So the kids have left for school on their first morning back, and I have been weepy ever since. What is wrong with me? Many stay-at-home moms are viewing today as their first day of well-deserved freedom; the restoration of peace in their homes- why can't I feel that sense of relief?
Possibly I'm just suffering the after-effects of a really stressful morning- only made so by twelve-year old Shakeel's anxiety about being late. We live about 15-20 minutes away from school, which starts at 07:55; but if they cannot leave the house by 07:00 (07:10 for the latest), he considers them to be late and starts becoming anxious. This anxiety he manifests by becoming bossy with his sisters; and even a bit aggressive.
He'll follow them around saying things like, "Get done! Move faster- if you don't move faster, I'll punch you" or "Did you have breakfast yet? No, now it's too late- you'll have to starve!"
It is terribly stressful having to break up arguments- in order to prevent them from turning into full-blown fights- so early in the freakin' morning.
But there are advantages to living with the Punctuality Policeman. He's the one who announced bedtime last night- at 19:45 they were all in bed- uniforms had been laid out and stationery neatly packed away and labelled.
But even he was so excited that by 20:30 there was still giggling and play-fighting coming from the bedroom. Then came a bloodcurdling scream from Shakeel which made my blood run cold. I ran to the room wondering what I would do if I encountered a snake or spider in their bed.
"What happened?" I yelled in panic. "Is anybody hurt?"
Shakeel, with a horrified expression on his face pointed at a butt-naked Aisha (2) who had, as she tends to do these days, decided that she had had enough of her nappy and panty.
"She's crawling all over my bed with her gross bum and vagina. She's disgusting- get her away!!!"
This had Nuha (7) and Tharaa (10) in stitches. I had to step in before a fight ensued, as I knew that Shakeel would feel as if they were mocking him.
For the umpteenth time, I told them to keep quiet and sleep- or else.
There was silence- then the beginning of what sounded like a play-fight. I left them, waiting for my irritation to subside before I would re-enter the room. But then there was a shriek, followed by Nuha bursting into tears.
Shakeel came running out of the room, tears running down his cheeks- with laughter! I was livid, no longer interested in explanations, I would punish him for whatever he had done to Nuha. But then she came out of the room, half-crying, half-laughing to offer an explanation.
Aisha had made her way back into the room (Barney was not doing a very good job of baby-sitting her last night, while I prepared lunches). When she had tried to get onto Nuha's bed, Nuha had shoved her off in irritation. Aisha had then landed a punch on Nuha's cheek with one fist, and then another with her other fist. I was horrified. I blamed them for teaching her such violence. And why the heck did they find that funny?
Nuha then explained that after her two-year old little sister had landed these punches, she'd bowed at Nuha- as she had watched them do at karate.
Again, with more threats of punishment, I sent them back to bed. By 22:00 I heard the last of the whispering.
Thanks to Shakeel, this morning everything was completed timeously. Until I realised that none of them had bothered to eat. They were too excited, they claimed. Before I could launch into a lecture on how breakfast is the most important meal of the day, Tharaa dashed off to make everyone a slice of toast on which to nibble in the car.
Then, as they were leaving, Mo asked if their report cards had been signed and packed in. Crap- I had completely forgotten about that. Tharaa's and Nuha's were found, signed and packed. Shakeel's has been misplaced, which added to the poor thing's anxiety. I shall spend the day looking for it.
When greeting them, I whispered in Shakeel's ear that everything would be okay. I felt completely inadequate at providing such assurances, since I am exactly the way he is- and I still don't know how to calm myself or put myself at ease. So how was I supposed to do it for this poor child, who has undoubtedly acquired this unfortunate trait from me?
"You just don't understand," he responded. "It's the first day of school- you just don't know what it's like."
If he but knew that if there was anyone who could understand his feelings- it would be me.
Today is the first time I shall be fetching the kids at school by myself. It is also the first time I shall be driving in the city centre by myself. There will be no Mo to tell me when to change lanes; which could become problematic on the N1. I'm told that if one does not turn off at all, but continues straight along the N1, one will end up in Johannesburg; so I'd best remember to pack extra cash and some light snacks.
Nuha finishes at 13:30, and plays in the foundation phase playground until the rest of the school is dismissed at 14:30. I asked her if she would like me to come onto the playground and spend some time with her while we wait for the older kids (the way I've seen other mommies do). At first she looked horrified, then just plain uncomfortable.
"Mommy, why don't you charge your laptop at home and then just stay in the car with your laptop. But you can bring Aisha to me on the playground".
Tharaa was amused. "Does Mommy embarrass you?" Clearly uncomfortable, Nuha just gave an awkward smile. Tharaa was enjoying this, so she continued, "If Mommy were to make herself pretty, can she then come onto your playground- just to sit there and watch you play?"
Poor Nuha looked as if she wanted the ground to swallow her. "If Mommy makes herself pretty she can come and sit on the playground- and I'll go and sit in the car," she responded, clearly utterly miserable at having been placed in that position.
Shakeel, shaking his head, again muttered, "You just don't understand Mommy. You don't understand".
So that was my morning. I learned that I am too ugly to be seen with my kids in public and too stupid to understand anything. And yet I still miss them so much. I'm counting the hours before everyone's safe return home (albeit via Johannesburg).