It was one of those mornings.
My level of smug has been pretty high this week, listening to the parents at my preschool and other friends of mine kvetch about the havoc that Daylight Savings Time has wreaked upon their lives. The view from my pedestal was lovely. Teenagers? Hah. We are so not affected by a measly hour's difference, people.
I got this.
Yeah. Until I realized how much I don't got this. It hit me this morning, right about the same time I hit the snooze on my alarm for the third time. As I slipped my sleeping mask back in place and dug my feet deeper under the dog for warmth, it occurred to me that I hadn't jumped out of bed with my usual "TIME TO MILK THE COWS" fervor. I was getting up later and later, finding it increasingly difficult to leave the cozy clutch of my bed in order to begin waking the kids for school.
And the kids. They, too, have been harder to rouse. Molly, who usually gets herself up and ready without any intervention, lies motionless in her bed as her phone chimes away next to her head. Henry, who is usually the easiest to wake, now requires more than the usual flick of the lights and a "Time to get up!" cheer. And we won't discuss the 13 year old, who clings to sleep like a Kardashian does to attention.
So this morning was rough. I've been given the okay to come into work a bit later, in order to make up for some overtime, and decided that I'd drive the kids to school. This way, we could relax a tiny bit, not be so rushed. Maybe even sit down to eat a bagel.
Oh, it was less rushed, at first. And yes, it was even a bit relaxing. William was the first out to the car, Molly and I following him out to the garage. I warmed up the car and we waited for Henry.
"What the hell?" exclaimed Mother of the Year. I looked back at Molly and asked her "Where's Henry?". I don't know why I assumed she'd know. It just seemed logical. She looked at me in the rearview mirror and said "How should I know?".
Then, Henry's 6'3" frame appeared in the doorway that connects the house to the garage.
Now, Henry is the child who earned the moniker "Mr. Furious" before he reached the ripe old age of 3. His anger management issues were legendary, so much so that the game "Chutes and Ladders" was banned in our household, permanently, after we discovered that his biggest trigger was losing. Losing a game, losing a race, losing a shoe or a cup or the dash to the good swing in the backyard. Had I been a better parent, I'd have done more to assuage his obvious temper issues, but in my mind removing the triggers was easier than dismantling the gun, so to speak. I have a few regrets in life, and yes, that's one of them.
His temper has subsided, quite a bit, over the past few years.He's 16 now and at times is my favorite child. I credit maturity, no more video games and my much-improved parenting. But when it does show up? Oh, it's ON. On like Donkey Kong, suckers.
The giant manchild in the doorway was gesticulating wildly. "Oh no" William said. "He's mad." I opened my window and shouted out, "Come on, we're going to be late!" because our previously relaxed and effortless morning was quickly becoming yet another race against the clock. He screamed back at me, "I CAN'T FIND MY FREAKING PHONE!". His voice cracked and he kicked the doorjamb.
For the sake of brevity, I'll sum up the next 7 minutes: Scream. Swear. Kick garbage can. Push chair over. Mom chanting to herself, "don't engage, don't engage, don't engage". Couch cushions EVERYWHERE. And finally, phone found.
I made a mental note to talk to someone about these rare-but-whackadoo outbursts and then we drove to school. Miraculously, the kids would all be on time and if I hustled, I'd be able to get home, put a bra on, and head to work. Luckily my shower from the day before hadn't expired.
The tension began lifting. Big kids dropped off at the high school first, and then it was on to the junior high to deposit William. Now, I've written about my experiences at the junior high parent drop off before, so I won't go into much detail. But the place is a cluster-eff even under the best circumstances. William and I had discussed his game plan for dealing with an assignment that seems to have disappeared into cyberspace, we exchanged our "I love you's" and "See ya laters". He disembarked and that was that.
But the two cars in front of me weren't budging. I waited, thinking surely they'd go, but no...no dice. So, I did what I had to do: I pulled out, and began driving past them, into the exit lane.
That's when I met Mom #1. She was in a silver GMC Acadia and we found ourselves side by side, trying to exit. I smiled at her, the "hey I know I'm doing an asshole move here, please, go ahead! My bad!". Our eyes met, and she smiled back at me, and gave a little friendly "thank you!" wave. Or maybe it was more of a "thank you for acknowledging your assholeness! Have a great day!'. But whatever. I found myself smiling genuinely, glad to have met up with a friendly person there in one of the most unholy circles of Hell.
"Gee I like nice people" I thought to myself. And then, HOOOOOOOONNNNKKKKK. My blissful kumbaya moment was shattered by the honking next to me.
Enter Mom #2. She was in her maroon Honda Pilot. I looked over, again with my "Yep! Guilty as charged! Please go ahead! Have a nice day" look but this time, there was no smile in return.
Mom #2's eyes narrowed. Her lips were pursed and she shook her head at me. I think her nose crinkled up a bit. She gunned it and pulled ahead, and I could see her gesturing to me. She wasn't flashing the peace sign.
I drove behind her for almost a mile after that. As I passed her at a stoplight, I glanced in her car. She glared back at me and again shook her head.
Here's the point in the story where I could fold my arms, jut out a hip and go off on this woman. I could go all "Open Letter Blog Post" on her ala' Matt Walsh or any other blogger who has made vilifying perfect strangers online a new fangled art form. I could make presumptions about the woman in the Honda Pilot. I could assume many things about her: she's a rude person. A bitch. A cold hearted shrew who eats the souls of babies for breakfast and washes them down with kitten's tears and puppy breath. I could go into a rant about how angry people are these days, and how she made me feel bad and how I hoped she would spill her coffee later or maybe get her period and not have any tampons in her purse and have to suffer the burn of wadding up toilet paper in her underpants until she got home.
But that's not what I'm going to do. Instead, I'm thanking her. I'm thanking both of those moms from the parking lot. Even in my agitated, rushed state of mind, I learned something this morning.
Mom #1, the Acadia mom? She taught me the value of a smile. A wave. She reminded me that even the people making asshole moves in the parking lot are deserving of some grace now and then. Her wave was like a blessing, actually, and it took away some of the sting of a shitty morning.
Mom #2, the Pilot mom? She taught me the power of a look. Her obvious disapproval of me, of my driving, of my assholery...for whatever reason, it affected me. It might have been due to the polarity of her reaction compared to the first mom. Or perhaps it was my nerves, still raw from dealing with Hurricane Henry earlier. Whatever the reason, when she gave me that look, I decided to not get mad in return. I didn't get defensive. Instead, I wondered if she, too, had just been through a morning like mine. Maybe she was on her way to a job she can't stand. Maybe she's dealing with an ailing parent. Maybe she's scared because her mammogram results weren't normal and she needs to go back.
Or, maybe she just wasn't in the mood to put up with yet another a-hole parent not following the flow of things in the school parking lot that day. God knows I've been less-than gracious in that situation before.
I cut her some slack, the same kind of slack Mom #1 had cut me.
It ended up being a good morning, after all. Thanks to the moms in the school parking lot.