The situation escalated throughout the week until, by Wednesday, nobody left the house happy. It was as if the front door wouldn't swing open until every last one of us was miserable.
Johnny never had the right shirt clean, for instance. For his uniform, he can wear a red golf shirt to school, but on Mass days, has to wear a white button down collar shirt. Apparently, wearing a button down collar shirt on any day but Mass day is the most mortifying experience a second grader can endure. As the week two wore on, we ran out of golf shirts and he left the house in tears and a button down collar shirt.
Another day, Richie was running late and threw a fit in the school hallway.
"I'm not sending you in that classroom throwing a fit," I said.
"I'm throwing a fit because of you!" he retorted.
Never one to bite my tongue in public, I said, "Don't talk to me that way. You are not the only person in this family. If you all helped me, we'd get out of the house on time."
Well, who should be standing there as I'm yelling at my crying child in the hallway than That Mom.
You know That Mom. She's like the opposite of a camcorder...always there to capture your worst moments. No parenting mistake goes unrecorded by her: The over or under-disciplining, the eyeroll behind your child's back, the cussword dropped on the school playground. The untied shoes. The unbrushed hair. The forgotten lunch. Etc. Etc.
It goes without saying that she was also there when Johnny walked to school crying. And I'm sure, since we live across the street from the school, that she hears the commotion inside as well. "Who spilled the milk!" "J.J. you need to go potty on the potty!" "Richie! Put on clean socks!"
I know what she must be thinking, "Wow, every time I see those Heos children, they're crying. I wonder if something is wrong with their mother."
Damn right something is wrong with their mother. Namely, she's doing all the work.
So I called a family meeting. I couldn't wait to lay into my kids--and possibly my husband, too--at this meeting.
I'd say, "First of all, no more crying on the way to school. You're making me look bad."
And, "I am sorry if you are unable to wear the shirt of your dreams each and every day. But your brother is still being potty trained and clothes with pee on them have priority in the laundry."
And, "If you want to be on time in the morning, start working toward that goal at 7 a.m., not 7:59."
Yes, it would be a great meeting, for me at least.
But I decided to clean the house first. Richie and Johnny offered to wash the floors in the entire downstairs. They seemed excited about it, so I said, what the hay? That gave me time to clean the rooms, at which point I found several uniform shirts cast behind beds and under couches and what not. I did the laundry, and more uniforms magically appeared. I reorganized the boys' dressers so there was room for uniforms. Basically, I got organized. Feeling much better, I was ready to have the meeting.
Wait a second, though. Did I really want to yell at my children? It had been an emotional week. Everybody was starting new things, from J.J. to me. Some waterworks and temper tantrums were to be expected. And: They'd just washed all our floors--something they actually wanted to do...more than I could say for myself.
Still, should I really be blamed for every little thing that goes wrong in the morning? I'm trying to work plus write four different books that have deadlines by the end of the year. Money for those books will go to our family. Couldn't somebody else wash the shirts, for a change? How about J.J.? He seems to have a lot of time on his hands.
Then, again, I thought of all the meetings I've been to through the years where everybody got scolded. From sports to newspaper meetings, they weren't very fun. It's fine if you're at work or school, I guess, but I didn't really want to hold a hostile meeting at home.
So I took a different tack.
At the meeting, I thanked the boys for helping me clean the house. I congratulated everybody for surviving the first week of school and work. Then I bribed the children.
If they clean up their toys and clothes every day and lay out their clothes at night without complaining, they get $1 at the end of the week. If they do it without being asked, they get $2.
The allowance was Justin's suggestion. It's definitely made our mornings more peaceful. I'll be honest, I felt pleased as punch with myself and Justin. But I bet you can guess who wasn't there to witness our brilliant parenting moment. That Mom.