This morning, both girls were still sleeping when I had to wake them for camp at 7:30. Julia tends to be a late sleeper, but Margaret is awake at 5:30 more often than not, so this was a special treat. I started the day with coffee on the deck, ate a leisurely breakfast, put chili ingredients in the crock pot. I even folded a few items from the laundry bed (really, the guest bed, but laundry is our most frequent guest). I packed Julia’s lunch and Margaret’s snack, and was feeling pretty centered when I woke them up.
I handed Margaret her clothes— shorts and a tank top, which I bought yesterday at Old Navy, and which she okayed before I washed them last night. She scowled. “I don’t like those. I like dresses.”
“But you told me yesterday that you liked these,” I pleaded. PSA: this line of reasoning does not work with a 4.5 year old.
“Well I DON’T.” She stomped down the stairs, and came back holding a new dress. “I want to wear this.” I explained to her, voice tense, that that dress was for school, and that she needed play clothes for art camp. I knew, even as I said this, that the sentiment was ridiculous. Margaret attends a play-based preschool and comes home covered in mud, paint, and/ or glue almost every day. These new dresses were on clearance from Amazon, and I bought them precisely because they looked like the more expensive Hanna Andersson ones she loves, and thought they’d be perfect for school. Still, I dug in my heels.
Julia came to our rescue. “Margaret, do you want me to pick a different dress for you?” she asked in her most soothing voice. “NO,” Margaret said firmly.
“It’s fine,” I snapped at them, in a voice that made it very clear that it wasn’t fine at all. “Let’s go. We’re going to be late.” I wrenched the dress over Margaret’s head, criticized the way she was (or was not, as the case might have been) brushing her teeth, and rolled my eyes when she refused to put on shoes.
In the car, Margaret grinned at me in the rear view mirror, happy in her new, pink, twirly dress. I gave her a watery smile, put my sunglasses on, and cried. After a few minutes, their morning chatter died down, and I took a deep breath.
“Margaret,” I said, “I’m sorry I snapped at you about the dress. I’m so glad you like it. I’m really sad about Rena still, and sometimes I get frustrated about things that I wouldn’t normally get frustrated about.”
“Oh,” Julia piped up from the back, “You mean like how you yelled at me the other night when I wouldn’t go to bed?”
No, I wanted to say. I yelled at you that night because it was midnight and I was exhausted and you haven’t slept all summer and you’re turning eight and you were behaving like a two-year-old.
“Yes,” I responded. “Like that. But, last night, I was more patient, and you stayed in your bed, and we did better, right?” Julia nodded. We pulled into the parking lot for camp. Julia grabbed her lunchbox and gave me a kiss before skipping in. Margaret caught my eye, did a twirl, and gave me a smile I might not have deserved, but was so grateful to receive.