I am here to make a case for what I believe to be the hardest hour of the day.
I have a few contenders: There’s the morning commute to campus through multiple school zones, quickly followed by the fight for parking. How about the busy office hour after class on the day I return essay grades and people come to complain? The morning rush to get everyone to the bus stop on time? Or the minutes just before and just after bedtime, when the kids’ needs (bathroom, snack, water, random math questions) seem to hit their apex.
But the hardest hour isn’t any of these. It’s the time from the moment my car pulls into the driveway until the moment my entire family of four is seated at the dinner table.
My children are beautiful and precious at school pickup. They are angels the entire drive home. They tell me about their days. They sing songs. They help me spot fun Halloween decorations in the neighborhoods we pass through (we are all obsessed with this one house that has two 12’ skeletons). But the moment — the very SECOND — the garage door starts to lift up, they turn into screaming, feral maniacs. It’s as if when I hit that button on the remote opener, it activates a setting somewhere in their brains that signals the moment for complete and utter restraint collapse.
Fighting over who has to go to the bathroom more urgently and who gets to use their bathroom first. Shutting the doors in each others faces. Coming into the house and stopping right in the middle of a doorway or hallway so that no one else can get by. Refusal to get their things from the car. Refusal to empty their things out of their backpacks. Then, finally, papers, binders, lunchboxes, water bottles, and shoes exploding just…everywhere. All over the floor. Accompanies by the dulcet tones of someone playing “Frère Jacques” on the electric keyboard with the volume dialed up to eleven.
In a moment, I’ll walk into the room to spot one of them climbing up the other one’s back and screaming. While my husband is cooking dinner, I’ll be advising the children of better choices they could be making (choices that don’t involve physical fighting or destruction of property); herding them through their minimal chores (feeding the dog and cat); cleaning up spilled water from the dog’s bowl; getting at least one of them to change into their soccer uniform and load their cleats & ball into the car.
And then comes the begging. The endless begging. Please tell me you know the begging? Or do your children actually come to the table when it’s time to eat?
Why is this part the hardest part? Please just come to the table, people. You’ll feel better if you eat.
And then there we are.
Dinner. Piling back into the car for a game. Sitting in the crisp evening air and cheering for whichever child’s team is playing. We’re cool again. We’ve got cold Gatorade and a hot shower and maybe, if we’re lucky, a chapter from a book before bed. We’ve got hugs. We’ve got to do it all again tomorrow.