I thoroughly enjoy being a parent.
I didn’t even mind some of the tougher parts, such as morning sickness, childbirth and the terrible twos. I knew those stages were temporary, and that the benefits outweighed the challenges.
But there’s one itsy-bitsy part of the parental gig that I dream of outsourcing sometimes — and by sometimes, I mean pretty much on a daily basis: The 20 minutes before school begins.
You know, the time when shoes and coats are lost, homework hasn’t been signed, picture money is due, and nobody wants hot lunch even though that’s what they begged for the night before?
OK, I’ll be the first to admit I’m not a morning person. There are days when I hit snooze too many times. I should never have conversations – especially about something like sixth-grade algebra – before my first cup of coffee. And I probably look forward to one-hour “late start” days more than my children.
But my husband is a morning person, and things don’t seem to be any easier when he’s in charge of the morning routine.
It doesn’t seem to matter how prepared we are. That tiny chunk of time always turns into a mad dash to beat the tardy bell.
Some people’s blood pressure goes up during their morning commute to work; that’s when mine begins to go down because I’ve just dropped my kids off at school.
I know organization is a big part of it. But even that doesn’t seem to help at times.
One time, the various classrooms at my kids’ school were competing for something like a “No Tardy Party” and there was no way I was going to be the cause of one of my kids losing that experience. I stayed up late getting everything ready for their school day. Their outfits were set out on their dressers. Their coats, shoes, backpacks and water bottles were on the kitchen table. Sack lunches were in the refrigerator, and homework was signed for their teachers.
It was one of those rare, Mom of the Year contender moments, and I basically felt like June Cleaver sans the apron, high heels and pearls.
That morning, we were making great time on getting ready for school. In fact, we talked about how nice it felt to be ahead of schedule, and not starting the day off with a bunch of drama.
I went outside to warm up my car, only to discover that the doors were frozen shut from a thick frost. I couldn’t even unlock the car doors.
Mother Nature: 1. Me: 0.
In the end, thanks to some hot water, an ice scraper and a few prayers that the car battery had enough juice to turn the starter over, we slid, somewhat literally, into the school parking lot just after the tardy bell rang.
I felt like such a failure. I had let my kids, their classmates and their teachers down. I felt like I had done all of that preparation for nothing. I skipped some precious snooze time for nothing.
I thought things would be easier this year now that all of my kids are finally school age. Boy, was I wrong.
In fact, a few weeks ago, I missed my shot at “Mom of the Year” once again because of the dreaded 20 minutes.
On that particular morning, I had sweetly asked, reminded and begged our 5-year-old to put his shoes on. Instead, he kept getting distracted by things such as his brother, the dog and some Lego blocks.
Finally, I opened the front door, pointed my finger and screamed in a loud, scary, grownup voice I didn’t even know existed, “Get in the car! You can go to school without shoes today!”
And about five minutes later, when I handed his shoes to him in the car, his big brother whispered, “See? I told you she’d never let you go to school without shoes.”
Gulp. Not only was I frustrated, I was feeling guilty and pretty foolish for having a mommy meltdown in front of my kids.
I dropped my kids off at school, told the one with tear-stained cheeks to wash his face in the restroom and called one of my girlfriends for some emergency moral support.
Some moms dream of housekeepers or chefs. I’ve decided that I could use a fairy godmother, or a maybe a nanny, to help during those 20 minutes a day before school.Lisa Pemberton is one busy mama, raising three children while working as a reporter at The Olympian. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.