Last week I had a mini-revelation in my minivan as I was driving my youngest two children to school.
My son is usually unflappable, bordering on phlegmatic. Lately, however, he has been extremely crabby and hypersensitive in the mornings. It’s been like navigating through a minefield.
When we arrive at school, late as usual, the kids get out of the car and I say:
“Bye! Love you! Hope you have a beautiful day! Mwah! Mwah!”
While I can always count on some sort of reply from my daughter, my son has been responding with stony silence.
Sometimes, just to make myself feel better, I’ll answer for him, “O.K.! Bye, dearest Mother, who gave birth to me and has taken loving care of me for ten years! I love you too!” He doesn’t even bother to glance back over his shoulder.
Last week, starting on Tuesday we started our streak of punctuality. On both Tuesday and Wednesday, although it was looking a little dicey, we just managed to get to school on time. This past Thursday, we were actually early for a change. When my son realized this, he became positively gleeful. He chirped all the way to school. I’m not exaggerating when I tell you, the boy was CROWING that we were definitely going to make it to school on time. I could see his eyes in the rearview mirror, crinkling with the smile that was on his face. He was singing songs and cracking jokes…It made me so happy, but it also broke my heart…I had long ago come to terms with our perpetual tardiness, and I’d assumed that everyone else had too.
I realized in that moment how trying it must be for this child, who prizes order and schedules and predictability to live in a household in which we by and large fly by the seat of our pants. I realized that it must pain him to have to sign the “late book” at school 4 days out of every 5. I realized how hard it must be for him to have to depend on rides from a mother, who swells with pride when she manages to get her kids to school on time three whole days in a row.
On Friday, as we drove over the rumbly wooden bridge that signals that we are almost at school, I glanced at the clock.
“Guys! It’s a new record!!! We’re going to be on time for the FOURTH DAY IN A ROW!” I announced with unseemly, naked exultation.
There was a lot of whooping and hollering and cheering until a tiny little voice piped up from the back…
“Wait a minute…Is this really something we should be celebrating?” my daughter asked doubtfully.
There was an uncomfortable silence as we contemplated the truth of this observation.
“Hey! Don’t ruin our moment!” her brother finally said, and we started cheering for ourselves again.
I wanted to tell my boy right then and there that I was going to turn over a new leaf. I wanted to swear to him that they would be on time for the rest of the school year. But I couldn’t in good conscience make that promise. So, while I don’t dare utter the words out loud, I am resolving to do my very best to get the kids to school on time almost every day for the rest of the school year, or at least more days than not…
I’m going into single-parenting survival mode for the next couple of weeks, while my husband is away in Poland. If I don’t show up here for awhile, you’ll know why. Please wish us all luck…we’re going to need it!
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