The only thing I hate as much as having the kids home for summer vacation is getting them ready for school in the morning.
Perhaps HATE sounds like a strong word to you and you are wondering if it is appropriate for me to utilize it in this situation. And now that I’ve considered it, you’re right, I want to revisit my word choice.
So let’s start again.
The thing in the world that I MOST HATE, that I freaking detest, with every ounce of my being, from the bottom of my stretch marked soul, is getting my kids ready for school in the morning. It is a task I would not wish on my worst enemy. It involves manoeuvres that challenge the limits of mind, body, spirit and propensity toward excessive imbibing.
People often stop me and ask me how I manage to get 5 children (the 6th is in high school and must, alas, fend for herself) ready for school each day. “Nicole,” they say, with an air of incredulity, “How do you do it?” . Of course I know what they are REALLY saying. They are really saying “Nicole, I’m glad it’s you and not me”.
But I tell them truthfully, once you get the routine down, it’s really pretty predictable. (Predictable in that it is always horrible and spirit destroying.)
And so, to show you just how easy it is (not) and to give props to the Population Control supporters who I know are SO EXCITED and LOVE ALL my work, I give you a step-by-step guide to my morning routine.
Admittedly, it might look a bit daunting on paper, but I think you’ll find that once you give it whirl, you should be fairly skilled at the process in about 10-15 years.
How to Leave the House For School (in 27 easy steps)
7:08 am: Alarm goes off. Wake up in pool of own sweat as nervous system has anticipated the horror that is Tuesday Morning in Hell (AKA, a cul-de-sac, just outside of Detroit). Wipe body moisture off with sheet from husband’s side of the bed. Close eyes and attempt to pray the day away.
7:16 am: Alarm goes off again. Still Tuesday. Open eyes and begin the process of psyching up for The Routine. You got this, girl. Ain’t no way it can be as bad as yesterday. Ain’t no way they can pull that shit off two days in a row.
7:19 am: Recall, with unfortunate precision, that the string of continuous Horrible Start to School Day Mornings is at 264 days running. Regret every choice in a series of successive bad choices that led to this dismal life station. (This takes far less time than you may have thought).
7:21 am: Push self up from the bed and throw back the covers. Do some shadow-boxing, a la Rocky Balboa in my stained shirt and 2 day old yoga pants. Hum the chorus to Eye of The Tiger. It’s go time.
7:23 am: Wake up 9 year old son, who is huddled and snoring, clutching his ‘boy’ turtle, Beatrice—“Time to get up Frankie.” Abrupt awakening by said son. Reply, by him, for the 63rd school day this year: “I didn’t sleep at all last night. And my throat hurts. I probably have to stay home.”
7:25 am: Wake up 11 year old autistic son, who is sleeping on top of his ipad screen, a YouTube video frozen under his cheek. The video entitled “Riding the elevator at the Science Center” is paused just as the elevator’s doors were poised to open. “Time to get up Dominic!”. Slouching son struggles to sit upright, slow to emerge from autism-induced, elevator watching hangover.
7:26 am: Step into step-daughter’s room. See that she is already awake and smiling. Feel suspicious. Proceed to offer seven different clothing choices. None of which are approved by the constituency. 8th outfit, chosen by the people, for the people: neon green sweatpants and orange tee-shirt. At least she will be easy to spot in the pickup-line.
7:28 am: Walk into the room shared by 6 year old son and 6 year old step son. Give two smallest boys their clothing, with no objections from either boy. Yes! Feel strange sensation surge through my tightly constricted veins. Hope? Joy? Mononucleosis? Suppress the sensation. Remind them both to put on the clean underwear and socks that are laid out before they come downstairs.
7:31 am: Walk past 11 year old’s room and hear the distinct “Ding Ding” of an elevator and the “flap flap” of arms in autistic flight as they await the doors pushing open. “DOMINIC! GET DRESSED!”
7:32 am: Stumble downstairs. Search desperately through freezer for frozen waffles. Inquire about said waffles with 9 year old son, as he comes downstairs, clutching his middle section. “Do you know what happened to the waffles I had in the freezer?” “Yes, mom, we had them for dinner last night while you were at your meeting. And mom? My throat doesn’t hurt anymore. But now my stomach hurts”.
7:33 am: Youngest boys appear downstairs. One has put on both his shirt and pants backwards. Neither have on socks.
7:34 am: Four children, in various states of dress and ailment, amass in the family room and clamour for foodstuffs.
7:34:30 am: Good news! For the first time, in the history of the 2 families that were merged in this house, a consensus appears.
7:34:45 am: Bad news! The consensus is that, without waffles, breakfast is going to be absolutely impossible.
7:35 am “Pop-tarts?” I try not to sound as desperate as I feel. “Cheerios? Mini-muffins? Go-gurts?”
7:35:30 am: “No. No. No. Aaaaaand No.”
7:36 am: “How about some this cold pizza your dad was supposed to serve you for dinner last night?”
7:36:30 am: Peace offering accepted. Return back upstairs for forgotten socks and elevator-obsessed son.
7:37 am: “Ding, Ding.” Take his ipad away and hand him his shirt. He careens his neck over my shoulder to watch the elevator doors slam shut in his video. Shake head at him and try to look mean. “No! Bad! You’re going to be late!” “No! BAD!” he parrots loudly and smiles a bit too sweetly.
7:38 am: Find clean underwear untouched on youngest boys beds. Return back downstairs with socks, hand to boys. “Put these on, please?”
7:39 am: Catch large yellow flash outside front door. “DOMINIC! DOMINIC! YOUR BUS IS HERE!”. Wave out front door to bus driver in what is either the universal sign for “He’s coming out in one minute!” or “Help me, help me FORGODSAKE HELP ME!”. She nods and clearly doesn’t give a fuck.
7:40 am: Dominic grabs backpack, heads out front door. I breathe, but only a little. One down, four to go.
7:41 am: Remind the duo of boys who sit perched in yesterday’s underwear to put on socks, for the third time in 15 minutes. Because it has been 3 minutes since last reminder, all socks have gone missing. I am the only one, apparently, with any fucks to give about this. Race back upstairs for new socks and take a SHORT little break to scream expletives with face buried into bed pillow.
7:42 am: For everyone’s safety, physically put socks on the feet of the children. Begin distributing peanut-free, frustration-free packaged healthy snacks into backpacks. Fish out yesterday’s uneaten peanut-free frustration-free packaged healthy snacks. Along with 2 field trip permission slips and notice of overdue library book charge of $11.00.
7:43 am: Herd all children into the hall and help them dress in winter coats, boots, hats, gloves and scarves to prepare for the 2 minute DRIVE to the bus stop.
7:47 am: Help 6 year old take off winter coat, boots, hat, gloves and scarf so he can pee.
7:48 am: Help 6 year old put back on winter coat, boots, hat, gloves and scarf.
7:49 am: Coax all children into the garage, into the car, into their seats with false promises, unreasonable accommodations and offers of candy to be delivered at later (never) dates.
7:50 am: Wave sadly at the neighbour in her mini-van at the bus stop and have silent, wordless conversation from our respective cars. How are you? Are you mocking me? I know, I know. Wouldn’t it be nice if we could actually talk to each other or have conversations like real people instead of nodding and moaning through our car windows? Yeah, well. Maybe when summer comes and we don’t have to do this every single weekday morning. Yeah, but when summer comes they will be home all day. Good point. So, then. See you never.
7:51 am: Return to empty house for five hours of “me time” (as my ex-husband might call it) before they all return home again, activities which include, but are not limited to: Cleaning the house, doing the laundry, shopping for peanut-free, frustration-free packaged snacks that no one but me ever eats, searching for pairs of socks in the couch cushions, praying that my babysitter doesn’t get a boyfriend and writing posts that serve as birth control for those more fortunate (with less children).
Is that 27 steps? I’m too exhausted by the process and the writing of it to go back and count.
Listen, there are many wonderful aspects of having children (kisses, hugs, someone to feed you Subway sandwiches when you become senile and are living alone with 73 cats), but getting them ready for school in the morning is NOT one of them. It’s like herding cats in a field of catnip. Nobody is ever where they are supposed to be and there’s always the chance that someone is going to get bitten.
And we both know, mom, that this “someone” is always going to be you.
So stop fighting it. Follow my easy 27 step process or don’t. Mornings are going to suck either way.
And look on the bright side. At least it isn’t summer break.