A perfectly clear, sunny day with snow on the ground. It's beautiful. The house is almost tidy, and the girls are both asleep.
Did you hear that?
Both asleep. This happens rarely, and when it does I am so incredibly efficient that sometimes I even sneak in a chance to do something self-indulgent, like writing. Amazing.
But I'm not going to write about afternoons now, I'm going to write about mornings. Winter mornings. The mornings where not only do four children have to be dressed, fed, brushed (teeth and hair) and ushered towards the door, but where they also need coats, hats, mittens AND shoes. And backpacks and lunches for two of them. Oh yeah, and snowpants in the backpack, and the homework in there too, and also the extra shoes on PE days so they can run around.
In theory, I do most of this the night before: the backpacks stashed with all the essentials, the piles of outerwear spread out in the kitchen and dining room so each child can find his/her pile and begin to get dressed. The lunches and snacks are always ready in the fridge the night before. Ideally, at about ten to eight I'll call to the kids that it's time to get ready. They'll have dressed themselves, and remembered to brush their teeth, and we'll calmly get dressed and will be out getting into the car by 8, with plenty of time to get to school, wander in, and putter around the classrooms before school starts at half past.
But on mornings like this one, where we all get up at 7 AM, I just can't make it happen without getting frantic. I see it coming, and I try to stave off my rising pulse and matching tone of voice, but it happens whenever we start to run late, and I disappoint myself each time it happens. I have this goal for myself to be calm and patient about everything. I realize this is a high expectation to have when I have four small children, but everything feels so much nicer if you can remain calm. I also believe my children deserve my patience because they are children, and as long as they are doing what I am asking them to do they deserve to have the time to do it. It's my job to get them started so that I can be patient with them.
So I always try to plan ahead, but when it comes down to it I have this terrible habit of wanting to let the children be as lazy as possible for as long as possible before school. As a result, I'm not great at getting my children to move efficiently through their morning my until it's the very last minute and we are almost late. I refuse to be late to school, this means that suddenly I am rushing them, and I'm suddenly very, very frantic. Often, the one I am rushing the most is myself, because when we start to get all crazy together in the kitchen, throwing on coats and mittens and slinging lunch bags, and it's 7:58, Liam and Aoife will suddenly get very quiet and quick and dress themselves. They'll be ready to head out the door and I look around and I have myself and Fiona and Maeve to take care of and I'm just not as fast as I'd like to be.
I feel as if my learning curve just isn't very good on this.
I wish I could be better about mornings. Instead, I just find myself fantasizing about living in Southern California or something where I'd never have to worry about mittens or boots and could just say to them, as I do in the fall and spring, "Time for teeth and shoes!" and that would be the end of it. Instead, I know that it's probably time for teeth, shoes, coats, snowpants, hats, mittens, and trudging through the snow to the freezing cold car, but I repeatedly push against the clock, thinking, I'll just let them have two more minutes to play....
I want the lazy life, where my children move at their own pace. I've raised them to be good, solid putterers: they can mosey around the house quietly for hours, they love to stay in their PJs all day and never drive anywhere in the car. I love to be the mother who doesn't have to nag or hurry her kids. But at the same time I've chosen a life that does include school, which starts at 8:30, and I won't let us be late.
There was a period of time, before I became pregnant with Fiona, where I would get up at 5:30 every day so that I could have an hour to myself before the kids woke up. I'm picturing that this will some day again be my salvation: an hour to myself, a head start on the day where I can meet every single one of my own needs before any of the other four wakes. Then when they start to arise (and they'll be older, too...) I'll be taken care of and we can peacefully negotiate our morning with ease.
Someday, when I sleep at night again, this will be my plan.
For now, I'll just shoot to wake up by 6:30 in the morning, no later, so that we don't end up with too little time for what we've got to do.