Parenting is often about trying to create some kind of order in the midst of a charismatic chaos.
She’s weepy and doesn’t have an explanation, so I wonder whether our 10-year-old is experiencing a kind of pre-teen hormonal change. More likely the hectic morning has got to her. Like it got to me.
Half an hour earlier I was in the laundry crying on the floor in frustration at forgetting to take the wet clothes out of the washing machine the previous afternoon.
‘I don’t have any socks.’
‘Mum, that shirt that was in my washing basket…’
I re-rinse, spin and hang up the clothes, noting a disconcerting number of un-partnered socks in the mix. While ironing his work clothes, my husband decides to iron our six-year-old son’s shorts dry.
‘Dad, they’re still damp.’
He’s dubious as he pulls them up his skinny legs.
‘Don’t worry, they’ll dry over the course of the day.’
Our four-year-old, always more interested in playing Lego than eating, is rude about his breakfast and is rewarded with the requisite four minutes’ time out. Fortunately he’s not experiencing a clothes shortage, but fights a daily battle to have someone else get him dressed: ‘I can’t do it myself’. My husband and I are keen to encourage his independence and suspect we’re being taken for fools.
Our daughter wears a less favoured sports shirt because the preferred one is still wet and she’s put on what she calls her ‘emergency socks’. She’s first out to the car.
‘Boys, put your lunch boxes in your bag and get out to the car.’
‘Boys, it’s time to get in the car.’
I repeat both statements at least three times to my oblivious sons who are happily absorbed in play. Eventually, it clicks and they too head outside.
My husband’s left for work and I’ve somehow dressed myself ready for my own work day. I lock the back door, bemoan the general state of the house and gratefully pull the front door shut on it all.
‘Are we going to be late? I hate being late for school’ My daughter asks miserably from the back seat.?Of course! My daughter hates being late for anything. That was the cause of the tears. Teenage hormones on hold for another day.
It’s easy to see the messy mornings as a sequence of avoidable mistakes, adults nagging sluggish or distracted children, the half-asleep task of putting passably healthy food in lunch boxes, finding library books under beds, signing homework books (wondering whether you can truthfully say the homework got done).
Then are the slender moments of joy, the periods of harmony and flow. Gazing in the half light at the small body of my sleeping youngest boy; hugging my middle boy, all gangly arms and legs, and tousled bed head hair; listening to my daughter practice her piano pieces, proud of her perseverance.
In those first hours of the day, before getting anywhere in particular, we experience the drama of our whole human existence. Or so it seems. Joy, contentment, misery, success, frustration and the getting on with tedious things. It’s rhythm and routine punctuated with a charismatic kind of chaos, and I’m grateful for it all.