I don’t know how it works in your house, but in our house, getting out the front door on a weekday morning is a joint effort. We’ve heard tales of pre-teens who wake up to an alarm, silently and efficiently getting themselves ready for school. Not a peep is heard, save for a terse “bye!” as they slam the front door behind them.
That’s not how it works in our house.
The Jawa requires a little prodding. Oftentimes, he will be lying on the living room floor, his feet jammed up against the heating vent, watching episodes of “South Park” on his iPod, caught totally off-guard by me telling him that he has seven minutes before he need to leave for school. On most mornings, he’ll pronounce himself “ready,” only to have me remind him that most people wear shoes to school.
That’s how it’s worked since the days of preschool. Essentially, I am still pushing a toddler out the door. As I am someone dedicated to not being late, there are bound to be conflicts.
About a month ago, I decided that it was foolish for me to get up at seven. I’m not the one who needs to be out the front door by 7:55. I do that and I’m at work by 8:15, staring ahead at the endless corridor of an interminable work day.
Better I should show up around 8:45. If I’m up at seven, that gives me almost two hours to get ready before I enter my username and password. Take away the 20-minute commute and you’ve still got well over an hour to complete preparations that, after almost forty years of having to get up and go somewhere, have been honed and perfected into a sleek thirty-minute process.
Since 1997, the extra thirty minutes has been built in as the time needed to push and prod the Jawa until he’s finally out the door. For many years, friends have advised me to let him fall flat on his face, morning-readiness-wise. “He’ll wise up quick the first time you send him to school in his pajamas!” they’ve said. "Right," I'm thinking,"that'll work." See “t-shirt, and boxers consecutive-day wearing of,” for more information.
So I couldn’t just set my alarm for eight, hold my breath and hope I wouldn’t find him sprawled out on the living room floor, completely oblivious to the time. I eased into it.
For the first couple of weeks, I set the alarm for 7:30, but generally woke up a few minutes earlier. Before getting out of bed, I’d yell, “IT’S 7:30!” A few seconds later, a pajama-clad blur would fly past my bedroom door.
As an aside, I’ve begun to wonder how it is that a 90-pound child can sound so much heavier than a 130-pound woman. I can always tell who’s walking down the stairs to interrupt my blissful sports-watching revelry. Heavy steps = Jawa; light steps = Sandra Bullock. Loud voices are a toss-up and super-slow steps are Shack, who navigates stairs in a manner not unlike that of a Slinky.
From bed, I’d go for the shower where, about three minutes in, the bathroom door would fly open, which is inconvenient because our shower is directly behind the door. The door opens and I plunge into total darkness. Our shower is about three feet square and we only have one bathroom. Please email me with suggestions as to how city living kicks butt on the suburbs.
The door flies open and the Jawa enters, simultaneously delivering an arcanic monologue and brushing his teeth. Twenty seconds later, it’s over. By the time I get out of the shower, he’s standing in the living room, wearing his backpack and his latest sartorial flourish, a black-and-white trucker’s hat with “Walton’s Grizzly Lodge” written across the front. In true Brandeis/Jewish teen fashion, he's opted for the hat over brushing a hairbrush. He doesn’t know how easy he has it. His hair is only half-Jewish, and thus more closely resembles the smooth, shiny hair of his mother than the steel wool-like Jewfro of his pre-baldness dad.
At 7:55, he was out the door, calling “Bye, Dad,” a truncated version of the multiple “Goodnight, Dads” he’s lately so fond of delivering, over his shoulder.
Last Monday, without warning, I decided to give the boy a challenge and see how he responded. I woke up at 7:30, yelled, “IT’S 7:30!” watched the blur fly past the door and then went right back to sleep.
At 7:40, the Jawa appeared in my room. “Aren’t you going to get up?” he said.
“Soon,” I returned. “Did you brush your teeth?”
I heard him go into his room and hoist his backpack – which is heavy enough that installation of a small crane in his room might be within the realm of good sense – onto his shoulders, then go back into the living room. I was awake, but pretended to still be sleeping. At 7:50, he was back in my room. “Okay,” he said, “I’m going to go.”
“Alright. Have a good day.”
The front door slammed and I lazily got out of bed. I was standing trackside at the Glen Park BART station by 8:25.
So today, I woke up at 7:30 feeling like I’d just been hit by a truck, the unfortunate by-product of a consciousness that is dominated by chronic headaches which approximate the experience of having a hangover all the time. It was 7:40 by the time I got my act together enough to stumble toward the bathroom for a shower.
It was quiet. Too quiet. The kind of quiet that meant the Jawa had fallen asleep in front of the heating vent. I panicked. “It’s 7:40,” I thought, “there’s no way he’s going to be ready in time.”
Hesitantly, I called his name. “It’s 7:40,” I said. “Time to get ready.”
A strange, confident voice came from the vicinity of the living room. It carried the authority of Charlton Heston as Moses, of James Earl Jones as the Sith Lord Darth Vader. “I AM READY,” it boomed.
A few seconds later the Jawa presented himself: dressed, teeth brushed, backpack secured, wearing his hoodie and already chewing on its draw strings. “I guess you’ll be gone by the time I get out of the shower,” I said meekly.
“YES,” he thundered.
“Okay, well, have a good day.”
I was out of the shower in five minutes, but it was too late. He was already gone, locking the door behind him with his own personal set of house keys. The door to his bedroom was closed, his dishes were in the dishwasher.
It was very quiet and kind of sad. I'll get used to it.