I was awakened this morning by two things: my headache and the cat. I had a headache on one side of my face, (you know the sinus kind?), due to a stupid cold I’m dealing with. Then the cat. Seth left the door to the bedroom open, which invites the cat to come snuggle and purr into my neck while I’m sleeping. I kind of love this! Until he inevitably bites my neck like a little vampire. Happens every time. That’s why I always close my bedroom door.
So I climb out of bed and drag myself to the bathroom. I step on the scale for a daily dose of disappointment. Yep, there's still no magic spell that lets me eat whatever I want and yet lose weight. Dang it. So be it, I have a life to live.
Then off to the kitchen to find coffee and to drag some things to the table for the children to eat. Ivy’s been really sick, so I set out her antibiotics and the inhaler the doctor gave her.
I go in and wake Isaiah. I remind him it’s a short week of school. He just moans. He’s a lot of work sometimes, but how I do love him. Yesterday we got into the same old discussion about why I won’t let him play all the video games his friends can play. He says they won’t affect him, but I reminded him I’m older, 40 to be exact, while he’s 12 and doesn’t completely understand how violence and language can affect his young mind. I told him God gave his dad and me the job of raising him and training him in the way he should go, and that we are doing it the best we know how. But he just feels left out. And misunderstood.
This stage of parenting is rough. Middle school! It’s exhausting. Confusing. Scary. This is way harder for me than the baby or toddler years. This is the part where he tries to gain independence and push away, and I just don’t know how far he should be allowed to go yet. I’m a mess over this sometimes. Jesus, take the wheel.
So back to this morning. For some reason, in the last few days, Ivy suddenly has dandruff. I have been telling her to use dandruff shampoo, but she forgot. So when I go in to wake her, to my dismay, I see her hair filled with white flakes. Yuck. I envision everyone at school being creeped out and so I make the sudden decision that she needs to shower right now and we will comb out those white flakes. You see what I was doing, right? Being a good mom. Saving her from humiliation. But she just feels out of sorts and aggravated by this first-thing-in-the-morning-dandruff-emergency. She heads groggily to the shower.
Isaiah eats his breakfast. When Ivy emerges from the shower and comes to the table, she has to take her medicines. She’s grumpy. And I have a headache and a cough and a desire to get these kids to school on time, sans dandruff. So I start combing her hair. She hates this. I try to be gentle, but dude, she’s got a lot of hair! With partial curliness, which leads to lots of tangles. I am also trying to pick out white flakes. Gross. But it’s a mom’s job! I try to show her a white flake so she will appreciate what I’m trying to do for her. Do you think she appreciates it? No. I think I just seem like some crazy appearance-obsessed mother. She wants to be left alone. She says she’s going to be late, which at this point, is a real possibility. So when I finish combing and plucking at her hair, I tell her to hurry up and get dressed.
She yells from her room that she needs clean underwear. I get her some from the laundry basket in the garage. Then she whines that the jeans I bought her are too big. And too scratchy. She hates jeans. But this time, I bought her some with a soft waistband! I wanted to keep her warm with the jeans, but keep her comfortable too. I was being a good mom, see?
She fusses and frets over the waist being too big. I try folding it over. I’m so helpful! I’m wretchedly sick, and still trying to keep her spirits up. I leave her there to go check on Isaiah. He’s messing around instead of brushing teeth. I threaten him. He goes to brush teeth.
I hear Ivy crying in her room. I knock and go in. I choose to be gentle. She’s angrily tying her shoes. I hug her and tell her I’m sorry it’s a rough morning.
She goes off to brush her teeth, angrily tugging at the jeans to show me what a terrible mother I am for buying them, and I hear her still crying in the bathroom. School starts in ten minutes. Do I send her to school crying or do I send her to school late?? I decide I’d rather do late than crying. (I’m trying to be a good mom!) I would tell her she can be late, but she comes out and grabs her things and pushes past her brother to head for the car. He teases her for being so grumpy. Which makes it worse. Thanks, son. I tell him to just let her be because she’s having a rough morning.
I ask God to help me give them grace. They’re just kids. And just people. Messy and imperfect, like all of us.
Off we go.
Our Golden Retriever Abby loves to ride along on Monday mornings to take the kids to school. I always roll down the window, even if it’s cold, because Abby loves the wind in her face. Ivy is turned completely away from me, towards her seat, in silent protest against how mean I am. Isaiah and I tell her to look at Abby because Abby is deliciously enjoying the wind in her face. Ivy begrudgingly looks.
Abby is getting older. She’s 11 now. She has a new, quirky addition that we attribute to her age: she has grown a black mole under her chin. It dangles. Super weird. But she can’t help it. This morning as we watch Abby enjoying the wind, I say to the kids, “We should give that thing a name!” Isaiah smiles. Ivy doesn’t.
Ivy’s reddened eyes are returning almost to normal. I hate to send her off to school so angry. We have only a couple minutes until school starts, and as we pull into the school parking lot, I look back at her and say, “Ivy?” She glares at me. The glare! You guys, this hurts my feelings. I know, it’s normal, kids get mad at their parents over trivial things. But I’m doing my freaking best on a Monday morning when I’m not feeling well, (remember the one-sided face-ache?), and she just glares at me. I say, “I love you.” She hesitates. I know she doesn’t want to reply, but she’s actually a nice kid and also doesn’t want to be rude. She quietly says, “I love you too.”
I tell her to hurry to class because it starts in two minutes. Isaiah and I drive to his school in refreshing quiet, as I just mope and feel sorry for myself that I feel sick and that mornings are so stupid and hard.
When I let Isaiah out in front of his school, he’s grabbing his saxophone from the back seat and I say, “Say goodbye to Abby!....And Fernando.” We both burst out laughing! Fernando. The chin mole! I named him.
Isaiah walks away with a big smile, and I feel saved. Saved by Fernando. I roll down the window again so that Abby and Fernando can enjoy the breeze.
I feel worn out. But grateful for the blessing of laughter. I heard Glennon Doyle Melton say that at her lowest point, her sister took her to her first AA meeting, and they joked that she was addicted to so many things that it should be called AAA for her. And they laughed. And she said that if you can laugh at something, it means you know it won’t always be this bad. It means there’s hope.
So this morning I drive home and climb into bed where Seth is asleep. He wakes and I try to tell him how Ivy was so mad at me. And I just end up crying. A raspy, sick person cry. I can’t even explain to him how hard it was to have Ivy be so mad at me. It doesn’t even make sense. But I have a feeling there are other moms out there who will get it. Like it was just one of those mornings. Nothing was right. Except Fernando.
Seth leaves for work, but covers me in a soft blanket and insists I stay put and just rest. He could sense the crazy, I think. I watched two episodes of Gilmore Girls and then just had to write.
I know I’m not alone. To all of you moms, or dads, (or grandparents!), who get those kids up and out every morning, in spite of their bad attitudes and their whining, and their trying to pretend like they are too sick for school, (my son is good at this), I just have to say, good job. Good freaking job, you guys! It’s rough, and yet we carry on.