This morning I awoke completely disoriented at 5:30 a.m., and realized I had miraculously slept all night long! I couldn’t remember the last time I had slept for more than six hours, or more than four for that matter … perhaps my second trimester of pregnancy? At seven a.m., after a brief nursing session and a blissful return to sleep, I felt remarkably refreshed, and in another sad moment of parental irony thought to myself, “This is going to be a great morning.”
Things started smoothly enough, but about 30 minutes before we were to depart for school, after which I would promptly drive to work, my six-year-old mentioned urgently that today was the parent-child pancake breakfast at her school. After a split-second of panicking, I flashed back to other erroneous verbal reports and miscommunications: “We need to bring seeds to preschool today!!!” “We were supposed to do a special homework project with puppets!” “We forgot to order my birthday cake!”
I calmed down, reminded myself that Izzy was six and I was the parent, and replied, “I don’t think so honey. We would have gotten a flyer in your Friday folder or a note from the school.” Izzy continued to fret, whine, and plead with me. “Why do you think the pancake breakfast is this morning?” I finally asked, trying to return some logic to our conversation. “Because I saw it on the calendar!” she insisted, her tone escalating. In a moment of level-headed brilliance, I checked the school’s website. Nothing on the calendar- surely it would be listed there? Wouldn’t we would have received a letter?
I began to second guess myself, probably due to the number of important documents, handouts, and receipts we had characteristically misfiled in the past. I tried once again to convince her that there was no way that the parent breakfast would be taking place without our knowledge. “But what if it was?” the disorganized voice of failure within whispered. My confidence in this assertion wavered, and I’m sure my perceptive daughter could smell the hopeful desperation in my voice.
My own tone escalating, I hurried everyone into the car, my mouth set in a grim line. “Why does she have to pull this crap when we are on our way out the door?” I thought with frustration. As she continued to whine and now cry, I began to bark in response, “ENOUGH! I do not think the parent breakfast is today, but if it is, there is NOTHING WE CAN DO ABOUT IT!”
Like a wounded puppy, Izzy whimpered, “But what if I don’t know anyone? Where will I sit?”
“YOU WILL JUST GO TO YOUR CLASSROOM!” I shouted, “It’s time for school!”
“But the breakfast!” she wailed.
“THERE IS NO WAY THAT THE BREAKFAST IS HAPPENING WITHOUT MOMMY KNOWING ABOUT IT!” I argued back loudly. I called my husband, who was also in the dark, and then in a stroke of genius, I called the school, figuring we could at least alleviate the stress of the last two minutes of our drive. Either that or I would proudly rise to claim my “Mother of the Year” award. There was, to my great relief, NO PARENT BREAKFAST. It would be held in November.
Izzy received this news with a mixture of relief and remorse. “See?” I said triumphantly. “Sometimes you have to trust Mommy and Daddy to know what is going on.” My inner tyrant muttered, “Yes, because you’ve proven to be so reliable and organized in the past!” Izzy began to cry harder. “I thought it was today!” she sobbed. I felt awful, and pulled the van over to the curb in an attempt to get the situation under control. I comforted her as best I could, considering I was still fuming over our disharmonious morning.
“You need to learn that grownups are in charge of important things. You drained all my energy with your whining this morning,” I explained as I prepared to pull back into traffic. I noticed three school buses behind me, and knew I would have to wait for them to pass me, then wait behind them at the shortest green arrow ever as we turned onto the school’s street. I began to stew again, flooded with resentment that Izzy’s crying and sensitive nature had caused me to pull over in the first place.
Apparently the aggravation was too much, and I was unable to keep my mouth shut. “Now we have to wait for these buses!” I scolded, driving over a cumbersome cluster of branches as I pulled out. The unpleasant scraping noise under the van informed me we were dragging it. Letting loose with an expletive, I sighed loudly and stomped out of the car. “Don’t be mad!” Izzy screeched hysterically, bawling. “Fuck!” I shouted as soon as I had slammed the door behind me. “Shut up,” I yelled at the small dog who was yapping frantically at the crazy woman entering his territory. Yes, I am that big of an asshole. I shout at dachshunds.
I crouched on the ground and freed the unwieldy bunch from the undercarriage of our vehicle, certain I would ruin my jeans just to top things off. Reentering the car to the soundtrack of my daughter’s crying, I realized I had to get it together. “Izzy,” I began, “you need to stop freaking out about little things.” I had an out of body experience as I watched the words float out of my mouth. The glaring hypocrisy smacked me in the face, but it was too late to take my duplicitous words back. Hmmm…where on earth does she get this irritating tendency? Again I must reference the e-card that makes me squirm with recognition.
|Ack. Why does it have to be so true?|
I tried again. “You know what? You and Mommy both sometimes get upset and freak out over small things. I think we can both do a better job. When you were whining and crying, Mommy got frustrated and shouted. I’m really sorry.” I hadn’t been proud of my behavior, but I did my best to rectify the situation: I acknowledged my part, I apologized, and I listened to my daughter’s feelings. We can’t always handle every situation perfectly, but we can always do our best to make things right as soon as possible.
Izzy then shared with me a story she had read about monkeys who misbehaved. “Just because someone does something wrong, you can’t do the same thing. It makes it worse,” she advised me, clearly having comprehended the moral of the story. Palm, meet forehead. “You’re right Izzy. You got upset, I got upset, and then you got more upset, and I got more upset. It was a bad morning. Can we both work on the way we talk to each other?” I suggested.
There wasn’t much else I could do to salvage the emotional trainwreck of our day’s beginning. I made sure to give her a hug and kiss, usually a taboo exchange in the ill-named “Hug and Go” lane at school, and sent her on her way with a reminder that I loved her. Tomorrow I will do better.
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