I was in a dark place this morning when I left for work.
After we got off to a rough start yesterday morning with the iPhone debacle, and didn’t end up getting the girls to bed until nine last night, after the car battery fiasco, I was resolved to make it out the door on time today. I woke up feeling groggy, probably because it’s been about four nights in a row now that Frances has had some difficulty sleeping. Her top two fangs are making their way down, and she’s got two bottom teeth that are just about to erupt.
So, I busied myself making coffee and lunches and packing school bags and a diaper bag. Nora and Liam slept in a tiny bit, while Frances got right to work pushing her baby dolls around the house in their stroller, while wearing her older sister’s sparkly, purple, polka dot, two-sizes-too-big, shoes. This girl and her morning energy. I always wake up feeling somewhat irritated with her after nights like last night, during which she caused such sleep disturbances. But, watching her move and play about with such happiness just pleases me too much to stay angry. I found myself laughing out loud at her presence.
As the morning minutes wore on, however, and we got closer to the time we needed to depart to our respective destinations, my smiles faded and were soon replaced by barking orders and increased levels of stress. The wretched Mother-dragon had awoken, and was firing about on all cylinders.
Dragon Mother: Nora, five more minutes of breakfast and then get dressed, please.
Older Child: (resigned) OK. (fidgets in seat with caterpillar game pieces, makes no move to eat)
Dragon Mother: (mildly annoyed) Do you need me to set a timer or just remind you?
Older Child: Just remind me. (continues to not eat)
Dragon Mother: (very annoyed) Nora! Eat!
Older Child: Maybe you should set a timer (takes ONE bite of cereal, resumes fidgetiness and talking to herself)
Dragon Mother: (sets a timer; timer goes off, shouts in loud voice) Time to get dressed!
Older Child: (scurries down from the table, disappears into her room)
Dragon Mother: (Begins to try and eat breakfast. After wolfing down a few bites of eggs and drinking a couple of cold sips of coffee, ventures into child’s bedroom and sees child running around, playing with younger sister) Nora! Please, we need to leave in five minutes if mommy’s going to get to work on time. You still need to get dressed and brush teeth.
Older Child: (beside herself with exasperation) Okay, okay. Ugh!
Younger Child: (sees mom with food, comes running, even though she has already eaten breakfast) Eat! Eat! Hold me! Up!
Dragon Mother: Not now, Frances. Go see what your sister is doing.
Younger Child: (whines) No. Up! Eat!
Dragon Mother: (holds her distressed ground) Mommy is not holding you now. I need to brush my teeth and get ready to go to school.
Husband: (comes out of shower, heads to bedroom)
Older Child: (sprints out of bedroom, still in pajamas, and makes her way to the living room)
Dragon Mother: (totally pissed off now) NORA! GET DRESSED!
Older Child: (whines and protests) I want YOU to get me dressed.
Dragon Mother: (screams as though at wit’s end) Aaahhhh!!!!! (proceeds to eat one more bite of eggs, then goes to child’s bedroom to help child get dressed)
Husband: (senses wife’s boiling point reached, takes care of younger child and attempts to begin teeth-brushing routine)
Dragon Mother: (finishes dressing child, takes bags out to the car, then returns). Nora! Boots and jacket on please! Hurry!
Older child: (sits on bench, stares out the window, sings Frozen songs to herself)
Dragon Mother: NNOOORRRAAA!
Older child: OooooKaaaaaay! (puts boots on; struggles with jacket; spins around and around like a dog chasing her tail while she aims to get one arm inside the coat sleeve)
Dragon Mother/Wretched Wife: (can no longer witness this tomfoolery, heads to the kitchen, nearly bumps into husband) She’s a total nightmare! She can’t do one thing right this morning! (referring to older child)
Husband: (looks as though wife has just said something completely certifiable, but attempts to remain neutral, not wanting to offend wife further; remains speechless)
Dragon Mother/Wretched Wife: (takes in husband’s look, bursts into tears, makes admission) I’M the nightmare. Why am I yelling at her like this? No child should begin her day under such stress. She’s behaving totally fine. I am not. I hate that lack of sleep, job dissatisfaction, physical discomfort, pregnancy hormones, stress, lack of time, and who knows what else make me feel and behave this way.
Husband: (gives hug) You’ll be fine. Take a deep breath. Oh, and don’t forget your coffee.
Dragon Mother/Wretched Wife: (returns hug, kisses younger child goodbye, grabs coffee and tissues, dabs at cheeks and eyes, ushers older child out the door, five minutes late)
Older Child: (walks down driveway to car) Mommy, why are you sad?
Dragon Mother: (terribly ashamed) Because I’m feeling very grouchy this morning and I don’t like how I feel when we have to hurry and I get frustrated and yell.
Older child: (proceeds to tightly tie the pom-pom ear flaps of her winter hat together, over her face instead of under her chin, resulting in ear flaps covering her entire mouth; turns to mother with a scrunched up face and muffled voice, due to ear flaps in the way) Mommy, look at me. Will this make you happy? (begins to crack-up at herself)
Dragon Mother: (turns, surprised to see what daughter has done to contort the image of her face; erupts into hilarious laughter at the sight, and then tears up again because she is so touched that after the god-awful past half-hour, it is her child who has acted in such an intentional way as to soothe the beast within her mother and restore her mother’s spirit once again)
We drove the rest of the way to Nora’s school in peaceful silence. I don’t know what she was thinking about. I was busy breathing in and out, relishing the past moment of grace and humor, and feeling grateful for the special gift that is my oldest girl. Even when she makes me totally crazy, she is capable, at the same time, of making me feel such love and overwhelming affection.
I’m hoping to be more mindful and generally appreciative when I wake up tomorrow morning. It will help that it’s Liam’s turn to do the pre-school drop-off. And also that it’s Friday and there is a three-day weekend coming up. I’m very much looking forward to the break and the opportunity to recharge my soul and put out the fires burning within. Rest in peace, Dragon Mother.