It’s the first full day of school for both of my kids (the first few days last week were only half days) and I’m excited to get them ready and get them gone!
“What do you want for breakfast?” I ask my son first thing in the morning.
“Waffles!” my son says enthusiastically.
“We don’t have any right now!” I reply, he knows we don’t have waffles, “You’re choices are Toast and Cereal.”
“Peanut butter toast, I guess,” He says, a little disappointed.
“What do you want for breakfast?” I say to his sister, her room is directly next to his.
“I…I, I don’t know!” she says a little flustered… “Pancakes!” she says, with complete knowledge that pancakes are only for weekends and holidays, but willing to brave the frustration on my face for a chance at weekday morning breakfast bliss.
“I’m NOT making you pancakes!” I respond and begin to shuffle away.
I’m slinking down the stairs sideways, one step at a time, I broke my ankle on a trail when I was 28 and it’s only been sore every morning since. When I get to the kitchen I’ll have to use my half-awake, un-caffeinated brain and use it quickly, the clock is ticking until my wife is done getting ready and has to go to work, dropping the kids off at school on the way. Two major tasks and approximately a half hour to accomplish them, pack their lunches and make their breakfast:
I got this.
It starts with a slice of bread in the toaster for the boy, a slice of toast with peanut butter, great breakfast for a growing young lad…his sister, is much less decisive, still no order placed from her, but no worries. I get the one slice of toast going and begin to open both lunch boxes side by side pulling out the old, once full, Tupperware containers inside and inspecting them for evidence of their former contents. Hmmm crackers? Sure I’ll use that one again. What’s this? This one’s all greasy? What did I feed this kid last week that was greasy?
The toast pops up from it’s electrified crisping sling which prompts me to pull down a plastic kids plate and some peanut butter, I’ll get back to the lunches in a second. I lay the peanut butter on thick for the boy, he’s not shy when it comes to peanut butter and I’ve got no problem giving it to him! That shit has everything a growing 8 year old needs, protein, vitamins, fat, carbs…yup, I’m a pretty good dad over here, not feeding my kid any of that nutrition-less candy in a box they market as “cereal,” (although we do keep some in the cupboard, but we buy crappy organic kinds so they won’t ever choose them..heh, heh). I finish the toast and plop it down on his spot at the table…It’s literally a “plop.” The boy is dressed and ready and he begins to tear into his food, I can hear the smacking and crunching as I grab his sister’s cup (still at the table from last night) and take it directly to the refrigerator/ice machine so I can fill her cup with ice water. That’s all I can really know for sure with this girl…i,c,e,w,a,t,e,r. Same cup, day after day...ice water(it rotates occasionally, but overall it’s like the same 3 cups). I place the cup clinking with ice and a metal straw (love these metal straws) where it goes, every day, in the upper right-hand corner of a ‘Trolls’ place mat, the boy smacking and chewing, his sister no where to be found.
Time to get back to the lunches, but on the way back I’m going to pass the pantry cabinet so I might as well get out their vitamins. Four gummies from the bottle in the cabinet (two for each kid) and two of the chewable probiotics in the fridge (one for each kid). I grab the gummies and go put them on their place mats, the boy inhales his with a mouthful of peanut butter and toast. The girl is still nowhere to be found.
Alright, back to the lunches, let’s see, what do we have in the fridge? Last week the kids came home with A LOT of bread in their lunch box, so let’s just put the turkey and cheese in a little baggie and see how that goes, I begin slicing cheese from the block and fold it into the bag so that the cheese is sort of separate from where I put the turkey, that way the cheese doesn’t get all…”Daddy, what are the breakfast choices again?” my daughter appears finally, dressed, and looking not completely awake. “Toast and cereal,” I say for probably the third time (actually it was the second), getting a little impatient with her inability to keep up with the me and the boy.
She has a toy carrot in her hand and she knows that toys aren’t allowed at the breakfast table. But being so fixated on all I have to do, I don’t even notice it. “Hey, that’s mine!” the boy realizes with a big sloppy mouthful of food, jumping out of his chair and snatching it out of her hand, right in front of me, forcing his sister into an even whinier, almost teary tone.
“Go sit down on the stairs!...right now!” I say swiftly and assertively, not yelling but, in the kind of tone that seems to come out of my dad-bones. I set the oven timer (8 minutes for an 8 year old, just like all the books say to do) and the boy goes and sits down, glaring at me as if he doesn’t know what he just did…he knows.
“Ok, what do you want?” I say to the girl, picking the toy up off of the table (because no one gets it now of course) “What are the choices again?” She says as I grit my teeth and repeat them back to her. “I’ll have peanut butter toast,” she says, a little reluctantly (would’ve been nice to know that 15 minutes ago).
Toast goes in the sling again, accept I use the opposite side because I'm superstitious like that, and now I’m back to the lunches, hmmm let’s see oh, we have yogurt in the fridge, and look we have two of them…What else? What else? Oh grapes, I’ll just pull some off and put them in these Tupperware…POP! The toaster pops up startling me a little, oh, right, still making her breakfast. I pull out another plastic kids plate and repeat the peanut butter spread (this time with a little less PB as this kid gets fuller faster) I Cut the piece into small pieces and bring it over to her. Ok, back to the lunches, let’s see, pirates booty, or as I call it 'child-methadone,' if they don’t get their daily dose things can get bad. So I’m just going to find the right size Tupperware and…
‘SPLOOSH!!!!! RATTLE, RATTLE....CLING....DIng...DIng...ding,ding,ding,ding!"
Without even turning around I know what just happened, it's the unmistakable sound of a full 12oz glass of water with half a dozen ice cubes and that damn metal straw inside hitting the linoleum. I don’t say a word, I just pretend like I didn’t hear it and keep packing these lunches. Moments go by and, I can’t ignore the spill situation for much longer, I look over my shoulder and there’s my daughter just staring at me all weepy, but I’m far past the point of daddy-daughter, little girl empathy, “Well, go get a towel!!” I say, trying not to lose my shit!!! So she walks into the kitchen next to me and grabs a tiny hand towel I wouldn't use to clean my left man breast. “No,” I say “You need a big towel, go into the dirty laundry upstairs and get a big one, and before you start wiping, pick up the ice first.” She proceeds upstairs without picking up any ice.
“Beeep, Beep, beeeeep!” The timer goes off and the boy is out of time out, he still has a segment of toast left and he’s got that look of ravenous hunger on his face. Just as he sits down his sister appears at the bottom of the stairs with a towel she pulled out of the dirty laundry, a full one someone used after the shower, not a hand towel like she tried to use earlier (phew, she listened). Putting the towel down on the wet, icy, mess she doesn’t pick up the ice cubes first, nor does she pick up the metal straw, she just begins sliding the towel through the slurry of water and debris around like it’s her first time cleaning up an ice water spill (it’s not). “Pick up the ice first!” I say, a little dumbfounded I have to say it again. She slowly picks it up and I walk back into the kitchen to finish their lunches.
I’m reaching maximal fatigue now, not proud of this element of my personality, but the clock is almost up and I’m so close to finishing these lunches. Hmm, what else? What else?....OH, juice containers! I turn toward the fridge and my poor old blind dog who we believe has dimentia (yes I have Boston Terrier with dementia who has been blind since he was very young, not making that up!) and now he has wandered into the kitchen, probably attracted to all the food noises going on, and he is totally in my way. Now I'm extremely frustrated, but I realize in the gravity of the moment that this dog is perhaps in his last month to under a month of life (we're really that close) and I decide to do something that I think is best for his safety and my sanity.
After attempting to nudge him with my foot a couple of times..."out Smitty....Out!" I might as well be nudging a 20 pound bag of rice. I carefully, but firmly, hold him with two hands and guide him out of the kitchen, but in the process I must have hit a sore spot on his body (old dogs always have a few) and he let out a big, unfortunate, old confused dog yelp, that startled my daughter and turned on the waterworks. Now the puddle on the floor begins to grow again with the streaming tears of a stressed and frightened kindergartener.
So, to recap, my daughter is crying, there’s still an ice water mess on the floor, the dog just yelped, my son has been in and out of time out, the lunches aren't done and as I go to pick up my daughter in an attempt to show her the dog is fine and to calm her down I realize her dress is all wet from the water spill. Now I’m carrying her, sobbing, up the stairs with a wet dress.
When I get to the top of the stairs, I suddenly realized that I'm having one of those moments where a difficult choice must be made. I can go left into her room or right into our room where my wife is still getting ready for her day. I stopped for a moment and realized that this wasn't a mundane decision. It was as if fate was telling me to consider my choice carefully, if I go into her room my mission to get these kids ready for school continues. If I begin to change her in the middle of a hysterical ‘cry-sesh,’ then I know for sure the madness continues, my frustration continues, everything probably gets a little worse. If I go into my bedroom and place her on the bed and talk to her for a second, maybe we both calm down, maybe we get some kind of inventory of both of our behaviors and we can proceed on with this day somehow.
I choose to turn right, of course, and set my daughter on the bed and begin to ask her why she is so upset. “Is it because the dog yelped?” I said, trying to diffuse this scene of child terror, she nods, “Well he’s fine, I think I just startled him that’s all, I didn't want to trip over him.” I explained as she couldn’t seem to make heads or tails of our continued morning of disaster!
Meanwhile my wife, who has just finished getting ready, walks by and offers to take on the challenge of changing her. My daughter immediately calmed down and things just seemed to take a new tone for her, moms can do that somehow, the kids seemed to listen, and I immediately fed the dog some wet food as a “sorry for making you yelp” gesture.
And to think we only have 9 more months of these mornings till next summer break.