My 13 year-old son was recently cast as a series regular in an upcoming show. He is the third of my four children. The role requires relocation to LA from Honolulu, with almost no notice. We sent him through the entire audition process, knowing this could be a possibility, but never thought through how we would manage if it actually happened. My husband and I are running for our lives trying to get a million things done, including finding an apartment, getting the school situation tamped down, and preparing our family for what will become our new normal. Because my husband, three other kids and two dogs will remain in Honolulu and we will all do a lot of commuting back and forth. Sigh.
It’s almost his last day in his current school, which is a great school. So emotions are running high. I’m determined to focus on the positive during this transition. I’m paying attention to every detail so I leave everything in the best shape possible. The truth is if my four kids knew how many situations I handle on the spot, unplanned, they would have trouble sleeping at night, just like me. Take parent conferences, teacher development days, or the sports meetings for tryouts. I want to remember all these dates, but just like passwords, they somehow they slip my mind. Plus, the kids’ appointments are endless. And, schedules with tutors and coaches are constantly shifting. I handle most of the routine on the fly, and rely on mom interactions as a part of my ‘reminder system’. I put things on the phone calendar, but it only beeps me when the actual event is upon me.
Moms need other moms. I can’t write a one-page summary for someone that would keep the hot mess express on track! I have to keep moving fast to handle everything that is thrown in my path. I will have to rely on my Honolulu mom network and then build an LA-based one too.
This morning, I had to turn away as my tween tied his sneakers. My impatience is justifiable. He spends more time tying his shoes than on his entire daily hygiene. He smiles and says, “Mom you’re way too uptight about the whole brushing teeth and using soap thing.” I remind my teen daughter to bring her stuff for the track team tryouts. She tells me, “I’ve decided to skip the tryouts. I don’t want to make the time commitment right now.” I feel a sarcastic remark trying to come out. “Oh? Right now? During junior year, when it counts? Tell me. If you could bring your phone and take Selfies and text while you run, would you tryout?” She’s been training and on the team for years, even went to Nike Running Camp last summer. My mom’s pain is exquisite as I assess how to apply mommy marketing to this scenario.
Before I can start to threaten and cajole, my little girl comes down the stairs in tears. She can’t find her shirt for today’s rehearsal and tonight’s choir performance. I washed and cleaned the choir shirt last night and watched it walk up the stairs, but now she can’t find it. I can’t stand tears on any day, never mind a performance day. I hug her and say, “We need to go but I’ll find it. It’s going to be fine.” She shakes her head. “Miss Leighton said that we need to have a good night’s sleep, our shirt for the 7:30rehearsal, and a good breakfast. I’m going to get in trouble.” My youngest is a gentle soul who has never been in trouble, but deeply dreads the thought of it. Clowns and choir teachers have an amazing ability to instill fear in children.
The morning is totally off kilter. It’s not unusual but it never gets easier. We leave late and a massive ‘cave in’ occurs. I stop at the Burger King drive thru for breakfast. My son is fist pumping the air. “Mom, they have French fries and cheeseburgers all day. Can I get a large fry, two plain cheeseburgers and a Sprite. I love today.” I yell, “No soda!” like it will magically make this breakfast healthier. My little girl doesn’t want to eat because she doesn’t have her shirt. She says, “An Orange Fanta would make me feel better.”
My teen daughter says, “This family is so embarrassing! I don’t want to get out of the car with a Burger King bag. Is there a Whole Foods bag somewhere in this car? At least eat a breakfast, not cheeseburgers and fries, people!” She points at her little sister. “Your teeth are going to be orange in your choir performance F.Y.I.!” She continues her astute teen observations. “Fine! I’ll have the ham and cheese croissandwich thing with the mocha drink thingie and some tater tots.” Her brother argues, “tater tots are no better than fries and the Mocha Frappe has more sugar than a Sprite.” I check to see if my ears are bleeding. I mentally push all the chaos to the side. I say to my little girl, “I swear that I will find your shirt and drive it to you. Please eat this ham and cheese croissant. You can have an Orange Fanta.”
They jump out of the minivan. My son is dancing on air with his BK bag; my two daughters are trudging along as if they are condemned felons.
I skip my workout and go home. As I’m walking in the door, the school nurse calls to tell me that Miss Leighton, the choir teacher, sent my little girl from the choir rehearsal, concerned that she just wasn’t herself. She’s tired, upset about a missing shirt, and has a stomachache. Is it true that she only had Orange Fanta for breakfast?
Stress breaks over me like an unruly wave. I run upstairs and find her shirt under the stuffed tiger she still sleeps with, grab a lunch box and head to Subway. I get a plain turkey sandwich, which I take out of the packaging and put in a plastic baggie. I get milk as the drink. I run into the supermarket and get prepackaged carrots and some little cuties. I buy a Hershey bar and zipper it into the hidden side pouch. I’m determined to deliver a good mother lunch/snack and give my little girl a surprise treat to cheer her up.
I pick up my teen daughter a half hour late from school. She’s very upset and says, “I have a ton of homework and will be up all night, then I’ll fall asleep in study hall and someone will take a photo of me sleeping and post it up on social media. Then everyone will make fun of me and make comments like RIP. It will be total humiliation.” I’ve been milking a Starbucks Iced latte all day and never seemed to have enough time to finish it. I offer it to her.
“This is the worst day ever,” she replies.
I get everyone home and lament I’m headed to the choir performance in the same faded sundress I put on at 6 a.m.. When I get there, I see so many moms that I like. My husband slips in at the last possible second and holds my hand. The kids come out and sing like angels. My little girl searches the crowd and is so happy to see me. In seventh grade, she still wants me around. There is no place I’d rather be.
We get home to the other three kids fighting. No one has fed the two dogs. The kitchen is a mess. The TV is on and no one is doing homework. I yell, “I committed about five mom misdemeanors today and I’m tired. I have an article due. Please stop fighting over who has the right to enter whose room.” The TV ad talks about the best part of waking up. A mom is standing alone on a boat dock savoring her cup of coffee, looking serene and relaxed. I yell, “This is false advertising! No mom I know ever sits and savors a morning cup of coffee. It takes me all day to finish my cup, as I’m putting out constant fires! Is her house burning down behind her? If not, it’s not real!”
My son says, “Mom go in your room for two minutes. We have a surprise for you.” My teen comes in to find me and says, “Hurry!” All the kids are laughing. My little girl says, “Chewie volunteered to help you with your article! Now do you love today?” I look at my kids, laugh out loud and say honestly, “Yes, I absolutely love today.”