We look like a nice enough family.
You might think I’m the kind of mom with an organized system for after school. One in which the children come home and hang up their bags and clean out their lunches then I serve them homemade snacks while each child takes turns sharing the details of their day before eagerly diving into their homework. You might think I look forward to sappy ‘afterschool special’ time with my children.
You would be wrong.
After school is awful. Nearly unbearable. A crapshoot.
I call it the Power Hour. Because honestly it is the hardest part of my day and it takes all the strength I can muster not to become a raving lunatic. Every. Single. Day.
The thing is, days at home are quiet. Luke and Lizzy play out back on the swings or we read books or play play-doh. They love the neighborhood park. Then they eat lunch and afterwards while Lizzy naps Luke has quiet time with a movie. It is just so quiet and slow. Have I mentioned, it is quiet?
The big boys sit at school all day for seven hours. Listening and learning and following directions and controlling themselves and stifling their little boy energy.
So these two things—the quiet and the stifling—create the perfect storm that crashes when everyone hits the car.
I literally sit at 2:55 in the car listening to K-LOVE and chanting “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control” over and over.
I inch closer to pick-up thinking “Ok, here I go…” Then I smile and wave and say things like “Hi guys!” “How was your day??” or “I’m so glad to see you!!” But really, I’m bracing myself.
And Power Hour begins.
Isaiah hops up front and begins talking immediately. Usually a complaint. “Mom, our Chromebooks aren’t here yet! They are never going to get here!”, or the next day “Mom, there’s something wrong with my Chromebook. It won’t hold a charge!” or “Mom, you won’t believe what happened in PE today. It was so annoying!”
Meanwhile, Eli and James begin the daily argument of who will sit next to Lizzy. And apparently James is talking too loud. And apparently Eli is just being mean. Back and forth. Bicker, bicker, bicker.
Isaiah shushes because he is ALWAYS talking.
Eli shushes because James actually IS a pretty loud talker.
And EVERYONE is saying “Mom.” “Mom!!” “Moooom!!”
Not to be outdone or forgotten in the way back Luke tries to tell the boys a story about his day or decides this is the best time to tell me something or starts making random loud sounds just to see if he can annoy everyone.
There’s a lot of “Mom.” “Ssshhh.” “Luke! Stop!” “Eli!! I’m not doing anything!” “Ssshhh.”
And as the noise builds Lizzy screams! Or moooos as loud as she can!
My ears hurt. My blood pressure rises.
Occasionally Luke falls asleep in carline and we have a little reprieve. This is very short lived, however, because sleeping for 20 minutes in the car means he is going to be CRABBY when we get home. Watch out!
Occasionally we get stopped by a train and I wonder whether I am, in fact, going to survive. (Miraculously I always do).
Once home the chaos continues as we all head loudly inside. Pushing. Shoving. Shushing. Jostling. Bags bumping. Water bottles falling. Bickering all the way.
Everyone drops everything (bags, lunchboxes, water bottles, projects, Luke’s blankies) somewhere in the kitchen (floor, counters, island, table) and it looks like there may have been a tornado or someone ransacked the house in a break-in.
Then they head for the pantry like locusts!
Here is what I’ve learned in my 12 years as a mom:
- They are hungry. These kids just need to drop everything and eat. Maybe apples and cheese but more likely chips or three bowls of cereal or an entire pan of brownies. It does not matter—I just let them eat! Blood sugars are low!
- They are pent up and have been on best behavior all day so I don’t say much. I listen and nod. I don’t correct or point out that they are being little assholes to each other. We just need to get home and get inside and me correcting DOES NOT HELP! Everyone is guilty and everyone just needs to eat (see #1).
- This is not the time to ask about homework or who they played with at recess. This is not the time to spout out who needs to get changed for which evening practice. This is not the time to say things like “Where does your bag go?”. They cannot have one more ‘To Do’ heaped on them. At least not until they’ve eaten. (I’ve seriously considered bringing glucose tabs in the car!)
Feed them. Let them be little assholes for a bit. Keep my mouth shut. And wait.
Like clockwork by about 4:15PM they all start to come to. They begin to settle in. Lunchboxes get cleaned out. The dishes get done. The trash gets taken out. The dog is fed and watered. And homework emerges from backpacks.
Everyone is laughing again. Everyone is getting along. Sometimes I hear about their day but sometimes they all just dissipate. Luke ends up outside with the hose. Eli heads to his room to play Bionicles. James goes for a bike ride or shoots baskets or plays Army upstairs by himself. And Isaiah plays games or watches funny videos on the computer while I cook dinner.
I don’t know about love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control but any day that I can avoid standing in my kitchen with my fingers in my ears, eyes closed, and screaming at the top of my lungs while everyone looks at me like a crazy person I call a raging success!
Yep, we survived another day!
“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self control.” Galatians 5:22
You can follow me for more just like this at https://www.facebook.com/ordinaryonpurpose.blog/