Tuesday, January 11, 2011

This Year...It's Four in the Morning

The thing I hate most about going back to work after a holiday is the return of MORNINGS! No matter how organized I am or how early I start, the last few minutes always delay a perfectly timed departure. There is a young saboteur in my life!

This morning, as I was rushing around, trying not to raise my voice, I realized how unhinged I must have sounded to a little boy who just wants to play. I was reminded of this column from last year. I don't think I ever posted it here. It's in my collection of columns.

Three in the Morning

Finish your breakfast. Brush your teeth. Hurry up. I have to get to work. Put on your hat. Come back here. No, I don't have time to be a polar bear. We have to go. I'm going to be late. I love you, too. Your hair's a mess. I said, come here. You're going to spill my coffee. Okay, now put on your boots. Let's go, love. Get in the car. Oh, please don't sit on the ground--you're not wearing snow pants. I said, get in the car! There goes my coffee. Sigh.

The day begins...

It wasn't until I wrote it all out in one paragraph that I realized how irrational my morning tirade must sound to a three year old. Pre-child, I used to actually think my morning routine was rushed. Now, it's nothing short of insane.

And yes, we follow all of the advice so liberally shared in parenting magazines. We get up twenty minutes earlier (most days). I make lunches the night before. The bags are packed and at the door. We have lots of quick and healthy breakfast options. But all the preparation in the world can't account for a three year old who realizes he has some power over his mama. He knows I have to get to work, and he knows that drama ensues when he clomps through the living room in his dirty boots.

There was nothing different about my routine the other day. I chanted my morning mantra of madness as I tried to wrestle my son into his winter clothes. The furrow in my brow deepened as I raced towards our caregiver's place. Kieran chattered away in the backseat, asking me question after question, which I answered with robotic predictability.

"When's my birthday, mommy?"


"How old will I be?"

"You're three now. So what's next?"

"Four. I'll be four."

I turned the corner, taking the first sip from my half-empty travel mug. I glanced at the clock. We were running five minutes behind.

And then...

"Mommy? When will I be three again?"

"Oh...um...never...you'll only be three once."

Oh, dear.

We arrived at our wonderful caregiver's house, my eyes red and watery. I paused a little longer as I kissed my son good-bye.

As if this working mom needs to feel more guilty, more torn, than I already do.
But, the funny thing is, I didn't feel guilty.

Not about this, at least.

I have loved the exuberance, imagination, and fickle tyranny of age three. But, I also loved the affection, energy, and intensity of age two. I know there will be things about four that make it my favourite age.

So, while I don't feel guilty, I do feel a little sad. With each year, things change, independence grows, making me glad I followed the advice of so many other parents who told me to enjoy my son while he was young. Enjoy him, I have. Three has not passed me by. And, as we close in on four, I know it won't either.

Maintaining balance takes mindful effort. Sometimes the house is a mess. Sometimes I'm frazzled when I arrive at work. Sometimes I feel like I'm doing too many things and none of them well. There are days when I drop everything to read to Kieran, but there are also times when I tell him to go play because I have work to do. That's life.

It's the impermanence of childhood that makes it so wonderful. And this isn't just Kieran's journey. It's mine too. He'll only be three once, but I'll only be mother to this particular boy, at this particular age, once. So, in between my warnings about spilled coffee and messy hair, I remember to breathe.


And enjoy the last magical months of three.

Even in the morning.

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