Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Saving the Best for Last

Mom must be another word for rotten egg, because I am always the last one to the car.

My own mother suffered from the same problem. There were six children in my family, and my father is a compulsive early-bird. We would get ready and be sitting down for Easter Mass 90 minutes before it was ready to begin. We showed up to high-school graduations while they were still setting up the chairs on the lawn. We got sunburn from staking out a good spot for Fourth of July fireworks "nice and early."

Still, when I was a kid my Dad always jokingly complained about always having to wait for my mother. He would say that Mom had a psychological 'trigger' like Pavlov's dog -- all we had to do was say the word “Car” and she would have to go to the bathroom. He would have us all buckled up and the car running in the driveway, and she still wouldn't emerge from the house for at least five more minutes. Now that I am a mom of 3, I finally understand why.

When we are planning to go out, whether it is to go to church or the zoo or a ballgame or school, I start out like my father and end up like my mother.

The compulsive early-bird in me starts getting people ready at least 30 minutes before it is time to leave. My style is half caring mother, half paratrooper Captain. (Go! Go! Go!)
  • I check to make sure no one is dirty. I make sure no one looks like a clown (non-matching clothes), a hobo (holes in the pants), a zookeeper (what's that smell?), or an auto-mechanic (stains from who knows where).
  • I remind everyone to go to the restroom and to comb their hair.
  • I help them find their missing barrette, jacket, sock, or shoe. I help them button, zip, buckle, and tie. If it’s cold, I find matching hats and mittens. If it’s rainy, I get the umbrellas.
  • I pack a bag with snacks, water, wipes, hand sanitizer, more snacks.
  • I tell them what toys they can and can’t bring (no, you may not bring the super-soaker in the car).

When I am finished, there are three tidy children lined up and waiting by the door. We are usually ready in plenty of time to make it to our destination with room to spare. The early-bird time-buffer remains intact. (If you are an early-bird, you know what I mean.)

30 seconds before it is time to go, my husband puts his shoes on and gets his keys. (Where has he been for the last half hour?)

Finally, once everyone is ready to go, I look at myself in the mirror. And magically, as they walk out the door, I transform into my mother.

It's amazing how getting it all done for the rest of the family can make you look like you've just been through a train wreck. It is equally amazing how consistently I choose to use the early-bird buffer to my own advantage. As my husband takes the family down the driveway to get into the car, I take a few minutes to do everything for myself that I just did for everyone else.

It is wonderfully refreshing to get yourself ready, wash your face, put on some lipstick, comb your hair, change that shirt that has remnants of your two-year-old's last meal, and yes use the restroom -- in silence. In that few minutes, I find I am able to relax and refresh. It feels good to turn over the task of strapping in the children to my husband. The house is so peaceful when there's no one else in it.

Do I care that the rest of the family is pondering my mysterious disappearance from their midst? Do I mind that they might be waiting at the edge of impatience? No, not really.

I do not rush. Instead, I give myself a few moments of peace. And when I finally walk to the car, I do not hurry nor do I apologize. I just make a modest entrance.

If I’m lucky, I’ll get a “Well, you don't you look nice…”

"Thank you," I say as I slip into the passenger seat. I think we'll arrive right on time.

-Midwest Mom


  1. I am so with you on this. While I'm not chronically early (I'm more chronically just in time by the seat of my pants), I am so busy getting only one kid ready to go somewhere while getting help from exactly no one that when I stop to think about myself, I always need a few more minutes in the silent house to get organized (and often pee) before I'm actually ready to leave. During these times, my husband will often turn to our son and say, "This is the part where guys wait for a girl. Get used to it."

  2. Robyn,

    Ha! Isn't it funny that we need an excuse to pee in silence! Sometimes those little truths of mommy-hood just crack me up.

    In my mind, I know that there is some complaining going on in the car. "Are we waiting for Mom again?!??!" But, truly, I just pretend it isn't happening.

    Ahh, the wonder of self-delusion...

    Thanks for visiting the blog!

  3. I think I will make it my mantra: clown, hobo, zoo keeper, auto mechanic before going anywhere seeing this summer we've fondly called Matthew "Hobo Toes" on more than one occasion.

  4. Laurie --

    Hobo toes?? That must be dirty feet from walking around barefoot?

    My mom just called me leatherfoot. ;)


  5. Loved it! A minute to potty without somebody asking what I'm doing in there is heaven.

    Checking that tv's, computers, radios are off; checking that windows are closed, curling irons and blow-dryers unplugged, answering machine is on...it takes a little time.

  6. It drives me nuts that all my husband has to do is brush his teeth and hair and he's good to go. But at least this gives him lots of time to get the kids ready if I feel like taking my time in the morning...including going to the potty with the door closed! :)

  7. I'm just discovering this as well. I, too, have memories of waiting in the driveway for my mother to appear. Now, as I mother, I totally understand. For me, it's not even that I'm savoring the time. It's more that once everything is ready, I finally have a second to realize that I haven't peed all day. Great post!

  8. Cheri -- Yes, I have that too (tap tap tap.. mom, Mom, MOM ARE YOU IN THERE?!?) Here's to privacy!

    Busymama -- You bet. Maybe if I cut my hair off, I could get away with the "buff and fluff" he does. But that's not going to happen anytime soon!

    abbyjess -- too funny! Thanks for visiting the blog!


  9. At least I am not the only one. My husband is usually complaining about waiting for us, but I don't ever see him during the entire time it took me to get myself ready and 2 kids!!! I swear once we had kids he became a magician!



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