Gil had an early meeting yesterday, so he wasn’t able to take the boys to school. Typically he drops them off on his way to work, and then I pick them up in the afternoon, and so far this system has worked smashingly.
Or so I thought…..
Well, yesterday, the boys and I left the house at 7:30, thinking that we were doing well and had time to spare. They have to be in their classrooms by 7:50 or they are tardy, and we only live a couple of miles from their school.
In fact, Gil and I had a long, exhausting conversation at the beginning of the school year about what time we needed to leave in the morning, and we agreed that 7:30 was ideal. We hadn’t discussed it further, and I assumed this was working.
I took the boys to school several times during the first week of school, but that was when we were all getting acclimated to the new routine, and I walked them to their classrooms. I like that throughout their school, there are big digital LED clocks so you know how close you are to being late.
I struggle with getting places on time. So do my children. So does Gil.
We’re big in-the-moment people, and we easily get wrapped up in whatever activity currently has our attention.
We need LOTS of visual reminders, so the gigantic, florescent clocks are helpful.
Gil and I are the same in that we both have a poor concept of time, but we deal with our challenges very differently.
I stress. He dilly-dallies. I overcompensate and often end up arriving ridiculously early and then I check my watch, cellphone, car clock, etc. obsessively.
Then I obsess some more. It’s not pretty.
Gil just lives in denial, and blames his tardiness on random things. “I lost track of time, Vivi. Geez, don’t you ever do that?” Hell no I don’t ever do that. I know that drill and it does not work, so now I obsess about it.
Or, he blames being late on his crazy schedule or the utmost importance of his job. “It’s crunch time, Honey. I’m trying to get this building turned over, and the owners are on my ass.”
All I hear is, “My shit is more important than you, and you need to chill out and lighten up.”
And yes, chilling out and lightening up is sometimes difficult for me, BUT he’s almost FORTY YEARS OLD. It’s time to take some responsibility and get your ass to places on time!!!! Find a system that works and quit blaming other people and certainly stop expecting me to manage your schedule. I have a hard enough time managing my own.
My theory is that he is a man, and he grew up in a family where men don’t do anything that pertains to schedules — that’s the female’s job. In other words, his mother was an excellent scheduler/house runner. Therefore, all Gil had to do was whatever he wanted to do, and his mom took care of all the details.
It’s tempting for me to get angry at his mother for not training him properly, but the reality is that if scheduling and keeping a home were something I excelled at, it would certainly make sense that I would take care of those details, too — merely for the sake of keeping the peace.
Unfortunately for him, he did not marry his mother.
The bottom line is:
Neither Gil nor I are good at getting places on time, but we need to work together and come up with a solution that works FOR OUR FAMILY. Frankly, we need someone to manage all the tedious details of our home.
So back to yesterday. The boys and I hit more morning traffic than I anticipated and by the time they were exiting the vehicle in front of the school, my clock said 7:45.
I was practically pushing them out of the car — backpack throwing and all.
And naturally, they were moving at tortoise speed. I watched the nice gentleman who was working the car drop-off line help them through the main door, and then I was on my way.
By the time I pulled back onto the main highway, my clock said 7:50. Both boys’ classrooms are at the end of the hall — NOT a short walk, and my kids are anything BUT brisk walkers in the morning.
Seriously, the rest of the day, all I could think about was whether or not they made it to the classroom by 7:50. I just did not see how that could be possible.
But WHY had this not occurred to Gil?
I tried to gather information. He and I spoke briefly on the phone a couple of times during the day about different things and each time I asked a question or two about morning drop-off.
“What time is it when you are typically AT the curb in front of the school?”
“Do you think it’s actually possible that they can make it to their classrooms by 7:50, based on the time they get out of the vehicle?”
I tried my damnedest to not be accusatory. I tried to be kind and casual. Again, I was ONLY gathering information.
So last night the four of us were having dinner, and the drop-off subject came up again. I learn by asking questions, so I posed a few more — this time not just to Gil but also to Piers and Wallace.
“So, Piers, what usually happens after Dad drops you off at school in the morning?”
Of course, it’s like extracting an impacted wisdom tooth.
“We go to our class.”
I continued, still calm at this point. Gil was eyeing me suspiciously.
“So, I’m curious, your classrooms are pretty far from the where we drop you off. Does the bell ever ring while you’re walking to your class?”
Silence. I wait as he chews his macaroni while pondering my question. Nothing from Wallace either.
You know, it’s hard existing as the lone wordy female in a house full of males. How the hell will I ever make it through the teenage years?
Piers finally spoke up, “Uh huh.”
I cut my eyes at Gil, who was not saying a word.
“So, if the bell rings while you guys are walking to your class, do you continue on to your class or do you have to go back to the office and sign in?”
Here’s the thing. I had pretty much already figured out that they had to go to the office because I saw it in the handouts that we got from the teachers at Open House. It said something generic like if students were not in class by the 7:50 bell, they had to check in through the front office.
I take that pretty literally, maybe because my mother was a teacher and I grew up expected to follow school rules. I knew as a kid that not only were there no exceptions for me, but that I needed to be overly compliant because as a teacher’s kid, I had to set an example.
Gil on the other hand grew up with parents who never arrived anywhere on time, and in their eyes, it really wasn’t that big of a deal.
I’m doing everything in my power to provide a balanced approach for my kids. I don’t want them all anxious and in a panic that the world might collapse if they arrive late occasionally, but I most certainly DO NOT want them to be so damn lackadaisical that they think it’s perfectly acceptable to stroll in any old time they please.
I get very frustrated these days when I see people with the attitude of “it’s my world, work around me.”
I do not want my kids growing up thinking that rules don’t apply to them.
Being punctual is a good life skill, and it’s one that I want my kids to learn. We are NOT getting off to a very good start if we aren’t even aware that they’ve been arriving late to school.
Forgive me, Gil, for “obsessing,” but since you’ve agreed to the morning shift, it would be nice to know that I can trust you to at least make sure that they are getting to their classrooms BY 7:50.
FOR THE LOVE OF GOD!!!! How about for one second, try to think past the tip of your FREAKING NOSE!!!
Yes!! I have a little rage!!!!
Back to the dinner table. Inside I was boiling but doing my best to remain calm on the outside. The little heart was pounding, and I could feel my armpits starting to sweat.
I really need to take it down a notch. Moments like these are when I question whether or not marriage is good for my health.
“So, about how many times have y’all had to go to the office before going to your class?”
Deep breaths, I’m silently saying to myself.
“Pretty much most days.” Wallace says matter-of-factly.
MOTHER FUCK!!!!! — again, this is in my head, because, ya know, I try to be all chill like that.
Gil pipes up, “Seriously, Wallace, that CAN NOT be true. There’s NO way.”
Of course Gil really doesn’t know and now he has that look on his face that he gets when he realizes that I’ve flat busted him. It’s that look that pretty much says, “Oh shit. I never considered until this very moment that they were tardy. I figured they got out of the car and then someone else was gonna take care of it, and I’m off to thinking about my oh-so-important job. How the hell does Viv figure this stuff out. I mean, she’s exhausting. Her flippin head never stops.”
At the same time, I know Gil well enough to know how very important getting the kids places on time actually is to him. He spent his entire childhood being late for one thing after the next, and he just had to accept that that was the way it was. He didn’t like it, and it took a toll on his self-esteem. This is a big one for him.
I really did my best to just shut my mouth.
After Wallace announced that they had to check in “pretty much every day” I asked Piers again and he gave me an answer that reduced my boiling blood to a simple simmer, “Maybe only about five times. It’s not every day but it’s a lot of days.”
I dropped the subject, but walked away frustrated and put out with Gil. He knew it. This has been a pattern with us since we had children. He screws up; I can be obsessive and over the top about things. He feels like nothing he does is right, and I feel like every time I trust him to do something that involves the kids he doesn’t do it correctly. Then he uses this as an excuse to just let me handle everything, and then we’re back to to square one because I feel overburdened and under-appreciated. Then I panic inside because I know that if I go back to work, I’ll be responsible for everything that involves the kids PLUS my job. I’ll fly around on stress and anxiety, lose too much weight, yell at everyone and our home life will feel like a war-zone.
I wish I could tie up this post with a tidy, happy-ever-after ending, but I can’t. The kids went to bed. Gil and I were both drained from our argument but there was not enough time nor did we have the energy to hash it all out. I went to our room to read and collapse. Gil vegged out in front of the television. I refused to address anything else because I didn’t have the emotional energy and I didn’t want to hear what I already know — he thinks I’m an obsessive, uptight control-freak.
His body language said it all. He felt like a failure and he’s assuming that I’m in my room silently thinking that nothing he does is right.
The truth is I don’t think that. I was mad in the moment, but I’ve had enough therapy to recognize our sick pattern. Was I upset? Yes! But the reality is that school has only been in for a few weeks. We’re doing the best we can. We now know that we need to leave earlier. We need to call the school to find out how many tardies each kid has, and then we can move forward.
We were still short and pissy with each other this morning. I rushed everyone more than usual, and the result was that they left for school earlier and got there on time. I wish I could call this a success. Unfortunately, I feel like a bad mother and a bad wife. Gil feels like a failure and I have a long weekend to look forward to.
He called me after dropping the kids off and we ended up screaming at each other on the telephone.
I refused to continue and hung up.
And what, exactly, is it that’s enjoyable about family life and long-term relationships? Right now, I really have no answer. When Gil and I separated, things were hard. I had the burden of taking care of everything in the morning and at night. But honestly, at least it was predictable. If I screwed up, I had no one to be angry with other than myself.
I just need something to be easy.
As good old Forrest Gump would say, “Some days, there just aren’t enough rocks.”