By Victoria Vanstone
My daughter headed off towards the wooden easel to do some painting. Her grimace was instantly replaced with a smile as she connected with her little friends.
I was in a fluster as we’d arrived late. It had been ‘one of those mornings’. I’d had to manage a breakdown over a unicorn headband. There were two timeouts due to a chokehold and a baby body slam and (of course) the crusts hadn’t been cut off accordingly which had caused some over-zealous foot stomping.
Before her hand dropped out of mine, I pulled her towards me and said, “It’s hard getting three children ready in the morning. I’m sorry I shouted. Let’s try and have a better morning tomorrow. I love you”.
Her usual response is, “Bye Mum. Love you”. But today she looked me in the eye and said, “I am the queen of you”.
And off she pootled.
I plonked my bum down on the damp grass feeling a little overwhelmed.
“Yes,” I agreed “you are the queen of me”.
A kind Mum saw me wilting on the verge. “Long morning Vic?” she asked. “Yes – you know how it is”. She nodded. She knew. Mums know… All mornings are long.
I woke up at 6 and hid in bed for as long as I could, hoping that the kids were watching TV and not making mud pies out of dog shit in the lounge. I got up and had a shower before starting my tumultuous journey up the temper gauge.
All was tranquil as I packed nut-free, dairy-free and personality-free snacks into the Peppa Pig lunch box. I hummed a ditty as I swept. I brushed hair. I plaited and un-plaited. I spread the peanut butter, not too thick, and I turned on taps that were off too tight. All the time I had one eye on the clock.
Tick, tick ,tick.
There is a clock/chore ratio happening. As the minutes tick by, each minuscule task becomes pressurised. Every demand escalates.
The first time I asked “Right, shoes and socks on please”, my voice was composed as they retreated to their rooms.
Tick, tick… one re-appears wearing a Frozen dress; the other riding a skateboard, naked.
The second time: “SHOES, SOCKS, NOW. How many times do I have to ask you?”.
Tick, tick, tick…
As the time passes, the pressure builds. Annoyance turns to anger as the pace of the house revs up. As this change in the atmosphere takes place, I feel like the children are experiencing the opposite. The more I ask, the less they do. They seem to slow, move around like three tired sloths with nothing to worry about except their next nap destination.
Tick, tick, tick…
I can see we’re going to be late. Even though we do this same exact routine 5 days a week, we are still not going to make it before the bell.
One appears with shoes on the wrong feet, the other with a jar of slime.
“Can we do slime now Mum?”.
“For fuck’s sake”, I mutter under my breath.
The baby starts to scream as my husband kisses me goodbye,
“Sorry to leave you with all this going on, see you later”.
There is a secret mother’s voice that only me and the children know about. I save it until he’s gone. When there’s nobody to bear witness. I don’t do it in front of anyone else because it’s embarrassing; it’s out of control.
His car reverses out of the driveway as slime seeps between my feet.
A rage rumbles up from my gut and out through my mouth. Time to unleash the ogre.
“Grrrrrr… Right! We are now officially late! If you’re not ready in one minute, I’m going to ban YouTube…. foreverraaaaaaHHHHH!!”.
I say it so loudly that my throat hurts afterwards. But the meandering and dawdling comes to an abrupt halt, the noise forces them to pause. They look at me like a pair of confused labradors, wondering why their owner’s eyes are about to pop out of her head. They are staring at me with concern thinking, ‘shit, she’s really lost it, run for your life!’.
My demonic shouting has undesired results. One crying baby, one fully traumatised four-year-old and an 8-year-old tiptoeing off to his bedroom to hide the iPad.
Shouting has hindered the time restraints. It doesn’t speed them up or have them saluting to my commands like well-behaved little soldiers. No, it’s a fail and I have to take an extra 5 minutes cuddling, apologising for losing my temper and promising that ‘Ryan’s Toy World’ will be allowed if they go to the car with no more fighting.