Military Brats 2
Getting Them to School
Fort Bliss, Texas is huge and mostly beige with touches of coral and gray. In the heat of the August sun the military housing is pale and quiet. Even the splash parks and water slides are quiet in the sweltering sun. Why? The children are in school.
Before I can begin to describe the daily ritual of school, it is necessary to understand a difference between civilian communities and military communities. Most children across the country go to school. The difference is trust.
Because of change, constant and flowing change, relationships are fast and firm and assumed. Instead of years to know your neighbor, it takes hours.
"What's your name?"
"Do you want to play?"
"Are you moving today?"
However with rational politeness and common sense, it is safe to assume safety. It is a tribe. It is safe to assume that help is always close. We are in this together.
The same with school. Parents plan one year at a time. No child is ever the new kid. Making absolutely, positively sure that the academics are par or above with civilian schools is required.
Long range educational planning is up to mom and dad. My job is to get four children to school today.
Yes, You Need Shoes
"Alex, you have on two left shoes. Where is the partner for that shoe?"
Shrug by his five-year old, kindergarten shoulders.
"We need to find one partner to one of those shoes, now."
"So your feet won't hurt when you have recess."
"My feet don't hurt."
"Alex, please find a pair of shoes, school shoes."
"Rachel has them on." Scrunchy face.
That is an easy fix. Rachel and Alex are twins.
For some unknown reason, all four children dress for school before they eat breakfast. They dress first. This requires two clean shirts in the ready every morning. In the summer they eat all day and never actually dress.
Fortunately for me, my grandchildren attend a private school off base that requires uniforms. No matter what the philosophical discussions might be regarding uniforms, I love them. They have some choices, jumper or skirt, navy blue or tan. However, they stick with their choices like glue. Hence we all know what to wear, and we put it on.
The first problem of the day is Rachel's hair.
"Brush your hair, Rachel."
"Brush it again and this time brush the back." The back of Rachel's hair is a nest of fine, pale brown tangles.
Twenty minutes later and nearing zero time remaining, "Rachel, you must brush your hair or let me brush it."
"I like it how it is," Scrunchy face.
"Come here and give me the brush."
To let the hair be or not to be. That is the question. I debate. Some days I let it go. Today I don't. I am out of time for cajoling, bribery or threats. I march over to her. Pull her between my knees, snatch the brush from her clenched hands, take a deep breath to be gentle and brush. Now I have one crying.
"You may not watch TV while you eat."
"Why not. Mommy lets us watch TV."
"Because you watch TV and you don't eat."
"We will eat."
"Eat first. Then if there is time and you are ready you may watch for a few minutes." Since there is never time and they are never ready, it is a safe bet that I won't need to find the remote.
"I don't like oatmeal."
"I don't like pancakes."
"I don't like sausage."
"I don't like this kind of cereal."
"What do you like?"
"Cookies. Mom lets us have cookies."
They all like and eat fruit. We have bananas and toast. Some eat the eggs. Alex eats the sausage. Robert, three and in pre-k, refuses to eat. He is not hungry. I try to make him. Now I have two kids with red eyes. I put yogurt and a sliced apple in a bag. Whatever it takes.
Time for the back-packs and the homework folders. Thanks to the efficient and admirable home day-care provider who comes after school, their homework is always completed and in their folders. It is the folders that vaporize into thin air.
Not under the sink, not under the bed, not in the laundry basket and certainly not on the homework table where the homework folders should be. Today Hannah remembers she hid hers inside the bottom door of the Grandfather clock. One homework folder.
Rachel, who generally does her own sheet and then also does Alex's homework sheet has no idea where she put the folders.
"Rachel always loses my homework." Severe scrunchy face. Third child crying.
Not in the shoe closet, not in the toy bin, not on the book shelves. On an inspiration I remember Rachel playing in mom's closet. Found them! Everybody stop looking.
Pre-K does not have homework folders. They have quiet time. Good luck with that.
"Leave your folders on the homework table," I say today as I say everyday.
"Okay, lets go."
Now Robert is eating his oatmeal and needs a clean shirt.
We are lined up at the door. Hannah, age seven, looks adorable and has everything. Check.
Alex has on matching shoes and socks. Underwear? He shows me. Check.
Rachel always appears a bit disheveled. It is her look. Her strong, athletic body needs to move without restraint. Hair is acceptable, matching shoes and socks. Underwear (it has to be asked)? Check.
Nearly every morning the guard at the security gate gives us a small, acknowledging wave as though to say, You made it another day. We do not stop at the gate on exiting, but he has gotten to know the red van with the unkept grandmother driving four children all in their places with bright shinny faces.
Preparing for Mom
Spaghetti for Lunch
One memorable afternoon we are all gathered for Dad's promotion ceremony. Mom is home. Dad's parents have flown in from Salinas, California. All parents and grandparents are present and accounted for.
Mom and I drive to school to pick-up the children. We intend to go directly from school to the ceremony. There is no time for anything else. We go inside the building and collect Hannah from first grade. We have Robert. We collect our two kindergarten students.
Opps! Alex had spaghetti for lunch. His white shirt is covered in red sauce from neck to belly-button. Can we wash it off in the bathroom? No. It is spaghetti sauce. Can we go home and find a clean shirt? No. Can we run to Walmart and buy a clean shirt? No. We have ten minutes.
Mom, who has not reached her position in life without making immediate problem solving decisions, takes the shirt off. Today Alex has on a white t-shirt. The t-shirt has only red shadows that permeated his school shirt. We go.
We cross the street, holding hands; mom, four children and grandma. We are beautiful and dad is proud.