Yesterday was one of those mornings when my parenting skills were really called into question. And if truth be told, when I say morning, it started at one a.m. when I was suddenly awakened by my bladder and realized I had fallen asleep before checking in with my son Henry. If it wasn’t bad enough that he was still up at that ungodly hour, he was of course, playing a questionable M rated video game and requesting a burrito. Yes, a burrito. In the middle of the night.
We really like Henry’s pediatrician, but we don’t always see eye to eye. And in an epic fail he contradicted me at a recent checkup. I had explained to him that Henry was having trouble falling asleep, and also snacking late at night. I felt that “feeding the furnace” was part of the cause of his insomnia. He told Henry if he was hungry, even late at night, that a nice hearty snack might actually help him fall asleep. That was right after I asked him to explain to Henry the importance of not picking at his scabs. His response was; “Maybe, instead, you should focus on clipping his nails”. I just couldn’t win. But I’ve got to give Henry some credit, though, for watching my back. When the doc asked Henry what time he generally heads to bed, without missing a beat Henry replied; “8 pm”, with the conviction of a preacher. I thought, “8pm?, In what time zone?” But I wasn’t going to correct him since I already looked like a loser parent. As the doctor turned towards his computer, Henry looked up at me, flashed a sly grin and mouthed, “you owe me.”
My partner Scott, gets up quite early, generally about 4:45. And normally I lay there in a twilight zone between sleep and a slow awakening that finally gets me up around 6:30. But yesterday, between my one a.m. short-order cook shift and my clumsy fingers, I must have hit ‘off’ instead of ‘snooze’ on my iPhone and we overslept. A lot. I woke when our Italian Greyhound, Dexter, stuck his head out from under the covers and I caught wind of a smell that emanated from a dog who clearly had finished off Henry’s early morning burrito. And like Barbra Streisand’s final long-sustained note in Evergreen, the hang time of Dexter’s fart held heavy in the air like a stage reading of John Milton’s, ‘Paradise Lost’.
As I cleared my head, I noted the time, and frantically dressed myself as I searched for something relatively clean for Henry to wear. He was slow but seemed to rally a bit, buoyed in part by his morning ablutions consisting of copious amounts of Clearasil and a generous misting of AXE body spray. Honestly, our drill is normally a well-oiled machine.
You see, since January, we’ve changed our morning routine. In the past, we fought intensely about doing homework after school to the point where it became a real road block in our relationship. I found myself dreading that daily battle. I would try reasoning with Henry, explaining that if he did it right away after school, that he’d have the whole night looming free and unfettered of that daunting task. Every day it was the same. I’d ask him to do his homework, he’d beg me to let him take a short nap. I’d forget the sleeping boy until it was almost bedtime at which point I’d wake him, beg, plead and barter, followed by me yelling, him slamming the door, and one of us ending up in tears. Usually me.
So I met with the school counselor and together we came up with a plan. I gave Henry the choice to pick when he would like to accomplish homework. As it turned out, Henry knew what was right for him. He’s a morning guy. Who’d a thought? So I get Henry up early and he does homework without any fuss while I fix him breakfast of scrambled eggs, some fruit and a can of diet coke. Not really. The coke is for me. I pack his lunch and then head out to warm up the car and turn on the heated seats. Henry drapes a blanket over the warm radiators and at ten minutes to eight, we race to school with him bundled in a toasty warm blanket. Sounds idyllic, doesn’t it?
Yesterday, not so much. I pretty much did his homework; calling out questions as he shook a jar of bacon bits into his unbrushed mouth, washing it down with a swig of OJ drunk straight out of the carton. He sucked on a couple Altoids as we made our way to school arriving just in the nick of time. I think the lunch I packed was pretzels, a container of hummus and a couple dill pickle spears.
Today was a better day. Homework was completed, breakfast eaten, teeth brushed, nails cleaned and a wholesome lunch locked and loaded. Okay, it was a Lunchable, a bag of Fritos and a can of V-8, but the rest is all true. I probably won’t win any parenting awards, but hopefully when Henry’s older, he’ll remember the times when I got it right.