Parenting is more like a series of sprints than a marathon. This morning, between 6:45 and 7:45, I dressed, came downstairs, picked out clothes for a five year old, coaxed said five year old out of bed, made three English muffins (toasted with butter), packed three school lunches, mediated a breakfast tussle between a singing eight year old and an unamused ten year old, issued reminders to brush hair and teeth, asked the ten year old to please make her bed, reminded everyone to grab their backpacks and carted three girls to school. (By the way, this was a good morning with no fighting, mostly focused children, a relatively patient mom and an on time school arrival.)
Then I took a breath, went home and had a cup of coffee.
For the next seven plus hours (we're on extended school days), the sprint was over. I was able to walk, stroll or jog through my day. I was the pacesetter. Until 3:30 arrived. At 3:30 a three hour sprint began. It went something like this:
3:35 K emerges from school, shirt wet from drinking at the water fountain, pigtails drooping slightly, having lost their 7:45 AM perkiness.
K: "Mom, can I have a friend come and play?"Me: "No, sweetie. You have ballet today. You're going to get to ride to ballet with S. Want to go get changed into your clothes?"K talks steadily as we walk to the van, where she promises to get dressed in her ballet clothes while I walk back across the street to wait for A & B.
K: "I get to ride with S? Great!"
3:40 A & B emerge, B with tears welling in her eyes. As we walk to the van, B relates how a classmate isn't talking to her because B tattled on her for something small. B has asked for forgiveness, but her friend refuses to talk to her. We get to the van to find K has been partially successful: pink tights adorn her tiny form, bunched at the ankles, sagging slightly at the crotch, barely meeting the top of her panties near the waist where she has pulled them as high as she can. I rectify the tights situation and help her into her leotard while praising her efforts. She had clearly been working on getting dressed for ballet, even if she didn't quite hit the mark. As she buckles up, I call my friend L, who is doing the front end of the ballet run today.
Me: "We're leaving the school right now."3:55 K and I stand at the curb with her booster seat, K munching on a pre-ballet snack, me reminding A & B that today is a 4:30 dance class, which requires a quick at home turn around. L pulls up, K climbs in and A, B and I head inside, where I get a snack for them as they sit down to do their homework. B cuts words, sorts them alphabetically and categorizes them while eating snack pack with the other hand. A heads to her room to do her worksheet. While B works, we chat about her classmate whose feelings have been hurt.
L: "OK. I'll meet you at your house."
B: "She won't even talk to me. I tried to talk to her and she completely ignored me!"The girls swirl into motion.
Me: "Could you try writing her a note if she won't talk to you?"
B: "I did write her a note. It said, 'I'm sorry for telling on you about moving my book. It was silly.' But she wouldn't even read it.
Me: "Maybe you can write another one tonight and put it on her desk first thing in the morning. She might not know it's from you and she might read it. And really, honey, if you've apologized and asked her to forgive you, that's all you can do. You have to leave the rest up to her."
B: "OK. I'll try that. Can we leave for school early tomorrow?"
This discussion of leaving for school prompts me to look at the clock...
Me: "B! You've got to get your dance clothes on right now. We need to leave in five minutes. A! Get dressed. We need to leave for dance!"
By 4:20, we're in the van (again) headed to dance class.
A: "Mom, did you know we've been in school for more than 100 days so far this year?"And the van fills with her voice of gratitude. So much better than any song I could play.
Me: "Yes, sweetie. I remember the 100th day celebration."
A: "Well, I've decided that I want to write down 100 things that I'm grateful for and then I'll write down 100 things I love about my family and then... Well, that will be a surprise."
Me: "That's a great idea, A."
A: "Yeah, I've already started. Can I read you some of them?"
We arrive at dance a few minutes before the teacher pulls in, so I grab a moment to start jotting notes for this blog post (which has been swirling in my mind for the last hour).
A & B head into dance and I drive over to pick K and her friend, S, up from dance. On our way out of dance, we make a quick trip to the restroom.
From S's stall, I hear: "Um, Miss Shannon?"Thankfully, the teacher is happy to supply a replacement sticker, so that mini-crisis is averted.
Me: "Yes, S?"
S: "When I was going potty, my sticker fell off my hand and into the potty. Can I get another one?"
Me: "Let's go see if Miss P is still here."
5:05 K and I pull into the driveway. I ask her to change out of her ballet clothes, then head to the kitchen, where I spend the next 45 minutes preparing dinner. I set the timer to remind me of when it's time to go retrieve A & B from dance and K sits beside me while I chop veggies, then fruit, happily chattering away. I take her up on her offer to help, only to find that she's deposited the fruit stems into the recycling because she deemed the garbage can too full. Yet it's the calmest 45 minutes I've had since 3:30, so I'll take it.
While I do feel like I sprinted through three hours of my life today, I figure I've built up my endurance by this point. From the moment our children arrive, fresh, new and bawling, we parent in sprints. They cry, we leap to respond. They fall, we jump to help them up, wipe them off, kiss it to make it better. It's almost like they know what we don't - that we need this early endurance training to make it through the years to come. Years where we will offer advice on classmates, replace lost items and love on them whenever we can.
I'm doing my best to run the race set before me, even if it leaves me out of breath at the end of the day.