On a recent morning, I woke up to Anna kicking me in the head. (Who needs an alarm clock when you have kids?)
Some nights, Anna sleeps in her bed, contentedly, until morning. Other nights (most nights), she yells out around midnight or 3 a.m. (depending on if she napped that day), “Mom! Dad! MOMDADMOMDAD!” and it’s easier to snuggle her into bed with us rather than rock her back to sleep. (A motto for this season in my life could be, “I give up.”)
Now, Anna is a petite 2-year-old, and she weighs less than 30 pounds. However, she takes up a lot of space in our queen-sized bed. Her preferred sleeping position is smack dab in the middle, at the top, across both pillows, arms flailing and legs kicking, without rhyme or reason, throughout the night. Good night, and good luck.
She also notices if I get out of bed. Not Stanton—who often escapes to the guest bedroom or family-room couch—but myself, “Mom.” When I get up to, God forbid, use the restroom, or make coffee, I soon hear a small yet accusatory voice from atop the two pillows: “Mom? Come…back!”
Mornings can be rough, in my home and maybe in yours too. Everyone needs to get to where they have to go—clean, dressed, fed, with all their stuff…and preferably on time—in a short span of time. There is little wiggle room, and occasionally some (lots of?) stress.
On that particular morning, the one where Anna kicked me in the head, Stanton woke up with a sore throat. He had a full day of presentations ahead of him, so I rifled my Yogi Throat Comfort tea out of a kitchen cabinet. “Here, have some of this, and take extra with you,” I said.
“I don’t need it,” he replied.
“I promise it will make you feel better,” I said.
“I’ll be fine,” he promised instead.
I pointed to the guest room doorknob. “Did you see the new dress shirts I bought for you? You can wear one today.”
Stanton looked at me, bewildered. “I already have shirts.”
Current life motto? That’s right, friends: “I give up.”
Now, the subject of clothes didn’t end there—no, not that day. Because that day just so happened to be “Dress Like a Farmer Day” at Grace’s elementary school, and “Wear Red Day” at Anna’s preschool. Grace was learning about agriculture; Anna was learning colors.
The night before, I had pulled out a pair of jeans and a white top from Grace’s dresser. I had also rummaged through several boxes in the basement, in search of a pink cowgirl hat I knew was down there…somewhere…which I did eventually find. I also found, in the dining room hutch, a green gingham cloth napkin that could double as a bandana. Grace and I had agreed that these items would work as her outfit for “Dress Like a Farmer Day.”
But come morning… Grace tossed the cloth napkin on a counter. “I wish it was pink, like my hat,” she said. “Pink is prettier than green.”
Grace has got her colors down pat.
Anna, meanwhile, didn’t like her red pants. “No…have…pockets!” she shouted.
Grace prefers pink; Anna wants pockets. I sighed.
At this point, Stanton amiably waved goodbye. “See you in a couple of days, girls. Love you!”
Because that day just so happened to be ‘Dress Like a Farmer Day’ at Grace’s elementary school, and ‘Wear Red Day’ at Anna’s preschool.
It was about 7:30 a.m. I needed to take a quick shower. “Girls…you can watch TV together while I get ready,” I said. “Just one show.”
“Yay!” Grace ran to the family room.
“I love TV!” Anna shouted, running after her. Then, as an afterthought, she shouted with the same enthusiasm, “I love Walmart!”
(This is a true story.)
What would other moms think of me if they heard my preschooler’s crack-of-dawn declarations? Love for TV? Walmart? Let me just say here, in my defense, that I turned on PBS Kids for my daughters that morning. Educational TV, OK? So…there’s that.
But yes, it’s true: Under the Supermom entry in Merriam-Webster’s, you won’t find my name.
Grace’s and Anna’s schools start at the same time, which is—to say the least—logistically inconvenient. So we get Grace to school on time, and Anna is always, reliably, 20 minutes late. But as everyone from my own mom to Anna’s teachers have reassured me…it’s preschool.
Speaking of my own mom, I asked her, “How did you do it?”
My mom had four kids; I have half that. My mom worked full-time; I’m a freelance writer (which, depending on the month, is a synonym for “unemployed”). Both my dad, throughout my childhood, and my husband, now, travel(ed) for their jobs. It’s difficult (and unhelpful) to compare one family situation to another, but for sure, my mom had a lot to do.
“How,” I wondered, “did you get everything done, every Monday through Friday morning, for years?”
My mom laughed and replied, “By the time I got to work, my body felt ready for a nap.” I could believe it. Especially now that Grace has started kindergarten—real school, real accountability—along with all the usual doctor’s appointments, sports practices and games, and family commitments as before.
(Later this week, by the way, is School Picture Day/Early Dismissal.)
How do you do it, friends?
Under the Supermom entry in Merriam-Webster’s, you won’t find my name.
Let me be the first to acknowledge that I do it, but not always well. Some days are great, even the mornings. Other days, I raise my voice at my daughters…or I’m distracted when they’re trying to tell me something…or I forget to buy something for someone’s school project.
A woman I very much respect recently said something that struck me. She was telling the story of someone—a nonprofit leader, I think—who, when asked about the toil of his work, said, “It’s not something I’ve got to do; it’s something I get to do.”
Not something I’ve got to do; something I get to do. I loved that. I try to remember that every day.
One evening, I was rocking Anna to sleep. (In several hours’ time, she’d probably be kicking me in my bed, but for the moment…) She was almost asleep. Then, unprompted, she said, “I really love you, Mom,” before snuggling against my chest and nodding off at last.
Moments like that, I feel I’m the luckiest person in the world. I understand the “get to do this.” The price you pay for the privilege.
This story started with clothes, and that’s where it’s going to end too. So…School Picture Day/Early Dismissal. Grace and I were looking through her dresser, picking out contenders for her School Picture Day photo. “And remember, Mom,” Grace said, “we get out early too.”
“Yes,” I said. I had written it down on the calendar.
“If you forget to pick me up…”
“I’ll be there,” I told Grace.
She looked up at me and smiled. “I know.”
“I give up,” and “Happy.”
Photo credit: Pixabay
Like what you just read? Then check out Melissa Leddy’s newest short fiction e-book, “This Is Just a Story.” Fun, timely and thought-provoking.