Matt Archbold graduated from Saint Joseph’s University in 1995. He is a former journalist who left the newspaper business to raise his five children. He writes for the Creative Minority Report.
6:40 a.m. I was running late. My wife left very early for work and she set the alarm for me to wake the children for school. Now, I’ll wake up to an alarm that plays music easy but beeping/honking alarms don’t wake me up. Kinda’ weird, I know.
I normally wake up the kids at 6:30 a.m. but I incorporated the beeping alarm into my dreams for about ten minutes before I realized I wasn’t involved in a nuclear reactor meltdown or being chased by a honking Bigfoot. I had just slept late.
So I threw some waffles into the toaster, dispersed five plates on the table, poured some orange juice, and ran up the stairs. Wake up! Wake up! We’re late late late.
I saw my boy poke his eyes out from the mountain of blankets so I ran into the girls’ room across the hall. Wake up. Wake up. We’re late. Late. Late. They were a little more difficult. I had to pull the covers off the nine year old, tickle the four year old’s feet, and remind the ten year old that it was gym day which she liked. The twelve year old didn’t need any extra urging but just seemed generally resentful of the world.
I practically dragged the girls down the stairs. I was like a cowboy zombie. Me being the cowboy and them the zombies. I threw the waffles on their plates. The four girls sat down, stared wide eyed at their plates for a few seconds, said grace, and started eating. Suddenly, my six year old boy came barreling down the stairs already in his school uniform yelling, “I’m first. I’m ready. You’re not.” Oh, and he was doing his “I’m first. I’m ready. And you’re not” dance which accompanies the chant.
I suspected that he’d actually slept in his uniform but there wasn’t much I could do about it so I just went to get some clothes out of the dryer as I’d washed them the night before for my little zombie girls.
In the kitchen I could hear the boy accuse everyone of forgetting to say their prayers. That’s his thing. He once accused a family sitting near us at Applebees of forgetting to say prayers. Loudly.
But as I’m getting the clothes out of the dryer, my nine year old daughter comes in with her complaining face on. She’s complaining about the boy. “He says he’s the king of the syrup.”
“What does that even mean?” I asked her.
“I don’t know but he said it,” she said.
So I followed her back into the kitchen and said probably the second stupidest thing I’ve ever said as a parent which was, “Nobody is the syrup king. No. You know what. I’m the syrup king. Everyone just eat and nobody gets anymore syrup. We’re running late and I don’t want you to be late for school. Hurry and eat…but don’t hurry too much that you choke.”
The four year old immediately pretended to choke and threw her head back with her tongue out. Dead.
“Eat your waffle,” I told her.
“K,” she said.
When I came out with the girls’ uniforms I told them all to come out and get dressed. The four year old didn’t have her sweatshirt so I sent her upstairs to her room to get it.
6:55 a.m. - “I can’t find my shoe” announced the ten year old, holding one shoe in her hand.
“Where’d you find that one?” I asked.
“In the shoe bin where it belongs,” she said a bit haughtily as if to say where else would a shoe be but in the assigned shoe bin.
I didn’t get into it.
So we all dashed around looking for the ten year old’s other shoe. Couldn’t find it. Just wear your shoes from last year I told her but she said they hurt and I didn’t say anything but I gave her my look. It’s kind of a comprehensive look that says, “Tough! And if you say one more word about that stinking (insert argued item here) I’ll…(insert terrible punishing action here.)”
6:59: The boy spilled some toothpaste on his shirt and asked me to clean it off. Done.
7:04 am. The boy had managed a triple knot in his shoe and he said that normally he’d just stick the shoe back on his foot but his socks were too thick so he couldn’t do his “trick.” So at first I tried his trick of just shoving it on but I almost pushed him right off his chair so I had to untie the knot.
7:09 a.m. What? Men’s fingers aren’t made for taking knots out of kid’s shoes.
7:11 a.m. I made kids’ lunches and snacks and gave them some extra change for something called “operation rice bowl.” (Now, that I’m thinking about it, I’m wondering if that’s a scam for them just to be able to get ice cream at school. Remind me to ask my kids about that.)
7:21 a.m. I ran out to start the van. I came back in to help brush hair. My twelve year old does her own hair now so she’s on her own. But I think the same person who ties my son’s shoes sneaks into my nine year old’s bedroom and ties her hair in knots at night. (Remind me to ask the boy about this.) So I comb her hair and she screams things like “Ow” and “You’re combing my ear!”
7:25: We’ve got to get going. Hey, where’s the four year old? If you’ll recall she went up the stairs about half an hour before to find her sweatshirt. I dash up the stairs. And about halfway up the stairs I start hearing “Heeyah” and “Whap.”
I walked into her room and she was in mid leap from bed to bed. And she’s wearing her black cape. Now, I’ve got to admit that I came in the room expecting her to see me and start crying or apologize or something. You know what she says to me -“Dad, I need an archenemy.”
I told her she was about to get one.
Now, to be fair she had put her sweatshirt on under the cape and even though it was inside out, I felt there was a good faith effort. So I picked her up and ran her through the stations in the bathroom for tooth brushing, hair brushing where I combed her ear, and finally squeezed her shoes on.
I ran into the kitchen to grab her lunch as she was putting on her coat and I heard, “No Puma no!” from outside.
Now, you don’t know Puma. But Puma’s a neighborhood cat. My kids named him Puma. I don’t know who he/she/it belongs to but Puma spends a great deal of time in and around my house. I suspect he/she/it likes all the attention my kids give he/she/it.
But there was Puma darting through my kitchen and my kids running in right behind him. Puma, I’m pretty sure thought this was a game. I know my kids did. Puma darted under the ping-pong table in the front room and all the kids went right after him. Puma darted through the laundry room and into the television room where he slunk behind the couch and under a shelf.
7:32 a.m. Here’s where I say the stupidest thing I’ve ever said as a parent. “Kids, build a barricade with the laundry bins on that side of the couch. I’m going in after Puma.”
Let me tell you something, it’s dark under there. Behind our sectional couch and under the shelf is one of the favorite spots for the kids when we play flashlight hide and seek at night. So I’m crawling under there and can’t see two feet in front of me. I’m thinking he/she/it is right in front of me and about to claw my face apart. But I crawl on valiantly. And there he/she/it is. She crawls up right onto my arm. And I’ve got her. I feel her shaking. So all. I’ve. got. to. do. is. turn. around. in. this. teeny. tiny. space. to. get. out.
Eeeek. I should’ve brought some motor oil in here with me. But I manage to turn and the whole time I’m petting Puma because this poor cat is scared to death. I emerge and my kids applaud. And I announce an extra bit of good news. I found the ten year old’s other shoe. I tell them all to get in the van and we all go outside and I let Puma go and he runs off to wherever Puma goes when he’s not with my kids.
7:47 a.m. (School starts in three minutes) I drive slowly because there’s no reason to hurry at this point.
8:01 a.m. I bring the kids into our parish school and they line up at the secretary’s desk for late passes. She asks my kids why they’re late. They all say, “Dad woke us up late.”