don’t tell me this in the morning (sols)

6:35 am. Happy wake ups for kids. Three of four are complete.

“Mom!” Stephanie pokes her head out of her door.

“Are you dressed?”

“No, but my valentine’s box is due today.” She comes into the hall, halfway dressed — school clothes on top, jammie pants on bottom.

“What valentine’s box?”

“For the party. We were supposed to make one. You didn’t let me do it.”

Fire crackles inside of me. I clench my teeth and remind myself to be kind. After all, it is the morning, a fragile time when things can go from good to insanely awful in a heartbeat.

“I didn’t know you had a project to complete. You didn’t tell me.”

“Yeah, I forgot. I’m going to do it now, since you didn’t let me do it last night.”

Instead of freaking out, I silently count to three. Then to five. Then to ten. Stephanie is twirling and singing. I want to shake her. I tell myself this isn’t worth getting worked up over.

“If you didn’t tell me, then I didn’t know, so it isn’t my fault your project isn’t done.”

“It’s not my fault!” she screeches. I imagine a flashing danger light bleeping its warning. The morning is in danger of losing its peace. I tell myself we can talk about accepting responsibility later.

I take another deep breath and try not to sigh as I blow it out. My voice is tight as I muster the last thread of patience I can find. “When you are ready, totally ready — clothes, teeth, hair, breakfast — totally and completely ready, we will see if we can figure out the valentine’s box…if there is time!”

“Okay!” She spins again. “I’ll hurry!” She returns to her room. I still want to shake her.

This kind of thing happens in our house. In fact, it happens more often than it doesn’t. I’m beginning to think it is unavoidable. No matter how much we plan ahead, no matter how informed I attempt to be, we still have surprises in the mornings.

I’ve decided these things aren’t worth getting worked-up over. It’s one of those decisions that is much easier to accept while snuggled in the corner of the couch, quilt draped over my legs, lap top balanced on my knees, and kids sleeping upstairs than it is at 6:37 on a school morning.

It was nothing slight of a miracle that she was able to put together a decent looking box to take to school and meet the deadline. Hannah, in that quiet way she has, volunteered her old box. We added a duct tape flower Stephanie made a few weeks ago and then she designed a leaf with her name on it.

There were no raised voices. No flailing hands. No Why-didn’t-you-tell-me-this-before? Instead I rolled with it. I let it go and waited to see how things unfolded. It is hard to let things like this go. It is even harder to bite my tongue in the middle of it.

This is the actual miracle of the morning.

Too bad I don’t get it right like this more often.

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  1. What a wise woman you are! When I greet my sixth graders at the door each morning, it's easy to see who has had a rough morning. Whether it happened at home or on the bus or in the student center. . . all these interactions enter my classroom and become part of the day's climate. Lovely to read this morning miracle! And everyone (especially her classroom teacher) thanks you for your patience in this situation.

  2. It seems you did yourself a bigger favor than Stephanie this time. I love those words, “you didn't let me do it”. Where do they come from? I'm just glad she didn't say she needed the 25 Valentines all with names, etc. Good thinking in the morning, and before that coffee, Ruth!

  3. WHAT WISDOM YOU HAVE! I made the mistake, many times, of engaging in such fueld conversation that went no where and caused us all angst! I know now that one of the bset strategies kids can use to divest themselves of angst is to pass it on to their parents! My kids were masters at that!

  4. Well, having survived more mornings like yours than I can remember, I can say: Well done, Ruth. Mornings are so tricky, get it wrong and the rest of the day is lost. You are at your most vulnerable then, and it's hard to remember that so are they….good for you that every one banded together to save the day. Hooray!

  5. I could hear your inward sighs, or were those mine, as I enjoyed this peek into your morning. There's an art to picking your battles. You are on the right road.

  6. Wow, I'm so impressed with how you “got it right”. I bet you get it right a lot more often than you give yourself credit for! I enjoyed the glimpses you gave us of what was going on inside your head — how you reminded yourself of what you should do, how you stepped back mentally, how you reflected later. Great job!

  7. I am giving you a standing ovation! That was fantastic. You are so right about telling yourself you won't let this stuff bother you while wrapped up on the couch, then the morning comes.

  8. I think it is safe to say all parents have had moments like these. I love the way you responded to your daughter…I'm sure it wasn't easy to show that much patience and kindness. I will try to remember this the next time I'm faced with a last minute, it-must-be-your-fault-mom kind of moment. Thumbs up to you!

  9. I imagine your thought process as a parent was much the same as the thoughts that go through our minds in the classroom daily. “Will lecturing in this moment really produce the result I am looking for?” I ask myself. Probably not. “Stay centered,” the voice in my head coaches. Often it is easier said than done. Good for you (and your children) that you were able to stay centered this morning. And bless Hannah's kind heart for sharing. You may not always get it right like this, but your family life is filled all kinds of right!