I just got out of bed and I already regret it. My head is killing me, my attitude is shot, and my energy level is depleted. This isn’t poetic license or a case of dramatic creative writing. This is real and right now. The day is less than an hour old, but I’m already mentally prepared to tap out and crawl back to sleep.
I can’t though. You know why? Because life tricked me into becoming an adult. I have these kids and these responsibilities. Any thoughts of escaping them requires a dream sequence straight out of the television show Fantasy Island. I’m in a 1970s Hawaiian shirt, flying high over a tropical paradise, and looking out the window to a little guy shouting at me about my plane.
Instead, I’m standing there without a plane or an island or special guest star Charo. The only thing I have from that scenario is the little guy shouting in my face but it’s because he’s hungry, not because of “de plane, de plane”. My Walter Mitty-like imaginations wash away and the most tropical thing about my morning is their orange juice that I spill all over my hands because I’m too groggy to pour it.
My head does a lot of mental gymnastics to keep an even tempered outward appearance on mornings like this. I regress into a zombie-like state as I struggle to dress my son while he battles me for control of his iPad. I try for way to long to wiggle his arm into a sleeve while he uses the free arm to grab it up from the floor. I then attempt to get his leg into his pants, but now he’s trying to balance without his arms because he’s too busy using them to swipe through Youtube Kid videos. Before long, he’s spinning in a circle on one leg with his clothes, dangling half-on, twisting around him like a maypole. At this point, he will usually fall onto his bean bag or onto me. What little clothing we got on is now coming back down anyway.
I think about a lot of things in that moment. I imagine taking that iPad and smashing it against the wall so that the screen cracks into a cartoonishly high number of pieces. They go flying through the air and I watch in satisfaction like a glassy snowstorm of anxiety being washed away. I want to pick up it’s shattered shell and bash against own head with a battle cry straight out of a Viking documentary. Either way, the main idea is that my mind goes into some insane places but I still have to push through it, with a neutral expression, and finish this task.
The difficulties of the morning are not just put on my son. It’s not only because Lucas has Autism or is non-verbal. My daughter who doesn’t have Autism and is overly verbal causes these same dark daydreams to infest my head as well. Some thoughts are never darker than when a ten-year-old comes screaming to you that she has no socks one minute before she has to leave for school.
You have no socks? What does that mean you have no socks?! I put them in your room!
I looked. There are no socks!
Stop saying that! You have socks! I know you have socks! Yo, if I go in your room, I’m not going to find socks?! That’s what you’re telling me?!
No. There are no socks!
Yeah?! Huh?! Yeah?! OK. Let’s see!
So I jump up in this big dramatic fashion, my head still pounding as visions of Charo fly around my brain. I run into her closet and to the wicker basket I know I put socks into yesterday. Sometimes they are there.
Most times they are not.
Suddenly, it’s the wicker basket I am picturing as the object of my destruction. Mentally, I become the Wicked Witch of the West setting fire to it like a brainless scarecrow. I imagine cackling maniacally as it all comes burning down around me. Mind you, I still haven’t had any coffee.
I should really just grab a pair of small socks from my own drawer and pretend I found them in her room, but I’m not thinking right yet. My parental trickery still hasn’t kicked in. The best I can do is come storming back down the hallway mumbling about, “Freakin’ socks and this house.” She watches as I angrily find a pair in the dryer. To her credit, Olivia usually squeaks out a “thank you” but it makes no difference. In my mind, the house is already ablaze in a sea of wicker.
That small “thanks” is more or less Pavlovian at this point. It doesn’t change much and whether or not the child you are helping in the morning can speak words to show their appreciation is immaterial. That’s because they don’t realize that what you’re doing is a hassle for you. In their minds, it’s a hassle to them. They don’t see that without you, they’d be naked, hungry, and left for the wolves of the world to pick apart. All they know is that they want to sit on the floor playing video games and you’re the jerk making them put pants on. No matter what you read from your friends on Facebook or see in Hallmark movies, kids don’t come over with a hand on your shoulder saying, “Parent, you are so pretty and kind. Any kid would be lucky to have you taking care of them. Here. I made you some coffee and wrote you a poem.”
No. They will scream in your face that they don’t want to brush their teeth and how terrible you are for making them do so. So you picture jamming that toothbrush into your own ear and just ending the morning early.
Anyone in my home can be my favorite one on any given day under any given circumstance. The fact of the matter is that some days, my son is my favorite one in the house. Other days, my daughter is. Sometimes it’s my wife. Then, there are those days when it’s the cats. Those are the darkest days of all.
That’s been today. To be frank, I’m not even too thrilled with the cats right now. Like I said, my head is pounding. I’m going to get some coffee finally… right after I find this kid some freakin’ socks.