Getting four kids up and out every day is a reckless endeavor my younger self never imagined and I'll never master it. Today, my morning started with my teen daughter announcing, “I've decided to skip track team tryouts. I don't want that time commitment right now.” It's junior year, the worst possible time to quit a sport. I experience an exquisite moment of pain.
Then, my little girl comes down the stairs, looking upset. She can't find her shirt for tonight's choir performance. I washed the shirt last night and watched it walk upstairs, but now it's disappeared. I hug her and say, “We need to go but I'll find your shirt and bring it to you. It's okay.” Her face falls lower. “Miss Leighton has three rules: a good night's sleep, our shirt for the 7:30 rehearsal, and a good breakfast. I'm in trouble.” My youngest is a gentle soul who never gets in trouble, yet dreads the thought of it.
I turn away as my tween ties his sneakers. My impatience is justified. He spends more time tying his shoes than on his entire hygiene routine. We are late so I stop at the Burger King drive thru. My son fist pumps the air. “Mom, they have fries and cheeseburgers all day. Can I get a large fry, plain cheeseburger, and Sprite?” I yell, “No soda!” like it will magically make this breakfast healthier. My frowning little girl says, “I'd feel better if I drank Orange Fanta.” My mom standards are below sea level and it's not even 7:30.
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? At least eat breakfast, not fries, People!” She points at her little sister. “And FYI! Your teeth are going to be orange in your choir performance.” She continues, “Fine! I'll have the mocha drink thingy and tater tots.” Her brother points out, “Tater tots are no better than fries and the Mocha Frappe has more sugar than Sprite.” I check to see if my ears are bleeding. I say to my little girl, “Here's an Orange Fanta. Please eat a croissant.”
Before I can cancel my workout or reschedule a meeting, the school nurse calls. She says, “Miss Leighton sent your little girl from the choir rehearsal, concerned that she's tired, upset about a missing shirt, and has a stomachache. Did she have Orange Fanta for breakfast?” Stress breaks over me like an unruly wave.
I can't get my day on track after this. I'm fifteen minutes late for everything and forgetting things. When I pick up my teen daughter a half hour late from school, she says, “You're late. 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. Then everyone will post comments like RIP. I'm facing total humiliation.” I've been milking a Starbucks iced latte all day and never finished it. I offer it to her, not saying anything, wondering how she gets from ‘A‘ to total humiliation in 10 seconds.
I head to the choir performance in the same faded sundress I put on at 6 a.m. My husband slips in at the last possible second, sits, and holds my hand. The choir kids come out and sing like angels. My little girl looks happy. I exhale, thinking, “There is no place I would rather be right now.”
We get home to three kids fighting. No one fed the two dogs. The kitchen is a mess. The TV is on and no one is doing homework. I say, “Please stop fighting over who has the right to enter whose room. And let's get on the homework, guys.” On TV, a song about the best part of waking up is playing. A pretty mom is standing alone on a boat dock, waves lapping around her with a breeze blowing through her hair. She's savoring a cup of coffee.
For some reason, I yell, “This is false advertising! No mom sits down and savors a morning cup of coffee, alone. It takes me all day to finish one coffee! Is there a house burning down behind her? I didn't think so. It's not real!” My son pats me on the shoulder. “Someone get mom a glass of wine. She's yelling at the TV.” I squint my eyes at him and say, “You, go study your Spanish!” Then we start to laugh. My little girl walks over, hugs me, and says, “Mom, you know what the best part of waking up is for me? It's you.”
The essence of being a mom is keeping it all basically on track despite the chaos. And I leave a little room in my soul for a happy, thankful moment every day. Because every morning when I wake up, I know I wouldn't trade the mayhem and magic, for anything.