Late.

My bread mix was a cup of flour short and so when I went to check on it, I was attempting to prove challah soup. (I say “prove” now because I’m posh and I have been binge-watching The Great British Baking Show.) Fortunately, I started the bread early enough that I had time to start again, with the proper amount of flour, which is not something I always do — start early enough to account for mishaps and unexpected timesucks. It is, however, something I have been trying to teach The Who to do. (Do as I say, not as I do? Don’t lecture me; I’m working on it.)

We are almost always scrambling at the last minute. We aim for 8:35. We’re usually screeching out of the driveway at 8:50 (as much as an electric car can screech, which is basically not at all) getting him to school and me to work with just mere minutes to spare. I mean, his morning routine is fairly simple: get dressed, brush teeth, socks and shoes, eat something. And, considering that he wakes up naturally by 7 at the latest, there shouldn’t be an issue. Except — there always is. Mostly because he wants to do all the things before his routine begins: watch YouTube, play video games, throw a ball against the wall, whittle some stick (seriously — this is a new pastime and I have the bark shavings all over the kitchen floor to prove it.) He also grossly underestimates the time it takes him to do anything. “I can get my shoes on in, like, 30 seconds.” Sure. If you were wearing flip flops instead of tightly laced, double-knotted high-tops.

So, the other day, we’re backing out of the driveway at 8:50 as usual and we see a giant truck blocking the alley where we park. I could pull back into my driveway and go out the other way, but I don’t want to. And, frankly, I’m annoyed that we’re running late again to begin with. I take all of my frustration (with The Who for being late, with me for not enforcing better time management, and with the guy in the truck, who really doesn’t deserve any of it) and channel it into a lesson. (Pause and take a moment to celebrate this with me; how often do I ever have the wherewithal to take frustration and make it into something useful in the moment? Not often.)

“See?” I said to The Who. “This is why you should always build ten extra minutes into your schedule — to account for things that are beyond your control. If we were leaving ten minutes early, this would be no big deal.” (This, by the way, is the same lesson I used to try to teach my students to no avail. “If you printed your paper last night instead of this morning, when the printer ran out of ink, you would have had time to replace it.”) Anyway, that was all I said and left it at that.

A week or so later, it happened that I had a morning meeting at work that I forgot to tell The Who about, meaning that we had to leave ten minutes earlier than usual. I expected a lot of pushback about it, but surprisingly got none. Instead, when I poked my head downstairs and told him we needed to leave, he cheerfully said, “perfect timing! I just finished my game!” Then he came upstairs, put his shoes on, brushed his teeth, and we were out the door exactly on time. As we were pulling out of the driveway, he said, “See, Mama? Good thing I did what you told me to do and built an extra ten minutes into my schedule because then I was ready even though you had to leave early unexpectedly!”

Did you comprehend that fully? I gave some advice to my tween in a moment of frustration, he pocketed it, pulled it out later on his own, used it, and then happily told me about it. It’s a freaking magical miracle. I mean, it might not happen regularly (or ever again for that matter) but it did happen.

Parenting can often feel like Groundhog Day. You say the same stuff over and over and nothing ever changes. I can’t even tell you how many times I’ve told him to throw away the wrapper from his chocolate milk bottle or turn off the bathroom light when he’s done. But every now and then something sticks. A freaking magical miracle, I tell you.

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