Earlier this week, the Bollinger family had a rough start to the day. I’ve been anxious to continue on with my YMCA yoga class regimen. The classes at the Y seem to me to be more “medicinal” and gentler in nature than some of the “hard core” classes I’ve taken at other local yoga studios. Mentally, I like the sound of “hard core,” but physically, I really need to balance out my routine with a milder form of the discipline. With all four kids back under the same Saratoga roof, it’s busier than ever around here, but I’m still determined to keep up with my new, mixed-discipline approach.
After dropping Max off at his Lacrosse Camp, I came home to freshen up and rally the younger two children who were going to attend the Kid’s Corner (aka “Nose Picker Alley,” Charlie’s new name for the daycare center) at the YMCA so Chloe could have a little alone time in the house. Charlie and Genevieve have been hounding Chloe pretty much non-stop since her return from the east coast and I thought it only right to give her a well deserved break from her siblings.
Before starting in on my morning routine in preparation for the class, I quickly asked the kids to dress themselves and prepare for departure. I didn’t make the statement about getting ready to their faces. I called it out as I breezed past them on the way to my bedroom and bathroom. I never forced them to look me in the eyes as I prescribed the rundown for the morning. I didn’t direct anyone by the shoulders or lead the youngest by the hand up the stairs to insure that the process of dressing and brushing teeth actually got underway. I just called out my instructions in the general direction of the children, who sat in front of the television in the living room.
As I passed the seated children on my march toward the master suite, I saw that the younger two were bunched up with Chloe in a sloppy heap at the center of the couch. The couch sagged from the combined body weight of the youth and the middle cushion folded in on itself, the edges rose upward so that gaps of space appeared on either side. Three sets of eyes stared at an episode of “Max and Ruby,” the beloved show of the three-year-old, now also enjoyed by the eight-year-old and the twelve-year-old. Snuggling kept them all cozy in the cool morning air…and the show, though truly meant for preschoolers, was quite humorous to all. The legs of the children were wrapped together loosely like some twisted pretzel-shaped brain teaser puzzle. Where did one leg end and another leg start? I saw that various orange throw pillows had been moved from different spots all about the living room and were now strategically placed behind this child’s head or that child’s shoulders for optimum comfort. The three-year-old attempted to share the warmth of her blankie with her sofa mates. The worn and stained green polka-dot blanket just reached the edge of the twelve-year-old’s shoulder and the lower corner of the smallish cloth brushed ever so slightly against one side of the leg knot. I called out my instructions. There was no micromanaging in this instance…only the expectation that in a half hour’s time, my crew would be ready to launch. This was mistake #1.
With only five minutes to spare before we needed to be out the door, I came upon the same leg pretzel scene in the living room. A new “Max and Ruby” episode had begun and the pretzel children were giggling at the wordless antics of the little brother rabbit. I quickly surmised that there had been no movement whatsoever from the couch. Even the leg knot seemed to be in the exact same position as it had been twenty minutes ago. Steam began to rise from my sneaker clad feet to the very top of my exercise-ready-hair-out-of-my-face ballet bun. I boomed loudly, I implored sternly, I instructed forcefully! The pretzel unwound in one graceful motion at my words, and the three bodies swiftly and lightly lifted off the couch in unison. Then two of the bodies bounded upstairs while one body remained in the living room, floating toward the television to turn it off as the remote could not be located swiftly enough. Now that I had everyone’s attention, I barked out some additional demands: “Hurry up! Let’s go! Get it done and get back down here quickly, people! We’ve got to get in the car now!” Then I squeaked out a couple of inquiries: “Why is this taking so long? Why didn’t you get ready when I asked?” Finally, I bellowed out some complaints: “I’m going to be really late for my class. I hate being late! Mommy’s really getting mad now!”
After a few moments only one child came down the stairs, dressed…the eight year old. What was the hold-up with the three-year-old?! I marched up the stairs to assess the problem with my own eyes, and as I climbed I also called down to the twelve-year-old, instructing her to escort the dog outside, pronto, for a pee trip (“dog watering” we sometimes call it) in her favorite back yard spot. When I reached the three-year-old, I saw that many outfits had been spread out (fan-like) on her toddler bed. I stood before her, gawking at her naked body. More precious time would be needed to remedy the situation. She just couldn’t decide, the three-year-old told me, which ensemble of the seven outfits here, would look best for the upcoming outing to the Kid’s Corner.
“Oh my gosh. You don’t have your clothes on yet?! Genevieve, I’m going to be really late for my yoga. I’m so disappointed. Come on! Put this one on now.” I grabbed the closest sundress and pulled it roughly over the three-year-old’s head and shoulders. “Put on those sandals. Quickly! Let’s move!”
The eight-year-old had now joined the twelve-year-old outside in the dog watering ritual. I had no idea whether the dog had actually peed or not as the eight-year old had somehow managed to whip the dog into such a frothy frenzy that all was chaos. The bulldog raced around on the back deck, like a wild bucking colt, occasionally hopping into the air with such force that all four paws left the ground. The dog stopped for a moment, panting, dripping slobber from her open mouth. “I don’t have time for this!” I yelled at the dog and the children. “Everyone in the car now! Chloe, get the dog in the house.” And then, in an afterthought, “Wait, did she pee?!” The twelve-year-old couldn’t remember, but she was pretty sure the dog had done her business.
As the younger children and I started to scramble into the car, the dog decided to join us. Since I was focused on a car seat buckle assist, I blocked the dog’s entry into the back seat (her usual place of repose for any car ride) and so she headed for the front seat, entering the car on the driver’s side…and got stuck.
I couldn’t get the dog out from the front seat. She had wedged herself in tightly between the driver’s seat and the bottom edge of the steering wheel; her butt end wagged and wiggled but she couldn’t budge. The dog turned her head and looked at me with wild eyes as if to say, “Would you kindly do something because I cannot move.” I tried to pull the animal’s rear end out the driver side door but her plug of a body was like a cork in a wine bottle and could not be nudged loose. Some bull dog slobber smeared across the top of my gear shift, leaving a shiny puddle of dribble that slowly began to wind its way down the gear stick. Time was a ticking and I was no closer to the Y or my yoga class. I’d be lucky to get my yoga mat spread out on the floor before the teacher officially began. I almost gave up on the idea of my yoga respite right then and there since it was clear that I would no longer be able to enter the yoga studio in the right frame of mind…or body. I was harried, anxious, tight. Finally, after using up a full minute on the ineffective pull-tug of the animal’s hind flanks, I realized that all I had to do was pull up on the lever at the side of the driver’s seat to move it back several inches. Once I’d done that, the dog had plenty of room to maneuver her body, turn around and jump out of the car, front paws first. The twelve-year-old grabbed Simone’s collar and briskly ushered her into the house. I moved the seat back into proper driving position for my short legs and we (mother, eight-year-old and three-year old) began rolling out of the driveway in the direction of the Y…already two minutes late for the class…but I was going to try to make it to my class anyway. This was mistake #2.
At the first traffic light, I estimated the remaining travel time. Under the best of circumstances, it would only take five minutes to drive there. After arriving, fast walking my posse from the parking lot to Nose Picker Alley and then checking them in, I’d probably be ten minutes late, all in all, to the yoga class. Not unheard of. I’d seen other students arrive far later, saw how they were forced to weave their way carefully past all the punctual students (seated calmly upon their yoga mats) until they reached a strip of bare floor, if any even remained, on which to place their own mat. This is what I called the Yoga Tardy Walk of Shame and now I would be forced to make that walk myself.
At the second light, I started again to reconsider the trip. Maybe I should just call it a day, turn around and head back home.
At the third light, the eight-year-old’s snide comment about Nose Picker Alley got me so fired up that I recommitted myself to taking the damn yoga class and I sped on. This was mistake #3.
We arrived at the YMCA…in pretty good time. I realized I might only be seven minutes late to my class, instead of ten. I led the younger children in a hurried and rather rude fashion from the parking lot, through the front door of the facility and along the outdoor pathways to the Kids Corner. I caught a glance at the worried look on the three-year-old’s face and I started to slow down. Suddenly, I felt a little badly about how much I’d been rushing her. I was still mad at the eight-year-old, though, for all his sarcastic griping during the car ride.
As we opened the door to the daycare, we were met by a manager who spoke in a sing-song voice, “We have a waiting list now. We can’t take any more children at this time. You are welcome to stay with your kids here at the daycare until a spot opens up for them.”
Ugggghhhh! This had never happened to me before. I really wasn’t going to have a yoga class after all. For a second, Charlie smiled at the news, gleeful that he wouldn’t be spending the next hours among the dirty-diapered, nose-picking toddler crowd, but when I glared at him, his grin quickly disappeared. My children and I marched back to the car. I drove home in silence. I was simmering at this point…hot, yes indeed… but controlled. There was no chatting or friendly backward glances at my charges and they quietly endured the ride home. My plans had been changed without my control. I didn’t want to think about the irony that a true yogi would calmly accept this kind of minor upset with grace and even delight, for no one really controls anything. I thought about going for a bike ride instead…but I was still too frustrated that I had lost control of my planned order of events for the morning. I had not been looking forward to a bike ride. I had been looking forward to a yoga class.
As we walked through the kitchen door of our home, I could hear the twelve-year old get up from the couch to turn the television off. (She was still watching TV?! This fact added to my irritation.) I did not greet her but spoke loudly to the entire brood, “I’m very annoyed that my children weren’t ready in time this morning so that I could get to my yoga class early enough…and not be shut out of the daycare. Now I’m going for a bike ride…a long one. Chloe’s in charge. I don’t want any trouble. Everyone go to your rooms and read a book. There’s NO more television for anyone. NO electronic games. NO computer. Just be quiet. Be safe. Stay indoors. Read…while…I…bike!”
As I began to slather sunblock onto my face and arms, the children made their way to the second floor. I heard Gigi ask her older brother, “Are we having a time-out right now?”
“Yea, I think so.”
“Why? What did we do, Charlie?”
“She says we made her late to her yoga. She’s just mad because she didn’t get her alone time today.” (I could just imagine that Charlie was rolling his eyes or making pretend quote marks with his fingers when he said the words “alone time.”)
“Why is she so mad at us?
“She’s having a temper tantrum, an adult temper tantrum, Gigi.”
“Oh. Is it going to take a long time?”
“Yep. I’d say she’s pretty cranky right now. Just go read your books. She’ll be better after her bike ride.”
The eight-year-old was correct. The bike ride did seem to do the trick. Later in the day, when equilibrium had been re-established in our home, I apologized to the children. I tried to make up for my own childlike behavior – the adult temper tantrum – by playing a couple of board games. “Candy Land” was first on the list. Then I was called on to be the “spinner” for Twister. Lastly, we played “Sorry!” a most appropriate choice to atone for my parental indiscretions. Lucky for me, my children do not hold grudges. Clearly, their wisdom and high levels of emotional intelligence allow them to easily comprehend that their yogi-wanna-be mother is still at the very beginning stages of her training. They’re just going to have to be patient with her as she struggles through the tantrum stage of her evolution.