I used to be a stay-at-home mom with five young children. Which was fine with me – the staying home part – because I barely managed to dress myself most days, let alone step outside. But now, after seventeen years on the job and counting, my kids are not so little. I am still technically a stay-at-home mom, but one who would jump at the chance to put on some button-up pants and get out of the damn house. Yet I have little job experience, an expired teaching license that would cost a small fortune to renew, and business suits three sizes too small to even consider buttoning.
The outside world has passed me by. Life has evolved while I’ve folded laundry, not just out on the street but inside my home, too. My kids have morphed into older, more advanced life forms, with opinions, personalities, and quirks aplenty. Parenting, for me, is no longer like herding cats – where you’re caught in the never-ending, exhausting cycle of feeding, chasing, and wiping up excrement from silent, finicky beings. Rather, my job now seems most like that of a shepherd. Nightly I stand in the living room, dressed in loose-fitting, outdated attire, wondering where my stinky, bleating charges have wandered off to. And my one task – to round them all up for dinner and corral them safely through the night – seems simultaneously arduous and dull.
Six years ago, while still in my cat herding days, I sat down and wrote out my morning words one brisk day in March. I left out what the kids said. Instead, I put down only words spoken by me while getting them ready for school. I wanted to record my utterances of random nonsense as plausible cause for my mental decline. And I wanted my husband to understand how drastically different his morning words were from mine most days of the year.
Morning Dialog, March, 2006
Who overflowed the toilet?
If you’re well enough to roller skate, Annalise, you’re well enough to go to school.
That’s called a muffin.
No, it is not undercooked. It’s supposed to be lopsided.
Yes, everyone else’s muffins are crumbly, too.
No, I didn’t put butter on it.
I buttered mine, not yours.
I did not use the butter knife to slice yours.
Your muffin is virginal, trust me.
Never mind what it means, just eat it.
If you don’t brush your hair after you get out of the shower, Jacob, how will anyone know you’ve showered?
Yes, that is the point.
Don’t argue, just find a hairbrush.
And brush your teeth.
I said MILK, Eli, not soda. You know better than that.
Did you feed your lizards?
Yes, we do too have lettuce.
Where it always is. In the bin.
At the bottom!
Yes, it is called a bin. For the millionth time, it’s a bin.
I don’t know a thing about a permission slip.
The bus will leave without you on it, then.
Take the dog out, Annalise.
No, not later. Now.
Because she’ll pee on my carpet, that’s why.
Fine. I’m giving this dog away then.
Stop crying and open the door. It’s not that hard.
You do not have to work all the time. You barely have to work at all. Ever.
Now empty the water bowl.
NOT there. It’s dripping all over!
Watch what you’re doing!
Good grief, Annalise. I thought you had better balance than that. Don’t they teach you balance in your dance classes?
For what we pay, they better.
Yes, I am being sarcastic.
No, that’s spastic.
Yes, you could say I’m being that too. Thank you for pointing that out, Jacob.
Slow down, Katriel!
Oh, poor girl. Yes, the floor was all wet.
Annalise, add band-aids to the shopping list, please.
Just sound it out.
No, that’s not blood.
Hand me a towel, Eli.
Come and watch Rapunzel, darling.
Juliet, don’t push that button.
No, let Mama do it.
Not that one, Jules… It’s the other one. Over there.
Agh! You pushed the button. Why don’t you listen to Mama?
I heard that, boys!
Both of you better be all ready for school if you’re in there playing computer games.
Did you hear me?
Turn that down. And please don’t swear, Eli.
God Dammit! Who overflowed this toilet again?
Why is there underwear lying here? Who is missing their underwear?
This bathroom is off-limits until further notice.
Do you hear me everyone? NO ENTRY!
Did you brush your teeth, young man?
I know the bathroom is off-limits now, but it wasn’t twenty minutes ago when I told you to brush those teeth.
No, you most certainly did not.
I can see bits of unbuttered muffin in there, that’s how. Now march right back in there and try again. And don’t lie. It’s a sin.
Go upstairs then.
Use your brain! We have three bathrooms in this house. Divide. Multiply. Problem Solve!
I don’t have a purple marker, honey.
That one doesn’t work.
We are not painting right now, Juliet.
No. Daddy banned markers from the house, remember? Use a crayon.
I said DON’T.
DO NOT DO WHAT YOU ARE THINKING OF DOING! DO YOU HEAR ME???
Sign off now, boys. It’s time for school.
I don’t care. I said NOW.
Life is not about fun and games. It’s about work. And Toil. And Pain. And Suffering.
Now let’s GO!
Where is your backpack?
Why would you walk to the front door without your backpack?
Don’t roll your eyes at me.
Where is your brain?
It’s March, Jacob, get with the program.
Has anyone seen Mommy’s coffee?
Cassidy Clover! What is that dog chewing on?
Stop crying, Katriel!
Yes, I know it’s your purple crayon.
Grab it, Eli.
Annalise, put that dog outside!
What time is it?
Good grief, we’ve got to go.
Yes, you most certainly do need shoes, Juliet.
No, put that down.
Yes, you are buying lunch.
It’s corn dogs today.
You do too like corn dogs! Don’t tell me at 8:45 that you don’t like corn dogs!
Where are my keys?
Don’t spill it, please
NO, I WILL CARRY THE COFFEE.
You carry the backpack, please.
It’s right there.
NO, by the piano.
On the floor.
RIGHT THERE FOR PITY SAKE!
Grab those keys, Annalise. My hands are full.
Jacob, come shut this door behind me, please.
NOW WHO HAS MY KEYS???
Six years have passed since that morning. A lot has changed. Life most definitely evolves. Anyone who denies evolution must not have children. Or a Kindle. Now my morning words sound like this:
Morning Dialog, March, 2012
How much do you need to take the AP tests?
“$261.00! Are you kidding me? We just spent $100 at the ER for that ankle!
Don’t roll your eyes at me. You had the entire week of winter break to get that done, Jacob.
No, I’m not going to write a check for $45 more for the two advertising spots you were supposed to sell for Bye Bye Birdie.
You only have one line in that play, for pity sake!
Tell your teacher to talk to me, then.
These schools shouldn’t be sending kids out begging for money from folks all the time.
Why can’t they just tell us upfront how much you need to do an activity? Then we could write one check and be done with it!
Yes, Jacob, you’re right. I just said I wouldn’t write a check. We’ll, it’s a conundrum, that’s for sure.
Where’s my coffee?
Conundrum…No, Cuh-Nun-Drum…it means a pickle.
No, not that kind, more like you’re in a pickle. A problem with no easy answer.
Yes, the Move-a-Thon is a perfect example, Juliet.
I told you, forty-nine laps was great. Awesome. Stupendous.
That’s not the conundrum. The conundrum is sending you out to get sponsors.
$20 is a flat rate. That way it doesn’t matter how many laps you ran.
Don’t cry, that’s not what I meant.
No, stupendous does not mean that. It means the opposite of that.
Has anyone seen my coffee?
Yes, English is a conundrum too, Annalise. Good point. My, you kids are clever.
No, that is the point of school entirely!
Are you still crying? I told you, that way would have cost me $98.00.
I explained it all when I signed the form, remember? It’s a flat fee, and it is allowed.
I did ask your teacher and she said it was allowed, I swear.
No, I’m not going to swear…
Yes, I do swear, I know, I know, but I’m not going to right now.
Come closer to me. What the hell is that all over your mouth?
Those Gatorades were for after swim lessons. Not first thing in the morning. Good grief!
We do too have regular food here, Eli. You make it sound like you’re starving.
I buy $150.00 worth of food every four days. Then you kids eat it all up in two. Do the math!
Hooray! I told you that permission slip was in there somewhere, didn’t I?
The entire 6th grade is going to see the Hunger Games? You’re kidding me.
No, I’m not saying no…
Calm down, Annalise. I’m saying I’m hesitant and need to think about it.
I’m sure there are other parents who are hesitant, too. Not everyone in this country can be as eager to go watch a movie about kids killing each other as they seem to be.
Lower your voice, please. It’s seven in the morning.
I did too read the ‘Hunger Games’. If you had read the book, you’d know exactly why I was hesitant.
Because it’s like Survivor but worse, if that’s possible.
Yes, The Lorax does sound like a much better choice, Katriel. I agree.
Well, it might have to be fit into the budget now that it’s been labeled ‘liberal propaganda’.
Never mind what that means.You’re wearing two different socks!
I don’t think it looks cute. I think it looks weird.
Shorts, Katriel? It’s 36 degrees outside.
You can say it’s not cold, but factually, scientifically, it is cold.
Damon, we better get these kids to that Lorax movie pronto. They are sounding more Republican every day!
No, please don’t quote me on that, Eli. And do not put that on Facebook, either. Everyone will defriend me.
You’re texting at 7:15? Put the phone away and get to the bus pronto, Annalise. Run!
Did Dad say you could use his Kindle?
Why haven’t you changed those socks?
Stop right there. You were supposed to wash that mouth, young lady! Turn right around and do not pass go until you do what I say!
No, I will not pause. Mama’s do not pause. Ever.
This is gonna be one Angry Mama Bird if you two don’t put down those twiddlers right this minute and go get ready for school.
No, I haven’t seen the charger, Jacob.
Is it pronged or flat?
White or black?
Upstairs or down?
Don’t give me that blank stare. You have to think about it. I keep track of you, not your phone and all it’s accessories!
You’re out of minutes after one week?
I guess you’ll be doing a lot of walking till next month, then.
Yes, you’re right, Juliet. Jacob can’t walk because of his sprained ankle. I forgot.
Now where are my car keys?
Can everyone take out your ear buds and help me find the car keys, please?
Yes, that is a conundrum, as well, darling.
NOW WHO HAS MY KEYS?
Someday, decades from now, my morning words might find me searching endlessly for glasses and pills, instead of coffee and keys. By then my children’s children will probably be nonplussed by televised death arenas and likely think bound books highly antiquated. Instead of ever being out of food they will pop down to the cupcake ATM. If they are lucky there will be high-speed maglev trains and maybe a handful of remaining trees and amidst this new world they can carry on the ancient art of shepherding their young. With birth control considered ‘underground’ they will hone in on their multitudinous offspring with GPS and infrared beams and who knows what else…if the electricity grid hasn’t collapsed into an exhausted pile of vapors, like a worn out housewife from long, long ago.