Tuesday, March 11, 2014

The Battle for the Morning Continues: Update from the Conflict Zone

This is Spring Vacation week at our house, so this morning was a little more relaxed than usual, even though the girls actually left the house earlier than they do on school mornings.  The relative calm and the extra few minutes gave me a chance to actually drink a second cup of coffee and think about the morning battles of the last few weeks.  Not that I have any answers, mind you.  Don't think that there is enlightenment forthcoming.  I'm venting, that's all. At the expense of my children, because that's what I do.  

We are usually lucky enough to get a ride to school with my friend Janet and her daughter Jennessa at about 8:15, and I've found that we have the least trouble if I allow about a 45 minute window to get out the door. Longer, and we get sidetracked, shorter, and we don't really have enough time. Still, we struggle.  Most mornings, I find myself yelling at the girls by 8 am. Yelling a lot. Well, hiss-yelling, because we live in an apartment with neighbors on both sides and below us, and I do not want to be known as the crazy mom who yells at her kids all the time. So, instead, I hiss at them that I don't care if their hair is combed or if they eat lunch or if they go to damn school at all.  "Just stay home, then," I hiss, "but I am going to work!"  

I usually stalk off after I hiss that last bit, to let them think about being left for the day, but they just laugh because, really, they know I can't leave them home alone.  So I start telling them it isn't fair that they won't listen and do the five simple things (food, clothes, hair, teeth, shoes) that are required to leave the house.  Not fair at all. Every day, I start out reminding, move on to cajoling, speed through pleading and finally end with a display of swearing, hissing and pulling out my own hair in utter frustration.  Life in the suburbs, right?  

I've tried check-off charts with stickers, and I am not above simple bribery.  I'm even up for changing the order of the way the tasks get done-- want to comb your hair before you put your clothes on?  Great, though not ideal... Want to put your shoes on before your clothes? Not such a great plan... though some people didn't believe me at first.  I actually let Fiona try that one to prove that it wasn't the best practice.  I wasn't above pointing and laughing as she tried to pull her leggings on over her boots.  So maybe I sink pretty low in the mornings, but I don't feel too bad, because usually, Fiona is my main opponent in the morning wars.  

Oh, she has her reasons.  She doesn't like the breakfast selections (no pancakes? no omelets?) and she doesn't like the outfit she picked last night and she doesn't like this kind of toothpaste and she absolutely does not want to finish the last bit of her homework so that she can turn it in.  Fiona is not a shy girl, and in the morning, she has no hesitation about showing all of this displeasure.  Her favorite move is to plant her feet and cross her arms in front of her chest and hiss, "I'm not going to do thissss.  Heeelllppp me!" Then she throws herself back on the bed or the sofa and fumes dramatically.  Meanwhile, Delia moves along slowly, though she gets mesmerized by the things on her desk, or feels the desperate need to immediately sort her lip gloss by color, or sometimes she's just distracted by the book she's been reading.  I can usually just catch her attention and keep her on track.  She doesn't like to be late to school, so she is relatively  motivated to be ready on time.

But a couple of weeks ago, it was Delia who could not make herself get moving.  She draped herself on the sofa and stared at the blank TV. I asked her if she was sick, and she said she was fine, but still, she didn't move. I put breakfast on the table, and while I was dealing with Fiona, she took it over to the sofa, and ate there. Slowly. I brought her clothes into the living room, thinking she could put them on and just stay in whatever trance she had gone into.  No dice. Ten minutes later, she was still staring, the empty plate about to drop from her hand.  I grabbed it and went into countdown mode.  "We only have fifteen minutes, but you can still get done."  I put my own clothes on, then came back with , "thirteen minutes, come on."  Nothing.  We got to nine minutes, when Fiona appeared next to me, and said, "I'm all done, Mommy.  Do you need any help?"  She was dressed, smelled like toothpaste and had a hairband in her hair and shoes on her feet.  I checked her forehead for fever.  No.  "Wow, great Fee, I'm glad someone is cooperating." She smiled angelically and said, "Well, I can see you're having some trouble with Delia today, so I decided to be good."

Of course, this totally enraged Delia, who has a semi-permanent hold on being "the good one." She looked at me, then at Fiona, and hissed, "Shutttt up, ssssstupidheadddd."  Still, she didn't move to get dressed.  With three minutes to go before departure time, I found myself pulling her pajamas off and putting her clothes on, like she was a toddler.  She cooperated about as well as a two year old.  I shoved socks and boots onto her feet and then started to run the brush through her hair.  The phone rang. Janet and Jennessa were on the way. "See you in a minute," I said, trying to force Delia's toothbrush into her mouth without gagging her.  

Fiona grabbed her back pack and was down the stairs before Delia and I even had jackets on. Delia trailed behind while I yelled that she'd better run as Janet's car pulled into our lot.  Fiona, who usually elbows Delia out of the way to sit next to Jennessa in the car, opened the door and then pointed for Delia to get in. "Wow, Fee, that was nice for you to give Delia a chance," said Janet, not knowing she was entering a battle in progress.  Delia, totally over the edge by then, began to fiercely poke Fiona in the ribs. 

"Fiona's just being nice to be mean to me because I had a bad morning!"  Delia hissed.  

I hopped in the car and began to explain, but Janet just looked at me and started to laugh, because we talk about this stuff all the time, and she has three kids, so she gets it.  We moms have to stick together in the trenches-- Janet's an excellent ally to have when the going gets tough.

Especially because, after vacation, I know the battle for the morning will continue...