I have noticed, in my almost six years of parenting, that there are no short cuts available to parents.
Have a meeting to get to, necessitating a quick drop off at preschool, no tears? No way. A three-year-old can smell that quick leave attempt a mile away, stretching your process out even longer just to pay you back for even thinking about someone or something else besides them.
Take a day I had an important conference call scheduled for 9:15 with two large companies, one of whom I was representing on a big licensing deal. Preschool starts at 9:00, so no problem, right? Get her in the door, backpack put in cubby, hands washed, teacher greeted, nametag found, settled at the art table. I should be back to the car and on the call with minutes, maybe even FIVE minutes, to spare.
My first mistake was my thought that I had this in the bag so well that I could easily stop at the Starbucks drive-thru (it was raining...ok, misting...) on the way to school. The guy in front of me orders seventeen drinks, so it takes a little longer than anticipated. I consequently arrive at the preschool parking lot a few minutes late. But no worries, I can still get her in and settled in no time.
"Where are your shoes, honey?"
A chubby finger, letting go of her hot chocolate for a quick second, points to the floor of the car. She kicks her feet happily and doesn't budge.
Sighing, I bend down to pick up her pink patent leather shoes, freshly scuffed on the toes from learning how to slow herself down on the swings (It had recently dawned on me why all of her older sister's shoes were scuffed on the toes, when I saw Ava adoringly copying Lily's drag of the toes on the tan bark to stop the swing's momentum. I had been wondering that for months. Seriously.) As I start to straighten up, WHAM! I am kicked square in the nose by a bare foot. "Uh, ouch. Thanks. No, I'm ok. Really. Don't worry about me. Let's just get your shoes on. There. Let's go!"
She swings on the dry cleaning hanger bar above her seat to exit the minivan. "Five, four, three, five, four, three, five, four, three....two....two...two...one!" She's out. It is now 9:07. Still, plenty of time. All we have to do is get inside, backpack put in cubby, hands washed, teacher greeted, nametag found, settled at the art table. Piece of cake.
"Mommy, I'll meet you." Ava sometimes wants me to walk on the other side of the flower planter on the sidewalk on the way to school. I heard the request a smidge too late and was already on her side. HER SIDE! "MOMMY! YOU are on THAT side!" Okay, okay, going. We backtrack, start over.
Open the gate and...smash her finger. Darn it! "Oh, honey...I'm sorry. Are you ok? Let me kiss it." Sneak a quick look at the time on my phone as she wipes her tears on my sweater. 9:10. Darn it!
"Let's go inside and wash your hands in the cold water. That will help them feel better."
WAIL....moan...I pick her up (a no-no at preschool...they are supposed to be big kids and walk in themselves) and head inside. Quickly smear a signature on the sign-in sheet. Shove her packback in the cubby. Wow, I'm really making up some time here by doing some things for her. She won't notice. She's too upset.
"I WANT TO DO IT!" Backtrack. Take backpack out of cubby, walk back outside, walk back inside, SHE puts the backpack away.
"Great. Let's go wash hands."
We have to stand in line for a few minutes. I am now officially late. 9:16. Crap! I can still do this though, I can be a few minutes late. It will be fine. People are late to conference calls. No biggie.
It is our turn. She uses the little sink. I use the big sink next to her. We each turn on the water. Smile at each other because we know what's coming. We like to wash hands together. Get some soap. We start signing our ABC's as we make bubbles. ABCDEFG..."Mommy, you are NOT signing it the right way!" (I admit, I was rushing the ABC's a teeny, tiny bit. Okay, I was signing fast, super fast maybe.) Throws herself onto the ground. My phone buzzes.
I am totally screwed. It is a full on tantrum now. Sobbing. Screaming. Our lovely teachers try to come to the rescue, but she is having none of it. I knew it - she smelled the rush on me. She absolutely knew I was trying to short cut her and was now going to make me pay for it. I give in to the comforting, realizing that this is just going to take as long as it is going to take. She collapses in my arms and cries for a good, solid five minutes. And here I thought I was going to have five minutes to spare. Ha!
I persuade her to go back and try the hand washing again. We go. We sing slowly. We turn the water off together. We smile at each other. We dry our hands. The teacher greeting and nametag getting time has passed, so her teacher brings over her nametag. I ask her "front or back?" Sniff..."front." My phone buzzes again.
"What do you want to do? Should we check out what's at the art table today?"
She sits down at the art table. Andrew's mom smiles at her and passes her a piece of paper, a paintbrush, a jar of glue and a plate filled with glitter. She dips her paintbrush in.
"Bye-bye, Mommy." She turns her face up to me and puckers her lips.
9:29. I kiss her good-bye and walk calmly and slowly out the door. When I hit the gate I am running. I slam the car door shut and look up the dial in number. 9:32. I take a deep breath and say "Linsey" when prompted by the conference system.
"Hi guys. I'm so sorry I am so late. My preschooler had a hard drop-off today."
My client: "No problem, Linsey. I've been there many times myself. Of course, they are older now. But I remember those days. They don't last."
No, they sure don't.
Disclosure: I received a copy of the book for free for the purposes of this book club discussion.