Today I am back on the clock. The morning ritual begins at 6 A.M. I walk into the bathroom and pull back my hair and wash my face with cold water. I look into the mirror but I’m not really focusing on the sleepy figure staring back at me. I’m already putting a rundown together in my head of what I need to do to get my son out of bed and to school.
Even though I haven’t been at a TV job in years, I still have the residual habit of keeping time to the minute and even to the second. It’s an instinctual survival skill I learned as a newscast producer where every segment of the news show was broken down into time blocks. End times were counted down to zero by the second and there was no room for error.
This morning my show is called, “First Day of School”. It’s more like a reality TV show featuring my son. Today he is officially a first-grader. This production is a one-woman-band. I play a supporting role and also produce the show. We need to end this episode at 8:15 A.M. when the school closes its doors and gives tardy slips after that.
I walk out my bathroom into my closet and get dressed. (Won’t focus on my appearance today. I’m behind the camera.) As I walk into the hallway I begin turning lights on. I go into my son’s room where he is still sleeping, I glance at the clock of his Fios box. It reads 6:25 A.M. I pull out the clothes items that make up his school uniform. A white polo shirt, navy blue shorts, white socks and a belt.
I walk into another bedroom and turn on the iron. I run back to his room and start the process of coaxing my son to wake up. I flip on the lights. “It’s 6:30. Wake up sleepy head”. I see him stir a bit and walk back to iron his clothes. That done, I go back to his bedroom to get him out of bed. I lean down over him and hug him. Wake up sweetie pie”. He feels warm and his almost too-long hair is a dark messy nest with the clean scent of Johnson’s baby shampoo.
I guide his sleepy body out of bed and down the stairs. I turn on the TV for him and let him get his bearings. He likes to start his morning with a cup of chocolate milk. (I’m very aware of the sugar jolt he’s getting.) I too, get my caffeine jolt.
I run into the kitchen and put his lunch together. Ham role-ups, grapes, crackers, Capri Sun drink, three Keebler fudge cookies. The oven clock reads 6:45 A.M. I begin to prepare his breakfast, which never varies, waffles. “A little more sugar please.” It’s 7:00 A.M.
I put the plate on the table and my show guest is beginning to come alive as he walks to the breakfast room. The cartoon playing on TV is Ben 10, another part of our morning ritual. I know he’s a cartoon character, but I think Kevin Levin, Ben 10’s sidekick, is a Hottie.
Neither one of us mentions the significance of this day. But I can feel a little of the anxiety on this first day of school. I think it’s coming from me. My son finishes his breakfast. It’s 7:30. My Iphone rings. It’s his dad. He’s gonna meet us at the school at 8:50 A.M.
I tell my first grader he should get dressed and he does with a little help from me. I run upstairs to brush my teeth and I yell down that he should do the same. He’s already doing it! I am shocked and pleased. By the time I come downstairs he’s already putting on his shoes. Another surprise! Usually He’s in front of the TV with the toothbrush in his mouth held by a paralyzed hand and no shoes. This morning my guest is stellar.
The digital clock over the TV reads 7:40 I grab the hairbrush in the downstairs bathroom and comb his hair. Checklist: backpack, purse, phone, glasses, kid. “Let’s get in the car", I say. I look at the clock on my dashboard. 7:45.
We drive through the historic section of town, which is posted with 25 MPH school speed limits all the way to our target school. “Tick tock, tick tock!” My phone rings. “I’m stuck in traffic. This lady in front of me is letting everyone cross the street.” Says my son’s Dad. My show time is getting tight and I begin the instinctual anxiety of a producer. "Should I drop the dad segment? No. Need it. Make it work"
We get to the school parking lot. My watch reads 8:05. We sit in the car and wait.
8:12, Dad drive’s up next to our car. We’ve got three minutes to get to the door.
Our son walks us through the lobby of the school. I am not looking at the clock anymore. Now, I want time to stop. I try to take pictures of him like a paparazzi mom. “Mom! I’m embarrassed.” He says, putting his hand up.
The halls are full with moms, and dads, and younger siblings. It’s semi-chaos of crying, flashbulbs, and teachers smiling wide. We find his classroom. Students hang their backpacks on the wall hooks and find their desks.
My son seems relaxed. I, and his dad are finding it hard to leave the room and keep going back to give him words of encouragement and hugs. We join the parents who are lingering a little too long in the hallway. I smile wide and wave at the teacher. "Have a great day. Good luck. Lots a sugar this morning" We finally decide to leave.
The show is over. I made my hit time. I am relieved. I sit in my car for a minute and let the feeling come over me. It’s a bag of mixed emotions that I’m sure many stay-at-home moms feel. “Freedom!!! I’m gonna miss him. I’m free! I feel a little empty. Freedom!”
I love my son and I had a great summer with him. I’m sure he’s gonna have a great day and I’m gonna love hearing all about it. But if it’s anything like last year, when I pick him up and I ask, “what did you do in school today?” He’ll say... “Nothing.”