Thursday, January 26, 2006

Time, time, time, see what's become of me.

I don’t want to alarm anyone, but it’s possible that there is a tear in the time-space continuum in my house.

Every morning, I awaken Daughter with plenty of time to get her fed, dressed and out the door. But at some point along the way every morning, we go from Plenty of Time to Only Going to Get There on Time if We Make Every Single Green Light. I have tried getting her up earlier; I have tried having her eat in the car; I have tried sending her to school in the t-shirt and leggings in which she slept. It doesn’t matter. At some point, I will be standing by the car screaming like a fishwife “Get in the car NOW; we’ll brush the back of your hair tomorrow!”

Let’s take this morning as an example. I am kind of a lunatic about punctuality. So the shame of being taken aside by Daughter’s teacher with a whispered “Perhaps you have forgotten what time school starts…?” would be more than I could bear. Ergo, an hour before we have to leave, I wake up Daughter. She is a small child, so there isn’t much to dress or feed. An hour should be an embarrassment of riches. We spent ten minutes in her bedroom where we both worked assiduously at our own goals; I wished to see her upright and heading towards the kitchen, and Daughter wished to put a tiara on the cat and discuss a dream she had where all the kittens in the world lived in her bedroom.

Lulabelle the cat shook off the jewelry and made a break for the kitchen, which meant we all headed towards the kitchen. I headed smartly towards the table, where Daughter’s breakfast was waiting, and Daughter headed towards the laundry room, to do her morning chore, which is to feed the pets. I heard the food being scooped out, but I did not hear small feet padding towards me. I went into the laundry room, where Daughter was rapt, watching the cat masticate.

QUINN: What are you doing?

DAUGHTER: She’s eating!

QUINN: And it’s just as interesting as it was yesterday. Now it’s time for you to eat.

(I noticed the dog’s bowl was empty, and that the dog was gazing at me piteously)

QUINN: Did you feed the dog?

DAUGHTER: Um, no.

Note to readers; Daughter’s favoritism of cat is almost shocking. I have come to the conclusion that it’s because Lulabelle fits into more of Daughter’s doll clothing. It might also have something to do with the dog’s mystifying habit of eating Daughter’s sticker books.

She fed the dog, and somehow we made it to the kitchen table. A quick glance at the clock told me that we had forty-five minutes to get out the door, which should have been plenty of time.

Physicists in the crowd, take note: The kitchen table is where the worm-hole exists. Daughter ate a sliced apple and a piece of cheese. I watched her do this. She ate at a nice, regulation speed. She attempted to read the comics, but was gently discouraged from that, as it slows down her eating. In short, this was, at most, a fifteen-minute activity.

Two slices of apple eaten; we had forty minutes before we had to leave.

Three slices of apple and half the cheese eaten; we had thirty-five minutes before we had to leave.

Four slices of apple eaten; we had ten minutes before we had to leave.

What just happened? I saw no slowdown in eating; we did not leave the table to change the oil in the car, so how did we lose twenty-five minutes? Did we have some sort of alien visitation?

Sadly, I had no time to ponder one of the great mysteries of life. Daughter’s hair resembled over-cooked spaghetti and she was still in her nightgown. I leapt from the table.

QUINN: Wow, we’ve got to get you dressed. Grab the rest of the apple for the car.

Daughter crumbled into tears. I, already halfway into her bedroom, her hairbrush between my teeth and her socks in my hands, stopped.

QUINN: What. Is. It…? (I wish I could say I said this in a loving and supportive tone.)

Daughter tearfully, and slowly, went to her backpack, inched out a sheet of lined paper, and dolefully waved it at me.

DAUGHTER: I have to write a paragraph about a book I read.

I stared in horror. I glanced at my watch. We had nine minutes before we had to leave. I hurdled nimbly around the house, located a pencil, and handed it to her.

QUINN: Listen to me. You are going to write. I am going to dress you. Tonight, we are going to have another conversation about how much Mommy dislikes surprises.

In four minutes, I managed to dress her while she wrote. Was the dressing my finest job? No, but all the major bits were covered. Was the printing her finest job? Probably not, but Daughter proved to herself she can write while someone is tugging at her legs -- a useful skill should she pursue writing in any professional capacity.

I glanced at what she had written: “I read a book last night.”

Five minutes before we had to leave: her teeth were unbrushed; her hair was unbrushed; her book paragraph was a masterpiece of minimalism. I quickly prioritized.

QUINN: Keep writing. I am going to brush your hair.

And didn’t that go well? Daughter likes a whisper-soft touch when it comes to brushing her hair. When I have ninety seconds to banish the worst of the snarls, I use what I would describe as a “Firm” touch. Daughter’s howls upset the bloodhound that lives three blocks away. And here’s what I had to say to my sweet, wonderful child; the child I would never knowingly cause pain; the child I would, without hesitation, die for:

“JUST KEEP WRITING!”

I wrestled the hair into a ponytail and looked at what she had written:

“I read a book last night. It was funny.”

Three and a half minutes. I barked “BATHROOM!” and chased her in there. We spent a tension-laden two minutes brushing, gargling and washing the larger clumps of breakfast from her face. Nothing was done well, but it least the school wouldn’t call Social Services.

Ninety seconds to go, we raced for the kitchen, where I handed her the lunchbox and backpack, and I flung lunchbox, backpack and Daughter towards the front door as I went in frantic pursuit of my keys. A minute later, having found them in only the thirty-fourth place I looked (my hiking boot), I raced to the front door to find that Daughter had removed nearly everything from her lunchbox and put it on the floor. She looked a little miffed.

DAUGHTER: Could you please make me some pasta with Parmesan cheese? Carly likes that.

I couldn’t even contemplate where to start. So I chose to yell incoherently.

QUINN: WHY DID YOU TAKE EVERYTHING….PUT IT ALL…WHY SHOULD IT MATTER WHAT CARLY…WHERE IS YOUR HOMEWORK?

Daughter remained calm.

DAUGHTER: I give Carly half of my pasta, and she gives me her pickles. Can I watch television?

Daughter has the cunning negotiating skills of a labor lawyer. She knows when I am near emotional collapse, and takes advantage of those moments to shoot for the moon, request-wise. To her way of thinking, the worst thing that’s going to happen is that I am going to yell and say no, and I’m already yelling; it’s just possible that the first symptom of a complete nervous breakdown will be me turning on “Dragon Tales”, after which I will go drink schnapps in the bathroom.

QUINN: NO!

DAUGHTER: No to television or no to pasta?

(Sound of popping brain cells coming from the region of my head)

QUINN: NO TO…NO! JUST…NO! WE’RE (Checking watch) OFFICIALLY LATE. GET YOUR HOMEWORK AND A HARDCOVER BOOK SO YOU CAN WRITE IN THE CAR AND LET’S GO!!!!

I grabbed the nearest hardcover book for her to write on and started us out the door. I then noticed the book was “The Monster at Our Door: The Global Threat of Avian Flu”, and spun back into the house to find a book which wouldn’t cause Daughter to sob and curl up into a fetal ball. The next book I found was “The Black Death in Victorian San Francisco”, and then there was “An Intimate History of the Black Death”

Pray to God you’re never stuck next to me at a dinner party.

I zoomed into the kitchen and grabbed a cutting board to use instead of a child-terrifying book. Carrying it like a baton, I sprinted the length of the house, grabbed Daughter with my other hand, and made it to the car in less than ten seconds. We lost another minute or so to the classic debate “Please let me unlock the car, fasten my own seat belt, and rummage around for that Gummy Bear I seem to recall seeing under the floor mat last week”. By this point, I had stopped actually hearing her, and was just shouting “NO!” randomly.

By driving just barely outside the legal definitions of “Safely”, I got Daughter to school as the final bell was ringing. I pulled up to the front gate, turned around and smiled in sweaty triumph at my wonderful, punctual, child, who was putting the final exclamation point on her paragraph. Even with losing twenty-five minutes to the Time-Eating Gremlins, we had done it. Tomorrow would be better. Tomorrow, I’ll get her up fifteen minutes earlier. Tomorrow, she will have done her homework the night before. Tomorrow-

DAUGHTER: Mom, I’m still wearing my bedroom slippers.

Tomorrow, her shoes won’t be shaped like rabbits.

12 Comments:

Blogger bjk said...

I was rapt....it was very entertaining ...being a Grandma now I can see it FOR entertainment!!

1:28 PM  
Anonymous Melissa said...

You'll be happy (though probably not surprised) to hear that it doesn't get significantly better as they get older. There are just more things to nag about, less you can physically impose on them and more items that will throw last-minute wrenches into your morning routine - like learning that she committed you to bringing something to the bake sale and she needs art supplies, and both are due today.

1:56 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I had suspected it before, but now I'm sure that you have been living at my house!!! Great work!

LJ

2:07 PM  
Blogger houseband00 said...

hi quinn,

Who needs coffee in the morning to frazzle the nerves when the daily pre-departure rush seems like drinking a pot of it?

2:44 PM  
Anonymous Sage Tyrtle said...

Quinn, here's the really sad thing: my kid is HOMESCHOOLED and we don't have to be at playgroup until one p.m. and we have this problem. Seriously, we will be ten seconds from leaving the apartment (already half an hour late) and he'll be like, "Oh! I need my book called 'Make and Do'!" and I'll spend ten minutes looking for it with him, and find it and he'll be like, "No, no, my OTHER book called 'Make and Do'," and twenty minutes later I will find out that he really does have two different books with the same title. GAH.

4:23 PM  
Blogger Elizabeth said...

We call it the "time sink." And ours lives between our back door and the car door. We can be 10, 20 or 30 minutes early when we're leaving the house...but by the time we're pulling out of the driveway two minutes later, we're always at least 10 minutes late. And then we have to go back for a cell phone, keys, diaper bag, toy, map, snack or whatever.

5:56 PM  
Anonymous Chris S. said...

I have been blessed with three sons, 11, 15, 17.They were like daughter when they were young and they are still like daughter. The only thing that has improved our departure time is that the middle son, has his "temps" and he will knock me over in the doorway to get to the driver seat before me.I keep hearing about how much I will miss this someday--it is doubtful.

6:24 PM  
Blogger Mel said...

You rock.

I just love your blog so much that I must gush.

You rock!

11:01 PM  
Blogger Quinn Cummings said...

Back at you, Mel. Watch this space.

7:27 AM  
Blogger Chewy Mom said...

Yeah, well, multiply that times FIVE kids and see what time you get out of the house. Let's just say you can hear my tires screeching the whole way to the kids' schools....

4:58 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Quinn,

Your description of the time warp made me laugh! Your morning routine sounds similar to ours, except that now the school bus picks my kids up. This makes me doubly frenzied because if they miss the bus, I have to take them!

In our house it is my 5-year-old son, not my daughter, who does not understand the command to "hurry up!" My daughter gets ready early and stands watch for the school bus as my son calmly and slowly eats his breakfast, perhaps singing between bites, while we yell "the bus will be here in two minutes and you still have to put on your shoes and socks and brush your teeth!"

After they make it onto the bus, I collapse from relief and exhaustion!

7:35 PM  
Blogger Smoov said...

I think you live at my house.....

11:12 AM  

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