Pesach is over, and it’s time to start getting your kids back out to school. Or they can get themselves out. They should know how by now; they’ve been going to school all year. To learn things.
My wife and I keep trying to train the kids to get ready by themselves, because it’s a good life skill to have. Many of our kids are above the age that I was when I started getting myself ready, though it’s possible I started too young. For a while I was making a sandwich and leaving the knives out, but then my mother started reprimanding me for leaving dirty knives on the counter, so I started leaving the handles on the counter and the dirty blades jutting out over the sink, which was probably terrifying for anybody who wanted to wash their hands in the morning. Especially if I’d made myself a peanut butter and jelly sandwich on a roll that I had to cut open first, and there was a row of three knives lining the sink, one of them a bread knife.
But then at some point I stopped making myself lunch altogether, though what I would do, so my parents wouldn’t bother me about it, was that I would throw a knife into the sink so my parents could look in the sink and say, “Ok, he made himself a sandwich.” Until the day my mother asked me, point blank, why I kept leaving clean knives in the sink.
I don’t know what some of my kids take for lunch either. They’re not even leaving knives in the sink. I’m like, “What did you have for lunch?”
“A bag of cereal.”
“Oh. Then what do you take for breakfast?”
I’m also surprised my kids haven’t called 911 on each other
when they’re fighting about socks in the morning
The only child of mine that I know for sure makes his own sandwiches is my first grader, but he won’t put on his shoes. He has no clue where he left his shoes the night before, and it doesn’t even occur to him to look for them until I say something. I came downstairs one morning and found him in his coat and knapsack, ready to go, and I said, “We can’t go; you don’t have shoes.” He had mittens on and everything.
Some people might say we’re being irresponsible parents. Why are we letting our kids get ready themselves? But it happens to be that the kids like making themselves snack, because when I make them snack, I give them like four cookies. When they make themselves snack, they finish all the cookies the first day. All five packages. But the good news is they all leap out of bed in the morning, because they have to beat each other to the cookies before they’re gone.
Also, I have no idea exactly when the kids wake up, because I’m not actually up then. Sometimes they get up shortly after I go to sleep for the night. So they have plenty of time for the trial and error of making themselves lunch. They have three or four hours to figure out how to put cereal in a bag. Though mostly they miss.
My wife and I don’t get up until we have to. But I do know that sometimes we’re woken up at 6 in the morning by a kid trying to ask us about socks or something, and my wife mumbles a response into her pillow and the kid leaves and I’m left not being entirely sure it wasn’t part of a dream. But not a good dream. I’m dreaming about kids waking us up, apparently, to tell us about who’s beating up whom, and that they’re out of socks, and could they take Shabbos party for snack.
They come over to me when they think we’re out of food. Apparently, I’m in charge of food, and my wife’s in charge of clothing. It works out that way because if I was in charge of clothing, everyone would be wearing one size too small, and if my wife was in charge of food, there would be no nosh in the house. When they say, “Mommy, there’s no nosh,” she says, “Good.” When they say, “Totty, we have no clothes,” I say, “What about what you’re wearing now?”
“This is pajamas.”
“Oh. I haven’t opened my eyes.”
They’ve also learned that if they ask me if they could have certain foods when I’m tired enough, I’ll just say, “Yeah,” to get them to leave the room.
“Totty, can I have gum for lunch?”
“Yeah. Just get out.”
“Could I take yogurt?”
“No, it’s in a big container.”
“Can I take it in a sandwich bag?”
“Do what you want. You’ve maxed out the number of questions you can ask me.”
But mostly, they fight over clothes. We have all our boys in one room, which seemed like a good idea at the time, but all their clothes look basically the same because their school has a dress code. (For example, no pajamas.)
For a while, my wife would lay out clothes the night before, which is something experts recommend for taking some of the stress off the mornings and putting it onto the night before, so everyone goes to bed later. But then the kids would forget about them and pick out other clothes the next morning. I have a kid who takes out every item of clothes he owns every morning and picks whatever’s at the back of his drawer. I have another kid who specifically likes wearing pants that have kneeholes. I don’t know why. Maybe he keeps those pants because it’s easier to kiss his tzitzis.
And a lot of times, I make the kids lunches at night that they then proceed to forget to take in the morning. For example, every time we have noodles for supper, a lot of the kids ask if they could take a bowl, so I pack it into little covered bowls in the fridge, and then I come back from taking them to school to find that none of them have taken those bowls.
So I have a son who says, “Why don’t you bring me lunch in school? Everyone’s parents bring them lunch in school.”
Yes, everyone’s parents. No one works.
I actually brought him lunch one time when he had throat issues because I wanted him to have something hot to drink, and I got there during lunch and ran into no one’s parents.
Also, every day I come home from carpool and find someone’s folder or textbook sitting on the floor under where the knapsacks were, and I don’t drive that to school either. If I bring them their textbook every time, how will they learn? On the other hand, if I don’t bring them their textbook, how will they learn? But I’m going for more of a long-term solution.
Not that it’s a huge deal to drive back to the school, but it’s not like dropping off kids. I can’t just stop at the curb and tell the folder to go in.
And yes, I try to make sure they have all their stuff before we leave the house. But it’s a lot of kids and not a lot of time. I’m not even really paying enough attention to them in the morning to realize what they’re wearing. I’m looking down to see if the kids have shoes; I’m not going to notice that he’s wearing a yarmulke with another kid’s name on it. And as long as it’s the name of a kid who lives in my house, it’s already a step in the right direction.
At least they’re wearing something. There was recently a story in the news about a 2-year-old girl in South Carolina who called 911 one morning because she couldn’t get her pants on. Because who among us hasn’t had a morning where we just say, “I can’t get my pants on and can use some professional assistance”?
According to reports, 2-year-old Aaliyah Ryan called 911 and said, “Hello?” a few times before hanging up. The operator dispatched officers to her location, and Aaliyah’s grandfather answered the door, totally bewildered. He’d been watching her, but had no idea that she’d called the police. And while he was standing at the door, according to deputy Martha Lohnes, who was at the scene, “Aaliyah comes running out to the front with half a pant leg on.”
Aaliyah’s mother later told reporters that she had recently taught her daughter that 911 was the number to call in an emergency. Though maybe she could have been a little bit clearer about what exactly constitutes an emergency. Kids don’t get that. My wife and I told the kids years ago to only wake us up for emergencies, and they wake us up for everything. They wake us up so we can, with our eyes closed, look up what the weather is going to be. Is it raining?
“I don’t know; look outside.”
But at least they’re coming to us. And not calling the cops.
I’m also surprised my kids haven’t called 911 on each other when they’re fighting about socks in the morning. 911 is more for when you can’t get your pants on and your parents said you were out of questions. Though to be honest, putting on your pants isn’t really a police emergency. It’s more for Chaveirim.
Mordechai Schmutter is a weekly humor columnist for Hamodia, a monthly humor columnist for The Jewish Press, and has written three books, all published by Israel Book Shop. He also does freelance writing for hire. You can send any questions, comments, or ideas to MSchmutter@gmail.com