Somehow, We Get out of the House Every Morning
Thursday, April 19, 2018
A miracle takes place in my house every day.
Somehow, we manage to get out of the house in one piece, in time for school and work.
Time stands still from the moment my son wakes up. The seconds tick by slowly as his father and I try to cajole, threaten, persuade, scold, trick and force him to go through his morning routine.
Against all odds, and despite the fact that several lifetimes have passed since we woke up, we’re able to leave the house at half past eight every morning. And we do it all over again the next day.
Other parents tell me it’s the same in their household, though I don’t see them dropping off their kids at school with blood pouring out of their ears.
Is the toddler’s developing brain not able to fully absorb instructions? Are the neural networks firing so rapidly that before he can process one action, his mind has already moved on to another?
It may explain why I have to repeat an instruction 15 times before he does it, or why he walks around with one leg in his pants and the other pantleg dangling because he got distracted by a bug while getting dressed.
What will the primary years be like, when school begins at the crack of dawn? I imagine my son will be running into school with items of clothing and books trailing behind him, making it just in time before the gates clang shut.
And me, throwing a cheese sandwich over the gate to him like a shot putt because breakfast is, after all, the most important meal of the day.
Work, with all its deadlines, meetings and KPIs, is a place of peace and relaxation. When it comes time to leave work, I have to physically brace myself to face the evening routine of dinner, bath and bedtime. Sometimes I have to fortify myself with a strong cup of coffee before leaving the office, which once prompted a colleague to innocently wonder why I would need coffee when my day has ended. (His ears may still be ringing from my blistering rant.)
I’m not really sure why people say parenthood is supposed to teach you patience. The only thing I’ve learnt is how to lose it.
But I’ve also learnt that there are infinite variations to the way you deliver an instruction to a toddler. These are some of the approaches I have discovered, to be used in ascending order:
1. Polite inquiry: "Can you please brush your teeth?"
2. Firm command: "Please put your toothbrush in your mouth."
3. Performance singing: “This is the way we brush our teeth, we brush our teeth…”
4. False cheerfulness: "Let’s brush our teeth together! Look at Mama brushing! To the left…to the right!"
5. Frustrated growl: "Stop biting off the bristles! Don’t swallow the rinsing water!"
6. Dire threats: "If you don’t brush your teeth, the bacteria will eat them and you won’t be able to eat any more cookies."
Repeat for each of the following: shower, getting dressed, eating breakfast, washing hands, putting on shoes for school and getting into the car seat.
The morning routine is a battle that we fight with strategy, cunning and sheer willpower, to the point of exhaustion.
Even on the rare occasion when we get the kid dressed, fed and strapped into the car ahead of time, there’s no winning.
Because you realise it’s the weekend and there’s no school.
Elizabeth Goh used to be a full-time reader before she had her son. Now, she only reads children's books. She uses all those words that she has picked up to write stuff for other people.