Monday, October 1, 2012

Shoes Before Breakfast

Mary Katherine has been expanding her French language repertoire of late. Her favorite phrase, “Cinq minutes, Hugo!” is currently being performed at 8:00 a.m. each schoolday, delivered with jazz-hands-level energy from the top of the kitchen steps. When she’s feeling extra sassy, she drops in an exasperated “Allez!” She waits for a Gallic grunt of acknowledgement from below, then finishes her Cheerios and starts getting the Mary & Hugo Show (or “Hewgz,” as she’s now calling him) on the road.

While her high school incarnation has a morning style that leans toward Lucy Van Pelt’s, Hugo is all Linus at 8 a.m., expressing pure, childlike amazement at the smallest things, and some not so small. His feet, for example. For several mornings running, he has appeared at the top of the stairs and stared down at those stockinged size 11s in astonishment. “Mes chaussures!” he exclaims, and turns tail downstairs to fetch the Vans. Meanwhile, Mary foot-taps and sighs at the back door, while I nurse my coffee and muse over the unique quality of the kitchen's lighting, which seems to reveal the unshod nature of feet so effectively.

It was while we were waiting for Hugo’s re-emergence last week that Mary Katherine dug into her endless bag of family trivia and reminded me of the “No Breakfast Without Shoes” rule, later amended to the “No Breakfast Without Shoes That Are Completely On Your Feet, Not Just With Your Tippytoes Stuck Into The Tops” rule. Emma argued against the rule every day (“Mom. Mom. Mom. I have something to tell you. Mom. Mom. Mom. What do my feet have to do with eating? Mom. Mom. Mom.”), but I held firm.

The rule, which I realize may seem arbitrary to anyone who never tried to get Emma out the door on time each day, was enacted one cold September morning, after I watched her hop on one foot to the school bus, trailing her other sneaker behind her. Seeing something like that does things to a mother. It was either start drinking gin out of the cat dish, or make the kid put on her shoes before she got to the table.

Mary’s memory triggered a discussion of other bizarre mealtime rules from those early school years. “No Blankets at the Table,” for example, was an edict laid down after the chill of the morning kitchen led Emma to decide that she could cover her head with a blanket, leaving just a tiny slit that would allow her to effectively spoon breakfast into her cozy face space. The resulting calamitous spillage was of Exxon Valdez proportions, and blankets were henceforth banished.

Free speech even took a backseat to the efficiency of morning meals. I laid down a “No Discussion of Hair Color While Eating” dictum because protracted debate over that thrilling subject of black vs. brunette, or yellow vs. blonde, was leading to a marked increased in early morning pop-ups to check out the refrigerator mirror, thus slowing breakfast progress. And what do you mean you don’t have a mirror on your refrigerator? If you don’t stick one there, a girl has to run all the way to the bathroom to check out if one of her eyebrows really is higher than the other, as her sister contends, and that pushes everyone even more precipitously toward tardiness. If mirrors could wear out from overuse, all of the ones in my house would need fresh batteries every week.

I’m sure we’ll settle into a routine that will seem like a piece of cake (or, if Hugo manages to teach us anything, morceau de gâteau) by next spring, but for now, there are still a few kinks in the two-high-schooler system. Mary and Hugo have missed the bus only once (so far), but delay-inducing snow is on the way, so I have some concerns. On the plus side, the two of them don’t seem interested in early-morning debates about hair color, at least so far, and for this, they earn a tired mom’s unending gratitude.

1 comment:

  1. I think I would be drinking gin out of the cat dish if I had to deal with that kind of chaos every morning. And we don't have a cat.