Meghan toddled out of her room, and came up to my side of the bed. "Mommy, it is morning time. The sun came up."
"I know Meghan, but Mommy is still very sleepy. Come up here with me so we can snuggle?" She grabbed a hold of the comforter with both hands and hoisted her foot up on the wood slat, which holds the head board and the foot board together. She tumbled onto my knees and crawled up to Charlie's pillow. Her polar bear "feety" pajamas were chilly since Meghan hates to use blankets at night. She doesn't like to feel constricted.
Meghan wispered, "Mom, can we watch the exercise lady?" (Meghan enjoys watching a woman on PBS who does yoga.)
"In a little while Meghan, Mommy doesn't want the TV on yet."
"Where's Daddy?" she inquired.
"He is downstairs making your lunch for today."
"Oh," she replied. I pulled my blankets up to her chin to warm her up. We snuggled together, and it seemed to me that the day was starting out very nicely. Meghan slurped her thumb and used her index finger to stroke circles around the tip of her nose.
My alarm clock rang, and I reached to the side of my bed to turn it off. I grabbed my glasses and placed them on my face. My fuzzy bedroom suddenly appeared with clarity. I switched on the TV, and the exercise lady's soothing voice came into the room.
My day was beginning, and the count down to leaving the house began. Meghan continued to lounge in my bed, and Charlie delivered a cup of milk to Grace in her bed. She has sucked down six ounces every morning since she was a toddler.
After getting ready, I walked into the girls' room. "Grace, do you want to get dressed first?"
"Uh huh, Mommy."
"Okay Grace. Please take your pajama top off, and pull off the band-aid on your owie." (Grace is still receiving treatment for her suspected MRSA infection.)
Whining came forth from Grace. "I don't waaaaaaaannaaaaaa take my band-aid off." She huffed, folded her arms, and frowned.
Tick, tock...time running out.
"Gracie, it is time to remove the band-aid so I can put more cream on it. You and I had a bad morning yesterday. I don't want another one. C'mon. Take the band-aid off or I will."
She folded her arms again, "No! I don't want to!"
I began thinking, "Fabulous. This is great. Oh, I'm having so much fun already."
"Gracie! 5, 4, 3, 2, ... 1." Grace began to take her pajamas off, and I walked into the bathroom to get the antibiotic cream. I grabbed the tube, a Q-tip, and a fresh band-aid.
Tick, tock...time running out.
When I returned to her room, I noticed that Grace's pajama top was hanging like a hoola hoop around her neck. There had been no further progress while I was gone. Frustration began to rise up within me.
"Grace! I asked you to take your pajama top off and take that band-aid off. I guess I'll have to take the band-aid off for you."
"Nooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo. She jumped off her bed and bolted to the other side of the room."
"Grace come back here. We are going to get dressed now. I do NOT want to fight with you this morning. We had a bad morning yesterday, and I will not have that again. I will NOT!"
Tick, tock...time running out.
She sheepishly shuffled her feet along the hardwood floor toward me at what seemed to be a snail's pace. "Now Grace, not tomorrow. Now!" Anger began to rise up within me. She sat down on her bed, I dressed her wound, and then I essentially dressed her, the 5 year old. I was watching the clock and thinking that I was not going to be late to work again...not again! It was already beginning to spiral out of my control though.
I didn't want it to happen again. The day before I had been reduced to a screaming, yelling shadow of my former self. I grew up with yelling, and my ideal parenting style would be a calm, firm tone. I began with that approach, but mornings are not my best time. I'm raw and unrested most of the time. I don't sleep well. The muscles in my neck and back are knotted, and emit pulses of pain for nearly an hour until I can warm them up. When I was in college, I was told I had fibromyalgia. Grace and Meghan don't understand this though. Sometimes, my husband doesn't even quite understand although he offers to rub my shoulders quite often. Too bad I hate back rubs. The toxins in my knots are released during a massage, and then I feel like crap for days. I'd rather have knots.
Tick, tock...time running out.
In any case, I managed to get Meghan dressed without much difficulty. She had toddled back into the girls' room, and parked herself in a child sized stuffed chair that Grace received for Christmas one year. Grace was sitting in another chair with her mouth agape watching Sesame Street on the television.
I left the room for about 10 seconds to put water on Grace's hair brush. As I turned around to leave the bathroom, I heard, "No MEGHAN! No MEGHAN! Leave the TV on!" The TV clickd off, and Grace's "world" came to an end. Oopps, I mean my 5 year old completely overreacted.
I commanded, "Meghan Rose turn the TV back on and sit down!"
"I don'ttttt wantttt toooo, Mooommmmmy!" Meghan protested.
"Guess what Meghan! Mommy is now fuming mad. Turn it on now, or you're in a time out! 5, 4, 3, 2, 1" Surprise, Elmo began squaking in the background.
"Girls, you are going to be good listeners. You ARE going to be good girls. You ARE going to do what I say. Mommy is in charge here. You are NOT!" I thought, "Oh man, here I go again. Here comes Darth Mommy! You know her. The mommy who normally is a sane person, who can have normal adult conversations, who can multitask, who doesn't care what others think, who isn't swayed by silly childish inclinations, who can command others' attention without yelling, screaming, or protesting loudly...especially not the screaming mimi, Darth Mommy. No, not her!"
Tick, tock...time almost out.
"Mom, Meghan is smiling at me. She is happy she turned the TV off! Mom! Meghan needs a time out. She is teasing me! Mom!" Frustration, anger, and loathing of my children sprang forth my mouth. If you had been an observer of the morning's events, you might not have understood why I was erupting like Mommy Vesuvious. It was the cummulative effect of many weeks of non-listening children, refereeing, negotiating, nagging, separating dualing duos, and just overarching disdain for the same crap day in and day out.
"OK! THAT IS IT! I'VE HAD IT! LISTEN UP! I WILL NOT TOLERATE ANYMORE OF THIS BAD BEHAVIOR! I WILL NOT! I WILL NOT HAVE BAD CHILDREN! I WILL NOT! YOU WILL LISTEN TO ME NOOWWWWWW!" Ut oh! There she was again, Darth Mommy...evil incarnation of Do Gooder Jen. "I WANT SILENCE! NOT ANOTHER WORD! NOT ANOTHER WHINE! NOTHING! I WANT SILENCE! You WILL go with me downstairs. You will put your coats on, find your mittens, and get your backpacks. YOU WILL not push! You WILL NOT fight anymore! You will NOT SAY ANYTHING! NOTHING! YOU HEAR ME?"
The both blankly stared at me, and Grace said, "Uh huh."
Tick, tock...now, we're late.
As we descended the stairs to leave the house, Grace hurried to be the first one out the door. She is forever trying to be the first to do anything. It is driving me a little nutso because she can be quite ruthless about being first. Meghan has been knocked down in the process several times.
"I WANT TO BE FIRST! I WANT TO BE FIRST!" Grace chanted as we approached the back door.
I replied calmly, "There are no firsts or lasts in our house. We all go together. Nobody wins. Nobody loses. Nobody is first. Nobody is last. We go together."
What Grace heard was probably something to the effect of, "Blah, blah, blah, blah. Blah, blah, blah." She stuffed her arms into her coat's sleeves, and promptly morphed right into a tantrum because her zipper would not cooperate. Her face turned red, and the whining began, "I caaaaaaaannnnnnnn'ttttt doooooooooo this! My zipper is stuuuuuuuuuuuccccccccccccckkkkkkkkkk Mommy. I DON'T WANT to wear this coat! I want my purple coat. WAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA! WAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA! WAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA!" As Grace was whining, Meghan began taunting Grace with, "Gracie is a poopy pants! Gracie is a poopy pants! Gracie is a poopy pants!"
"Grace, USE YOUR WORDS! Meghan, if I hear you use potty talk one more time, you'll get a time out!" I shouted.
"WAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA!" continued forth from Grace. Meghan had now folded her arms in protest, and was chanting, "I DON'TTTT WANNTTT a TIME OUTTTTT! I DON'TTTT WANNTTT a TIME OUTTTTT! I DON'TTTT WANNTTT a TIME OUTTTTT!"
Tick, tock...we were now 10 minutes behind schedule.
"C'MON GIRLS! Get your coats on, find your mittens and hats, and let's go! We're late! Let's go! Let's go!" I said with exasperation. Yep, they did it. They sent me over the edge of reality. I now sounded like them. I was yelling, screaming, and just basically reduced to a puddle of nonsense because I was so angry.
I commanded silence from my peanut gallery again, and we walked out the back door. Grace pushed past Meghan to be first. Meghan whined at Grace. I inhaled the crisp morning air deeply, hoping that I'd find my inner strength to make it Meghan's preschool and Grace's kindergarten without ending my childrens' lives first. I felt sure that I was slowly going insane. That my daughters' mission in life was to make me insane, and it was working.
When we got into the mini-van, Grace hopped into her booster seat in the third row. Meghan noticed this while standing next to her second row seat, and began whining, "I WANTTTT TO GOOOOOOOOO IN THE BACK SEAT! I WANT TOOOOOOOOOOOO!"
Darth Mommy replied, "NO WAY MEGHAN! I DON'T HAVE TIME TO MOVE YOUR CAR SEAT RIGHT NOW. WE ARE LATE! I DON'T HAVE TIME! WE ARE LATE! GET IN YOUR CHAIR NOW!"
"NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!" Meghan choked and sputtered and gagged on the large lump forming in her throat.
"DO NOT THROW UP MEGHAN! DO NOT! I WILL NOT DEAL WITH PUKING THIS MORNING! I WILL NOT!" I screamed. (Ever since Meghan was intubated in the NICU, she has a very strong gag reflex. Whenever she gets remotely upset, she pukes.)
At this point, Grace began to whine. Her frustration with her winter coat was winning. She didn't like how the coat felt underneath her seat belt. "IT'S TOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO TIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGHHHHHHHHHHHHHHTTTTTTTTTT! It's too tight! Mommy, can I take my coat off? Can I take my coat off?" she pleaded.
"NOOOOOOOOO! ABSOLUTELY NOT! WE ARE LATE! I AM NOT PUTTING IT BACK ON YOU! You have to deal with it. It is a short drive. Deal with it!" I commanded. I put the mini-van into reverse to leave the garage. Both the girls cried the entire way to Meghan's preschool. I was fuming and extremely short tempered. It was beginning to feel like the morning would never come to an end. I just wanted to get to work.
I dropped off Meghan. Grace and I got back into the mini-van, and she promptly started in again about her coat. More whining, crying, and general annoying behavior came forth from Gracie. By this time, I had had it. I was done. Kaput. Over. Complete. Finished.
As we drove to Grace's school, I let out a primal scream, "I HAAAAAAAAAAATTTTTEEEEE MORNINGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGG! I HATE ITTTTTTTTTTTTTT!" Grace wasn't phased by it all. She just kept whining about her coat. We finally arrived at her school, and I took her into the before school day care room. Her cheeks were red and tear stained.
Remorse began to bubble up inside of me. Tears filled my eyes. I felt completely insane, and embarassed at what I had said to the girls. I was nuts. I didn't mean anything I'd said. I couldn't believe I had treated my precious blessings that way.
Grace's eyes said it all. She was scared of me. She was hurt by my words and actions. I squeezed her into a tight embrace, and said, "I love you Gracie. I'll see you after school. Have a good day."
She replied, "Hugs and kisses Mommy. See you after school." She began to cry a bit, and I said, "Gracie, let's have a better day now honey. It's okay. We're okay now. I'm sorry."
As I left the school and walked toward my mini-van, tears filled my eyes again. I cried most of the way to work.
Things have to change. I can't keep doing this. I'm better than this. I think I need remedial parenting or something. I know that most parents have been in similar situations, but I feel like a gigantic heel.
Tick, tock...45 minutes late to work.