The alarm rings. Another cold dark morning. It’s lockdown in London. A school day. I reluctantly rise from the warm bed.
Still, I’m in a cheery mood. I feel grateful. We have a warm bed. A daughter actually going to school.
I also think: Today will be different.
I will not nag nor get irritated. Not about the ten times I have to ask my child to get out of bed, or the unmade bed or the unpacked schoolbag or the unfinished breakfast.
I will be easy breezy. I will turn on music and dance around the kitchen as I toast bread and chop fruit. I will make jokes when she finally emerges downstairs. I won’t complain about the iPhone in her hand.
Five minutes pass. Ten. I hear nothing upstairs. She can’t miss the bus. If she does, that’s an hour and a half out of my morning sitting in traffic on the A3.
With breakfast ready, I return upstairs. I lean down and kiss her cheek. I say: “Rise and shine!” as cheery as my mother once did, never worrying for a second we wouldn’t pop right out of bed.
I go back downstairs and make coffee for my husband and me.
Another five minutes pass. My daughter still isn’t up.
“Sweetheart, please! You have to get up. It’s getting late!” I chirp up the stairs. A slight edge has crept into my voice.
I hear a groan as she rolls over in bed.
I make myself a piece of toast. I drink my coffee. It’s still dark outside. We have 20 minutes to get out the door, or she will miss her bus for sure.
Five more minutes pass. My jolly mood has gone as cold as the toast. I have no choice but to employ the nuclear option: “ If you’re not up and dressed and down here in two minutes, there’s no phone today!”
Voilà! There she is, like a shot. Dressed and at the table, without any socks.
By now, it’s official. We’re late. She has seven minutes to eat, brush her teeth, get her schoolbag ready — which really should have been done the night before — and get socks, shoes, and coat on, and be out the door.
I tell her to eat quickly. Forget the bed. Where is her water bottle? Snack? Why didn’t she get her bag ready the night before? I get it ready for her.
She’s nibbling at toast, not eating fruit. Nor drinking her water. It’s like she has all day.
“Drink your water,” I say. “It’s good for your skin.”
She takes a quick sip and runs upstairs. I eat the rest of the fruit and drink the water.
I never did turn on that music, I think.
We have two minutes to go, or she really will miss the bus. I scream upstairs: “Come down now! Not in five minutes! Right now! I am not driving you all the way to school!”
“I haven’t made my bed,” she says.
“Forget the bed,” I say.
I imagine her upstairs, comfy on her bed, staring at her phone.
“Now!” I scream.
We race outside, the car windows are iced over. I turn on the car. Steam rises in the cold air. I can’t find the scraper. I use my credit card. She sits comfortably in the car, playing on her phone. I see she’s forgotten her jacket. I race back inside (I’m so much faster). I fling it at her in the car.
On the drive to the bus, I rage against these irritating mornings. Why is it always the same? Can’t she just one morning please do the few things I ask without me having to nag?
By the time we reach the bus, I’ve settled down. I say I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to get upset. I just wish our mornings could be more fun. She says she’s sorry too. It won’t happen again. She gets out of the car. I tell her to have a great day. I say I love her. She says she loves me too. She blows me a kiss before turning and racing off to her bus.
I return home. The house is quiet. My husband must be in the shower. I look outside at the miraculous dawn. The blue sky streaked peach and gold. Boy, we’re lucky, I think. It’s going to be a beautiful day.