This morning, I woke up with a sore, swollen eyelid. I’m prone to sties, but this didn’t look like a sty.
The Big Girl is allowed to watch cartoons in the morning until the Little Girl comes to the kitchen (is that terrible?). So I sent the Big Girl to the TV and left the Little Girl talking in her crib while I checked Internet health sites.
Usually I’m nonchalant about symptoms like swollen eyelids, but my sister’s diabetes diagnosis has made me more paranoid about health issues.
So I poked around and assured myself that this was nothing serious.
By then the Little Girl was roaring “Up, up! Mama!” so I went in to rescue her. She pointed to her diaper and said, “Hurts.” The night before, she’d had a little diaper rash, and I scooped her up to change her diaper—and discovered that not only were we out of baby wipes at the changing table, but as I searched various stashes throughout the apartment, we only had a single wipe in the whole place.
I also discovered an angry diaper rash. I felt guilty of Mommy Malpractice because of the rash and because of the lack of a key supply. As I changed the diaper, using every inch of the sole wipe, the Big Girl, still in her nightgown, came charging in.
“It’s 7:18, and I haven’t even eaten breakfast!” she wailed in accusation. The Big Girl hates to be late; in fact, she hates to be on time; she likes to be early. “I’m supposed to be done eating and getting dressed at 7:20! We’re going to be late for camp!”
Did I laugh in a merry but comforting way? Did I burst into cheering song? Did I say reassuringly, “Don’t worry, sweetheart, we have plenty of time”?
No. I snarled in my most menacing voice, “WAIT A MINUTE!” She backed off and started sobbing in terror.
So apparently I haven’t quite internalized my own good-parenting tips.
I was angry with myself for getting distracted from our routine and for running out of essential baby supplies. So I reacted with anger to the Big Girl’s agitation.
I lost it there. But some happiness-project practices did help to restore peace.
First, I managed to get a grip on myself pretty quickly. I gave the Big Girl a hug, and said, “You go get dressed while I make breakfast. We still have plenty of time.” (“Make breakfast” in my case means spreading peanut butter on toast, not a lengthy process.)
Second, I’d forced myself to make her lunch the night before, so that was done.
Third and most important, we did, in fact, have a huge amount of extra time. Knowing the Big Girl’s concern for promptness, our mornings are organized to have a big cushion. Even with all the commotion, we were ready to go thirty-five minutes before we had to walk out the door.
I stopped at the drugstore after I dropped off the Big Girl. It’s one of the most important, if grammatically inelegant, of Life’s True Rules for happiness: There are some items that you can’t let yourself run out of.