My children have no appreciation for the work of the “family CEO” (a term I first heard used by one of the adoptive mothers I worked with years ago to adopt the first of her four children). Creating the schedule, alone, ought to qualify me for some paid position, or so I tell myself when I need a little inspiration.
Yesterday, driving home from the Atlanta Girls’ School (“AGS”) with Journey, when I glanced at the passenger seat, I could almost see the bubble of isolated independence she inhabits. It is a bubble that shields her from concern about or awareness of how her needs, desires, and activities affect the rest of the family. I had gone to school to buy her AGS swimsuit and snorkel for the upcoming swim team season. When I entered the building, Journey ran up to me and said, “I forgot to do some homework, so I have to do it now or the teacher won’t give me any credit. Then I need to try out for the Fall play before I can try on swimsuits. Okay. I gotta go.” As she was rushing away, I called after her, “I’ll meet you in the gym where they are selling the swimsuits!” What more could I say?
As I paced around the gym waiting, I kept looking at my watch and calculating how many minutes were left before I had to declare: “No possible way to get Becton to his appointment on time.” It was a 25-minute drive to get Journey home, and then another 20+ minutes to get Becton to where he needed to be. I had done the math and knew it was possible to accomplish both things if the children cooperated. Didn’t Journey understand that this delay wasn’t fair to Becton (or to me)? This is why we have family meetings once a week – the meetings everyone complains about. John and I maintain the delusion that if all members of the family unit understand how busy and complex the upcoming week of events is going to be, they will miraculously start being ready on time and more forgiving when their own activities are impacted.
My phone started ringing. Becton wanted the remainder of the chicken wings that Skye had ordered the day before. “Okay,” I said, “but you need to get her permission.” Then Skye called, enraged. Becton had eaten her wings without asking. She said, “He’s a crazy person. You need to do something about that!” Emily called. She said, “Becton is crying because you said he couldn’t have a snack.” I replied, “That’s not what I said…” I hung up wondering what Skye had done or said to Becton… and where is Journey?!
Eventually, Journey appeared and said her homework was done and turned in. She tried on the swimsuits for size. While I stood in the long line to pay, Journey rushed off to do a play audition. We had talked about the impossibility of doing both the play and the swim team. Journey was tasked with choosing which activity was more important to her. Yet, here I was standing in line, about to commit to one while she still pursued the other. I turned to the swim coach and presented the dilemma. Fortunately, someone else had preceded me in asking the question and the coach was ready with an answer. Swim team practices would not start for two weeks. For the next two weeks, Journey could go to play rehearsals. For the following two weeks, she could attend two swim practices and two play rehearsals. After that, Journey would need to attend all swim practices.
I remembered the late summer gathering of seven mothers at my house to discuss morning and afternoon carpools for the girls in our neighborhood who would be attending AGS on the other side of town. Who would ride with whom on what days and at what times was debated and decided over glasses of wine. We also acknowledged that the schedule would need to be revisited with the changing of sports seasons. The time had come. Cross country and volleyball were being replaced by basketball and swimming. Some girls would still need early pick-up to get to dance classes away from school or because they did not participate in sports or other school-related activities after school. Basketball ended earlier than swimming. Swimming was done at a location south and west of the school. My mind was spinning… But the girls wouldn’t worry about the transportation schedule. They could barely remember to take the required forms and money to school.
We have been fortunate this year to have an extra car that K.J. uses to drive his siblings to the two schools on the east side of town. I can check those schools off my list in the A.M. three days a week. It could have been five, but I was suckered into driving Becton to school, the two mornings I don’t drive the AGS carpool, by his sad story that his teenage siblings, K.J. and Skye, torment him on the car ride. I managed to fool myself into believing that I would ride my bike those days as Becton’s school is situated right by the bike path. But morning doctor, dentist, orthodontist, and dermatologist appointments, along with workers in the house to repair the latest falling apart item, have mostly occupied my “exercise time.” And, now, there is Skye home with mono.
Yes, last week was significant. Journey came to me on Wednesday complaining that half of her face didn’t work right. After doctor calls and a six-hour visit to the ER (until 3:30 a.m.), we came away with a diagnosis of Bell’s palsy, a temporary facial paralysis. The next day, Skye wouldn’t get out of bed because her throat hurt. She had been complaining about tiredness, but we chalked this excuse up to her resistance to go to school and do the work. I would show her. She could stay home, but I’d take her to the Minute Clinic for a strep test. Skye didn’t have strep. She had mononucleosis! What this means about when and how her work will get done remains to be seen.
I miss Sherry and I miss what she offered to our family: a constant adult presence at home during the wicked hours when I am driving from place to place. When Sherry was here, the kids ate a home-cooked meal, mostly at the same time. When Sherry was here, someone was checking to make sure that homework was done and not too many unhealthy snacks were eaten before dinner. When Sherry was here, the kids picked up their messes after they made them. When Sherry was here, the kitchen didn’t look like a disaster all the time. But Sherry is not here, so the kids are learning a little more independence – like it or not.
Meanwhile, there is K.J.’s soccer practice or a game, Skye’s tutoring, and Skye’s horseback on Monday. There is K.J.’s soccer practice or a game and Becton’s hip hop class on Tuesday. There is K.J.’s soccer practice or a game, Becton’s therapy, Skye’s tutoring, Journey’s piano lesson, and Becton’s choir on Wednesday. There is K.J.’s SAT tutoring, Becton’s therapy group, and Skye’s therapy on Thursday. On Friday, there is K.J.’s soccer and Becton’s tap class. Fortunately, I have John to help with family cleaning and Journey’s play practice on Saturday and all the church-related activities on Sunday. It’s a lot, and the activities are scattered north, south, and east of home base – until swimming starts and we can claim “west” as well. Emily helps. My mom helps. John helps when he can. We can do this, but I swear there is no appreciation from the younger generation for how complicated this really is.