. No pigtails. This is the stuff that not-bad mornings are made of.