Win a Winner!
Writers & Photographers
Berlitz Summer Camp
by Molly Gross
My day really begins once my children and I are dressed, so I’m not always in a hurry to get this done. As a result, my kids have a hard time understanding why some days I hurry, and some days I don’t. Naturally, it’s the days I’m in a hurry that they really don’t want to be.
Say I need to have us all dressed and out the door by 9 a.m. If it’s 8:26 when I get out of the shower, I can do my hair, make-up and get dressed by 8:45. (My husband can dispute this later.) Once that’s done, I call for the kids, who I imagine I can dress in 15 minutes.
“Time to get dressed, Anne,” is answered by a request to wear “jo-jammas.” I explain she has to wear clothes and may use her step stool to pick some out from her drawer. She gets her stool.
“Time to get dressed, Seth!” is followed by the sound of feet thumping away from the bedroom. I look for him. Not in a closet … not in the shower … not in the tent in the living room (don’t ask). I finally spot him under the dining room table, drag him out by the ankles, and carry him over my shoulder down the hall, giggling (him, not me).
In the room, Anne is pulling every dress off its hanger. It’s 8:50.
My daughter wants to wear a “pitty dress.” I alert her to the chicken-coop state of her closet, and demand she choose a shirt and pants. This goes back and forth until I say she might rip her dress at school. She doesn’t want to “wip” it, so I lay out (OK, throw) some options on the floor. She jumps on her choice, then she serenades me with “Wheels on the Bus.” Her brother copies her. I calm down as we sing together … until Seth has disappeared.
I find him in the hallway … with a pen. Usually, I can handle this, but when I’m on a schedule Seth’s acts of “discovery” (which have involved toilet paper, the cat, and poop) make my lips tighten, my eyes burn and my heart contract into a fist while I screech things like “We’re going to be LAAAAATE!” as in “The house in on FIIIIIIIRE!” I know. But it always seems like a good response at the time.
Back into the room, baby over my shoulder for the 10th time, Anne wants a story.
“You can pick out a book for the car,” I offer, tugging at Seth’s pajamas.
“Noooooo, tell a story.”
We engage in a sophisticated “No” debate, resulting with Anne in time-out. Anne cries. Her brother copies her. I get Seth dressed. He poops. I change him. I go get Anne. We discuss the importance of following directions. I realize she’s peed on the chair. I close my eyes. It’s 9:14.
Anne asks for her purse with tear-stained cheeks and bells in her voice. I dig through three toy bins and fantasize about pushing all our toys out through the front door with a backhoe. I find the purse. With a moldy banana inside. I’m out of ways to console myself. It’s 9:22.
I finally bustle the kids to the door, at this point sweating and spewing things like “No! You chose sandals!” “Are you sure you don’t have to go potty?” And “What IS this on my blouse?” I dig for the keys in my bag, too fast to be productive, and generally feel like a downright failure in every way. Then:
“Mommy I love you, so much.” I feel two arms reach around my neck and squeeze. Her brother copies her. They’re warm and smell like maple syrup. I hold them both. I let my phone ring. I let the clock tick. I suddenly remember what my mom always told me growing up, to not “sweat the small stuff.” I remember lying on a picnic blanket last week in a park, hearing my kids’ laughter. I imagine them coming home from college for Christmas. I picture myself hunched in a wheelchair, sitting by a phone and waiting for one of them to call. I drop my bag. I forget everything before that moment. I don’t want to let go. It’s so hard to let go.
You were right, Mom. Some things aren’t worth a second thought. And certain things you want to hold onto forever.
Molly Gross is a mother of two, living with her husband in Southern California. She has an MFA in Creative Writing, a BFA in Acting, and teaches writing classes online.
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