Now that you asked, it really was a crappy morning. I woke up at the usual time, which meant trouble right away.
Last night, J was sobbing over her math homework. She was appalled by her Unbelievable Stupidity. The math teacher had mentioned, oh, by the way, you kids haven’t learned how to do long division yet, but she didn’t continue with the crucial phrase, “So go ahead and skip that last math problem, because it’s long division.” Or maybe she did, but my kid didn’t hear it. All she heard was the voice in her head telling her that if she weren’t such a loser, she’s be able to psychically intuit how to do long division without ever having to get it explained to her. So last night, she’d begged me to teach her. And I could have, because I actually kind of like long division. But since she’d already worked too long on her homework, she was sobbing, and she was already late to gymnastics, I flat-out refused. I told her that she had permission to wake me up early so that I could help her with it in the morning.
So when I wasn’t shaken awake early by J the Perky Early Morning Math Enthusiast, I knew that my other daughter, J the Grouchy, Already-Behind-Schedule, Failure-At-Everything, would be greeting me instead. I love both daughters equally, but I have to confess: there’s one of them who’s much more fun for just hanging around.
Sure enough, not-so-fun J showed up, in dire need of a pair of jeans. We went into her room, where I opened up a drawer full of what appeared to be perfectly fine jeans and pants. Sadly, they were declared too small; too small; too big; and, my personal favorite, too fuzzy.
Proffers of belts were ignored, the “too fuzzy” rationale was not intended for a fact-based debate, and I was forced to explain the concept of Adequate Laundry Lead Time until my grumbling little storm cloud picked up something inside-out from the floor. The good news is that my children no longer argue with the Adequate Laundry Lead Time speech, because they know that if a follow-up speech is required, it’s the Anyone This Passionate About Their Own Laundry Should Be Doing Her Own Laundry speech. It’s remarkable how that one really quells the laundry passion.
So, it was a rocky morning. Generally speaking, J’s pretty organized. She’ll usually pack her own backpack, and she’s fairly on top of things. But J had forgotten some crucial supplies yesterday, so she was more anxious than usual. Plus the Great Jeans Kerfuffle had set her slightly behind schedule, although since J likes to leave a full 20 minutes for her 10-minute walk to school, her version of “late” is skewed. But she was barely holding back tears as she struggled to pull her cello case on her back and her backpack on her front while clutching paper towel-wrapped breakfast sausages and checking the clock to see that she was 3 minutes behind schedule.
Meanwhile, moments earlier, M walked in on Cute W and I bowing and scraping to help J gather her roughly 15 pounds of gear while ensuring that she had morning protein and asked, “Mom, where are my white uniform socks?” I answered that I’d help her look in a couple of minutes, once we got J out the door. Since M had a bit less than half an hour before it was time to leave for morning chorus practice, it seemed like a reasonable response. To me, anyway.
I remember reading about sibling rivalry a decade ago, and one of the tips was to cater ostentatiously to your older child when the new baby comes so that she doesn’t think that she’s being neglected. Heck, I didn’t just read about it: I did it. I remember calling out, “I’m coming, J! Just let me finished filling and closing up this milk cup, because M needs her milk!” And I’d beam down at M, who would accept the sippy cup imperiously, no more than she was due as Princess Toddler. And then I’d scramble over to J, whose fretfulness always seemed tempered by the instinctive patience of a subsequent child.
So, I try to make everyone feel loved and cared for, blah-blah-blah, but come on, dude! You are three grades ahead and you have 25 minutes to spare, but you’d like me to drop everything to help you? Never mind that getting that pesky younger sister out the door will allow your dad and I to focus on you like laser beams, allowing you to briefly resume your rightful place (lost, lo those ten years ago) as the Sun in our family solar system?
That’s not happening.
Finally, J was on her way. And by the time I was able to shift my priorities back to where M would argue they rightfully belonged, she had located the white sock, dirty but present, and she knows better than to critique laundry management skills. But she was all attitude. I asked a question and got mockery and smart-assery. I addressed the rudeness and was, I kid you not, mimicked. And then . . . I was done. “I don’t need to put up with this,” I said. “You have a good day at school.” And I turned and went upstairs to my bedroom to read. She is fully capable of feeding herself and packing her own lunch and backpack. Plus Cute W was still in the kitchen, eating and reading the paper now that Hurricane J had whirled out.
And, here’s the thing: I think that leaving was the right choice. M was being disrespectful and unpleasant, and trying to discuss it with her would only have caused more drama. Her behavior was intolerable, and the easiest way to convey that quickly without escalating was to step away.
But it’s freaking depressing.
We have good mornings. Often. We joke around. Sometimes there’s dancing. Or Cute W and I trying to disgust the girls with loud kissing. There are usually multiple sleepy, warm hugs. Often there’s singing or a bit of affectionate back-scratching.
I got no M hugs this morning. I feel like I’m the one who’s been punished. And I don’t deserve it: I was delightful.
So, better luck tomorrow, I hope.