One of the twins complained tonight about ALL the pictures I'm going to take tomorrow morning. She begged me not to take any. I said no. She asked if she could take the bus instead so I wouldn't be hurriedly shoving them all out of the car at the entrance of school to take the obligatory 'back to school' pic. I said no. Then she asked if she could have her own room (I'm guessing maybe she thought a third question would somehow get a 'yes'?) but still, the answer was no.
After they all went to bed tonight, I thought about all the things I said (yelled) to the kids today. About the loud car ride to Kmart earlier for the 8-pocket binder we apparently missed on someone's school supply list, the mad rush to get to three different soccer practices tonight, the screaming I did about slime in the garage or the military-type showers I marched them into in order to get clean quickly and in bed. But none of this helped or prepared them for school tomorrow. Or for life the next day or the next day. What the hell am I teaching them? Maybe how to be first out of a damn shower and into pjs for fear of their lives, I guess.
Somewhere along the line —seriously WAYYY down the line— I forgot how to be a damn parent. A helpful, loving and patient parent who can model for her children exactly what she hopes they could be someday as grown ups and parents themselves. Just "keeping them alive" doesn't seem quite enough anymore. I'm like a really mean drill sergeant or even a shitty boss you don't want to see every morning at 7 a.m.
I found an old notebook my late husband Matthew used in grad school at the University of Notre Dame. We had only been married four years. We didn't have kids yet. He often read business and management books and enjoyed delving into pretty much anything that dealt with how to be a good boss or more importantly, a good person. He excelled at that, anyone will attest. So I flipped through it and found his chicken scratch writing on a page about something he read about Lou Holtz, the former Notre Dame football coach whose tenure was alive and well in the mid-90s when we were in college up in South Bend together. Matthew noted that Holtz said everyone who is successful has gone through adversity, and that the crisis is a chance to make you stronger. Then he wrote Holtz's three rules to always follow:
1) Do what is right
2) Do the best you can
3) Treat others how you'd want to be treated
And I wanted to wake up all the kids to tell them, to show them how their daddy helps me parent still. You may have had a little adversity in your short, little lives and we've got the crisis thing down pat it seems, but THIS—this advice is what I want for you, children. These are things maybe your mom isn't so great at but your dad was superb at. Because I know sooner than I can blink there will be no more 'first day' of school pictures. The practices will be over. I won't have anyone to cook noodle dinners for anymore. I won't be ordering anyone around these barracks and there won't be anyone to boss around. But I hope I will at least be able to say I was the best parent I could have been. I gave them life advice to live by and I helped model that behavior for them.
Pictures or no pictures, tomorrow is my first day, too.