Yesterday was our second day back from break. And if you have children, or work with children, you know it is the second day, not the first day, back from break that will level you. We got leveled. I do not care what your family looks like, how it is comprised, there are certain roles within a “team”, so-to-speak. In our family, for years, it has been the same. My husband gets up, makes the coffee and drives the kids to school. I wake up, make the lunches, get the kids going, and, ahem, get the youngest child dressed. I know, I know, I can hear it already…”Isn’t your youngest child eight years old?” Yeah, yeah, yeah. If I don’t explain it, you will judge me.
My youngest is not a morning person. Seriously not a morning person. Sometimes I wonder if she even has a pulse at 6:45 A.M. And because humans like routines, ours has always gone like this: I lay the clothes out for the school day, she goes to bed. In the morning, we pretend we are in the pits of the Indianapolis 500. I grab the stack of clothes, pull the child’s feet out from under the covers, shout directions that sound more like a surgical assistant – “feet!” “Buns up!” “Sit!” “Arms!” and have her dressed in under sixty seconds. It’s really something to behold. Anyway. Back to my story…
Yesterday, day two after our winter break, my husband and I rolled out of bed and trudged downstairs for our morning ritual. He was to make coffee, I was to pack lunches. Then we would wake the kids up and deal with that melee. Except, there were dishes in the sink. On a normal morning, there would not be any dishes in the sink, and if there were, he would do those few dishes and get the French press rolling. But on day two, he chose to snarkily comment “Are you going to help me out by doing those dishes?”
Oh, no, you did not just say that.
Me, being the morning person that I am, took a deep breath. And unloaded.
“Are. You. Kidding. Me?” I loudly exclaimed.
If the kids were not already awake, they would be soon.
“You have ONE job at this hour. ONE. JOB. YOU HAVE TO MAKE THE COFFEE! You can WORK AROUND those dishes! I HAVE TO PACK LUNCHES! I HAVE TO GET PEOPLE DRESSED!”
Que the head spinning and the exorcism.
He quietly went to work on those four dishes. I slammed plastic containers on the counter. I shoved food into travel bags. Steam poured from my ears. I stomped upstairs and rallied the troops, mumbling to myself “gonna gripe about four dishes? Really? Coffee. All he has to do is make the coffee…”
And the day rolled on, as it does. We both apologized for our cranky behavior. Our eight-year-old had the expected second day meltdown. We dealt with it. And woke up on day three.
Now, if you have a partner anything like mine, you might be familiar with the over-compensation that comes, following an argument containing valid points. (All of my arguments contain valid points, by the way.) And the next morning, I caught my husband trying to do one of my morning jobs. A job I have held for all of her school years. He tried to get the youngest child out of bed.
He had fulfilled his morning duty by making the coffee, and then he had suspiciously disappeared upstairs where I thought I heard him talking to the kids. Now, normally, he makes the coffee and sits down in front of his computer, checking emails, reading headlines, doing his thing while I get the kids ready. But he was not in front of his computer. I went upstairs to see what was going on.
I found him standing next to her bed, holding clothes that had been laid out the night before, trying to tell My Ruby Girl to get herself dressed. She was sitting up, a look of utter confusion in her sleepy eyes, hair going every direction.
“What are you doing?” she asked him.
“I’m handing you your clothes so that you can get dressed.”
He turned to me. “Why is she looking at me like that?” he asked.
“Because I always get her dressed for school.” I told him.
“What?” he guffawed, shooting me a look of utter confusion. “You dress her?”
“She’s eight years old!”
“Why? Why are you still dressing her for school?”
Now I could launch into all the “why’s”: my reluctance to let the baby grow up, how much faster it is if I just do it, how this is our school morning ritual…but instead, I just show him why.
I tell him to time us. She and I, working as a team, 3, 2, 1… Stripped and dressed in about thirty seconds. On time, laughing, and ready for the day. It’s our ritual. It’s my role. “Pit crew child dresser.” This is my job, you need no further explanation.
Dishes be damned.
Now, get them to school…