I had this post I was planning to write today; a post about breakfast hacks. About how my kids have developed this habit of each requiring highly specific breakfasts, in addition to their highly specific lunches (I literally have to use my body to block their line of vision while assembling their sandwiches, or else there is a significant probability that my daughter will burst into soul-wrenching tears because I put the jelly on top of the peanut butter before placing the other slice of bread on top, as opposed to putting peanut butter on one slice and jelly on the other slice, and only then putting the slices together).
I know you know this already, but it bears repeating: The images that you see on my site – on many, if not most professional bloggers’ sites – don’t always reflect reality. When you see a photo like that one up there, you’re seeing what my life looks like when I have lipstick on, and take the time to wipe down my countertops, and have a professional photographer present making sure that the angle of the shot doesn’t reveal the crusty pots in the sink. Sometimes when my children are looking all sweet and happy in photos, it’s because I’ve told them that sure, we can go see Peter Rabbit later, not because the food I made them was just so fucking delicious that they felt compelled to burst into spontaneous expressions of joy.
I like coming up with ideas for pretty pictures; I like creating them and editing them and crafting posts around them. Imagery is a part of my job, and it’s a part that I enjoy.
But it’s important to me to be crystal-clear about which parts are real, and which parts are just photographs that help me tell a story – because pretending otherwise helps no one.
Right now, for example, I’m sitting at a cluttered dining room table, pounding away at my computer and drinking my third cup of coffee. There are big makeup streaks on my cheeks, because I just cried at kindergarten drop-off. And I don’t mean delicate little tears that I could swipe away with a finger before anyone noticed; I mean I cried. Hard.
Even as I type this, the reason why I cried sounds so small and petty, so ridiculously not-all-that-bad-in-the-grand-scheme-of-things, but here it is: I can’t get my son out of the door in the morning without yelling at him. I can’t do it.
I tell him to get dressed, then I find him in his room playing with Legos and I tell him to get dressed again. Then I follow him out into the living room with his clothing in my hands, set it on the floor in front of him, and remind him again. And again. And again. I keep on reminding him while tucking slices of salami into lunchboxes and braiding my daughter’s hair and finding Kendrick’s phone and making toast with Nutella for one child and toast with jelly for the other. I ask and I ask and I ask, and after awhile I feel my heart rate starting to go up, and I tell my son to listen to my voice, do you hear how it’s starting to change? I remind him that I got angry yesterday morning, and the morning before that. I tell him that I don’t want to get angry today. I tell him that I can feel myself starting to want to yell.
So he gets dressed. Finally.
Then I ask him to put on his shoes. Again. And again. And again.
And then – always, always, every single day – I yell at my six-year-old. And I don’t mean I “raise my voice,” I mean I yell.
This morning, when I broke, it was at 8:39AM – the exact minute when experience has taught me that we will no longer be able to get to school drop-off on time. The only way to maybe make it happen would be to put them both in the stroller – my son sitting on the little footrest in the front – and jog the whole way, and since my surgery I haven’t been able to do that. I can’t even walk at a normal pace without feeling lightheaded. So this morning I went one step further: I didn’t just yell, I screamed.
This happens every! Morning!
What am I supposed to do?!
Why won’t you listen to me?!
I kept going all the way to school. Even though I could feel people noticing, I couldn’t stop. Tell me how I’m supposed to get you out of the house without yelling at you! Tell me! TELL ME!
We got there just in time to watch the door to his classroom lock behind the last kid in line, but the door to the next classroom over was still open. Go! I said. Run! He ran, and again reached the door just as it clicked shut. He knocked on it gently, then a little harder, then turned to look back at me – what should I do?
He looked so small standing in front of that locked door, just wanting to do the thing that would make his mom happy, and so I started to cry, right there in the middle of a big crowd of parents whose children didn’t have to go through the office because they’d gotten there late again. A friend of mine saw that I was crying, and came over. “I’ll get him to class,” she said, and walked him over to the office entrance. I forgot to give him a hug.
Then three other women – mothers from my son’s class; women I’m friendly with, but don’t know especially well – came over to ask if I was okay. And that’s when I started crying, way too much and way too loud. I can’t get him to school on time, I said. I scream at him every morning. Every single morning.
I’m so mean, I’m so mean, I’m so mean.
They hugged me, one at a time, hard, until my breath slowed down. And then one of them laughed.
“Me too,” she said. “Sister, me too.”