The Early Morning Circus

With two working adults and two little girls, getting out of the house every morning is absolutely crazy. It’s insane.

I thought it would get easier in the summer holidays when there’s no school, only daycare, but instead it’s become even harder.

Actually, I’m sure it’s like this for most families, but if anyone out there has any answers to make it easier – or at least less hazardous – I’m all ears.

We try to leave at 7.30, so we can get to office by 8.30 – or even earlier. By Indian local time, that’s early. Well, at least one of us leaves before 5.30 each evening (ridiculously early), so we do owe it to our work to get in early. While the kids went to school, one of us dropped the kids, the other person dropped their lunch at daycare. This was key, because if you dropped the kids to school, daycare was quite out of the way on your drive to office. But for the other fella, going directly from home to office, daycare was right on the way.

So with school taken out of the picture, things should be a lot easier. We can afford to leave a bit later, day care is right on the way, and anyone can take kids, or lunch, or both.

What actually happened was this. First, we realized that it would actually be a whole lot of fun if we could all go <em>together</em>. (We don’t work in the same office, but our offices are in neighbouring buildings in the same campus.)

Then, the kids took to waking up even earlier than 6 a.m., so naturally we wanted to sleep till at least 6.30. (Neither of us has been going for tennis – that’s another funny thing.) When they finally succeed in kicking us out of bed (literally, if you please), one of us groggily heads to the kitchen to organize breakfast while the other bathes and dresses. Sometimes, when one person is exceptionally lazy, the other person does both things sequentially. So breakfast gets pushed to 7. Not happening for a 7.30 departure – not even in theory.

Don’t have too much sympathy for the person doing breakfast – in our household, breakfast consists of milk for those under 5, and coffee for those over 35. Simple, see? There’s cornflakes, if anyone wants, but if it’s not muesli (usually it’s not) nobody wants it – unless they’re really, really starved. We cut an apple, and sometimes we eat some toast. Meanwhile, there’s work to be done. The kids get busy with their toys – currently it’s jigsaw puzzles; we get busy packing food.

At this stage, our kitchen looks like a catering service. The kids’ lunch is parceled into small white boxes and kept in the fridge the night before. So in the morning, it only has to be assembled. Three white boxes for dal, rice, veg. One for curd. One for fruit. Sometimes one for roti. (This one is usually green. Don’t even ask.) Ok, that’s quick and easy. Except I don’t always do the fruit at night, so most days I end up having to do it in the morning. Oh, and we also have to add in a change of clothes, ensure that their badges for the summer camp are still there and still usable, throw in some of those rubber bands for making pony tails out of their hair, and tuck their water bottles in, upright, sealed tight.

Rubberbands? Well, I try to do the pony tails at home before we leave, but given the advance state of chaos we usually end up in, sometimes I just put clips and let them go like that. But at daycare, the assistants appear to actually enjoy doing intricate things with the girls’ hair (hairs?) and if I don’t send rubber bands, they use their own. The trouble is, they use the ordinary kind of rubber bands that, when you take them out, take out fistfuls of hair as well. And I get to do the taking out, at night, which means I get all the brickbats. So I try to always send the other ones, that don’t pull out more than a couple of strands.

Having stuffed all this into the daycare bag, we only have to do their “tiffin boxes”. Ok, snack boxes. It’s usually bread-and-jam, but jam doesn’t spread itself on bread, someone has to do it. Plus they usually want different variations of bread and jam. How many variations of bread and jam can you have? Let’s see – peanut butter, orange marmalade, mango jam, strawberry jam, no jam, cheese spread, toast not bread, cut in halves, cut in quarters, roti not bread… and a few others. Luckily, they only get one choice each. At least they haven’t started asking for “mango jam on this side and cheese spread on that side, please.” Not yet.

So now all we have to do is take all the leftover food out of the fridge and apportion it into four steel containers – two for Amit and two for me. Then I have to organize my mid-morning snack. This is non-negotiable. If I don’t carry lunch, I can eat in office. But if I don’t carry my mid-morning snack, I starve, and get acidity. So I do another variant of the bread and jam theme for my mid-morning snack. Sometimes Amit manages to pack one for himself as well.

By this time, kitchen looks like a hurricane zone. We have an impressive load of dirty dishes scattered all over the kitchen. The counter is covered in crumbs and the floor is littered with… I don’t even know what. There are pieces of jigsaw puzzle everywhere.

One of us tries to restore sanity to the kitchen, while the other attempts to tear the girls away from their jigsaw puzzle. This usually ends in tears. Sometimes even the kids end up crying. In any case, they are hauled away kicking and screaming to the bathroom to brush their teeth, which they enjoy only because they can be completely exasperating about it. They usually stop at their cupboard to pick their clothes for the day first and, if I haven’t already packed them, will also pick their change of clothes for daycare. Admirable, but a highly time-consuming activity involving choosing, discarding, fighting over, refusing, grabbing, tearing, wailing and lots of other high drama. Girls will be girls, I suppose. (At least they aren’t into makeup yet!)

Once we’ve managed to scrape perfunctorily at their teeth with a toothbrush, they dress themselves at top speed and get back to their puzzle. Whoever brushed first would, of course, have dashed to the kitchen to ruin the careful work done by whoever was still brushing or dressing. Mediation is, therefore, urgently required.

Meanwhile, one of us still has to have a bath and dress! It’s usually Amit and he gets to it while I try and get the girls’ hair done. If I can, I load the washing machine. I fold up sundry bits of clothing and check that the kids’ toilet is flushed. I gather together my laptop, handbag, cellphone, snack, and lunch box. I turn off lights and other appliances that should not be on, and turn on things that need to charge.

And put the garbage out.

Oh, and water the plants.

And brush my teeth, while the kids watch with great interest.

Ok, now we’re almost out of the door and it’s only 7.40, only ten minutes late. Good. All we have to do now is lock up, ferry all the stuff downstairs, get everyone to put on shoes, lock up some more, ferry everything to the car, unlock the car, load everything and everybody and we’re ready to roll.

Holy cow, now it’s 8.15! How did <em>that</em> happen!

Sigh. When school resumes, we’re all going to be in such deep trouble. How are we going to pull back the departure time by 45 minutes? How!?

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