Well, it’s that time of year again: back to school. My schedule won’t change that much, but I know a lot of y’all are trying to get back into the swing of getting kids out the door before the tardy bell rings. To that end, here are a few tricks I use to get places on time. I hope they help you!
Get dressed. Oh, laws, y’all. You would not believe the weeping, wailing, and gnashing of teeth that goes on in my house when it’s time to get dressed in the morning. And then when my daughter wakes up, it gets even worse! My best advice is to pack up and put away anything out of season, anything that is far too small or too large, and any hand-me-down that causes you to recoil in horror when you see it. (I’m looking at YOU, size 4T black pleather pants.) Once you’ve done that, nothing your kid picks out can possibly be all THAT bad, right? Except of course that seasons continue to change. And children continue to grow. And before you know it, that cute little scooter that fit just fine on the Fourth of July is suddenly the skin-tight hootchie-mama skirt that your daughter is donning for the church Christmas pageant because HELLO, it’s the only thing red in her closet.
Use a timer. Theoretically, the timer limits my child’s activities in a time crunch – 5 minutes to create art, say, or 7 minutes to eat. (Stop judging me. You’d understand why I do it if YOUR child had ever spent 45 minutes stirring her Cheerios round and round and round to create a vortex of milk in the bowl and yet NOT! ACTUALLY! EAT! A SINGLE! BITE!) The timer helps. Usually. Sometimes, that ding don’t mean a thing. (In fact, I’m pretty sure Destiny’s Child has a song about that.) However! My daughter thinks I use the timer to CREATE time: “Make me 5 minutes, Mama. Just 5! I looooove 5 minutes!” And THAT, my friends, makes me feel powerful. So really, even if she doesn’t budge when the timer goes off, I still maintain the illusion of control. And there are days when the illusion is all I really need to get me through ‘til bedtime.
Pack the Stuff. You know…the Stuff. Look, when I first had a baby, I thought the diaper bag was the DIAPER bag…that I could ditch it as soon as she was potty trained. Au contraire, mon frère. (Loosely translated, that means “Why did you only read pregnancy books? You should’ve read some childcare books, too, you idiot.”) You see, I am STILL carrying around several pounds of child equipment everywhere I go. They’re just shoved into my purse or pockets or whatever plastic grocery sack I happen upon that’s not already full of nearly rotten bananas. I carry an Epi-Pen and a snack (JUST IN CASE we discover upon arrival that all the food is smeared with peanut butter) and a drink. Also a few stickers. Some crayons. A Little Mermaid coloring book that’s seen better days. I keep quarters on hand for bubblegum machines and a pack of my daughter’s favorite mints, which taste like antacids. A Disney princess Chapstick has made its appearance in my purse from time to time, as have an assortment of small plastic animals, including two meerkats and an elephant. Every word of that list is true, by the way. I exaggerate ALL THE TIME (see? I just did it), but no exaggeration is necessary here. I basically have enough room left for three things: money, keys, and a phone. I carry those so I can buy her things, drive her places, and call if she needs help.
Make one last trip to the bathroom. If your child, like mine, believes that urinating one final time before we leave the house is going to kill her dead, you may need to make it a game. In my house, the person who tee-tees first “wins.” I cannot tell you WHAT that person wins. (Because it’s nothing.) I also cannot tell you the number of times I have had to actually disrobe and sit down to show her that I am Really Serious This Time. (Because it’s a lot.) She invariably begs me to get up and let her go first. Works like a charm. But keep the potty handy anyway, ‘cause you know you’re gonna need it. I keep one in the trunk of the car. I used to keep it in the backseat until I was informed by a friend that “that’s just nasty.” I mean, really. How was I supposed to know that? Nobody tells you stuff like that in the maternity ward. So now I keep my little potty seat in the trunk, like any other classy lady would do. I highly recommend you do likewise. They come in handy on long road trips, at the park, and when shopping in stores that don’t have public restrooms. (Surely I’m not the only mom who shops in stores like that? Hello? HELLO??!)
Count to three. Not because it will work. Just because it’s worth a try. We all do it, don’t we? I am firmly convinced that no woman on God’s green earth has ever counted to three more slowly than a mama who is threatening her child. That’s because we don’t really know what we’re gonna DO when we get to three, do we? If we’re trying to leave the house, a time-out for wasting time is kind of contrary to the purpose. For getting your child’s attention, I’m all for spinning your head completely around a few dozen times (as in the Exorcist), but that can be hard to pull off at a moment’s notice. Sometimes, though, the ol’ count-to-three trick works, whether there’s anything real backing it up or not, much the same way the threat to mar one’s Permanent Record worked for teachers for years and years. So keep it in your Mommy Arsenal just in case.
Don’t snap. I once dropped my daughter J off at daycare, and her teacher said, “Don’t forget school pictures are tomorrow! Make sure she’s here by 8.” I nearly lost it, y’all. “I am TRYING to have her here by 8. I’m trying to have her here BEFORE 8, for the love of all that is good and holy. What, you think this is easy?! I’ve done a load of laundry and put supper in the slow cooker and slathered her from head to toe in an assortment of eczema creams and EVEN MANAGED TO PUT DEODORANT AND MAKEUP on myself this morning, woman, so don’t talk to me about getting her here by 8 a.m.!” This is not a tactic I would recommend, friends. It’s far better to smile politely and drown your sorrows in a venti toffee nut frappucino after you get to work than it is to tick off the person who takes care of your child from 8 to 5, especially if that person is just trying to be helpful. I’m just sayin’.
That’s all for now, y’all. And as the Irish say, “May the road rise to meet you; may the wind be always at your back; and may you always remember to wash out your potty before the afternoon sun beats down on your trunk.
Look. I only have a minute or two to write. Mom thinks I’m in my room diagnosing my dolls with ear infections. HA! What a laugh. As if I would touch those BPA-infested creatures with a ten-foot pole. That woman doesn’t even know I can read yet, much less write. Half the time she’s so tired she doesn’t notice if I lift her skirt up to her waist when she’s dropping me off at school. She’ll never notice if I slip in a few tips for kids on how to avoid leaving the house. Pay attention, kids. I may only get to do this once.
Watch things. Doesn’t matter what it is, but you’ll get further if it’s something arguably educational. Moms really dig educational stuff...you know, nature and letters and stuff. For example, periodically I like to pretend to be fascinated by the fish. I insist on feeding him, climbing onto the counter to have a closer look, that sort of thing. Hey, I know that fish is dull. I was born nearly four years ago, not yesterday! I know he just swims and eats and occasionally poops. (I’ve never gotten to see that last one, but I haven’t given up hope yet.) Fish watching is educational and therefore might buy you a couple of minutes of procrastination in the morning, which is pretty good. The garbage truck is even better, though. See, the garbage truck comes on its own schedule, right? So there’s none of this “timing” business... it just gets there when it gets there. Unfortunately, the garbage truck only comes twice a week, but OH HOW I LOVE Tuesdays and Fridays. (And if you’re reading this, sanitation department, please return the employee with the gold tooth who always waved at me back to my route. I really miss him.) Ask to read a book. This works for the same reason watching the fish works: moms think books will make you smarter. Moms believe they want us to be smart.I guess they don’t realize how much trouble they are creating for themselves later.Anyway, pick up a book or two and ask her for a nice long read-aloud just before you need to be somewhere. Remember that your goal is to make BOTH of you late, so you should never let on that you have a particular book memorized or (worse still) that you can actually read all by yourself. That kind of confession will only lead to your reading alone in your car seat.If your mom stops falling for this one and refuses to read to you, pull out the big guns: religious books. If your parents got you, say, a children’s Bible for your birthday, they’re probably religious. Your mom may refuse to read regular books to you, but she will feel REALLY, REALLY guilty refusing to read SCRIPTURE to you.
Never, never...oh, man! She’s coming. Y’all will have to make do with just those tips for now. I’m out! --J