I have this fantasy of my days:
I wake up, and while I enjoy my morning coffee and newspaper, my girls fix themselves breakfast and then begin their schoolwork. After the newspaper has been read and the coffee drunk, I join them, and with many a break to read or play or just relax, together we work through the approximately two or so hours of schoolwork and household chores that make up the entirety of our daily responsibilities. After that we're free as birds for the rest of the day--to the park? To the creek? To the garden to plant some beets? The girls play while I finish up etsy orders and writing jobs, and with that out of the way, perhaps we get out the art supplies, or bake some cookies. Later that afternoon, dinner prep is easy in our clean and tidy kitchen, and the girls are excited to help steam vegetables or shape bread dough into rolls to bake. When my guy gets home, he finishes dinner while I finish my mile on the treadmill, then we eat together, have a quick family clean-up time, and then do something fun before the girls go to bed and Matt and I get some time to ourselves.
This is a total fantasy. It has never happened.
The reality is this:
Today I wake up early and groggy, after not having slept well (I often don't sleep well). Over my morning coffee and newspaper, Syd whines about what she did NOT want for breakfast--not frozen waffles, not cereal with milk, not yogurt with granola, not frozen smoothie pops, not a peanut butter sandwich--while Willow, naked, drags the library books out all over the carpet and then sits down to read in a big pile.
After I finish, I clean the remains of last night's dinner off of the table (which is supposed to be Matt's job) while Syd, who has just now figured out what she'd like to eat, sets out a gigantic breakfast for herself and her sister, including four separate glasses (which I'll have to wash) of the exact same kind of juice. Even though my rule is that you must eat at a table or outside, she overturns the recycling bin, spilling paper and cardboard across the floor, and sets three glasses of juice on the overturned bin, and one on the floor. I walk by, ask her to move everything to a table, and as I am in the act of speaking to her she steps backward, knocking the glass of juice on the floor all over the floor. She then attempts to blame her sister so that she won't have to wipe it up.
When that doesn't work, Syd goes to the kitchen for the spray cleaner and comes back with the spray bottle of Murphy's Wood Soap solution that doesn't work well on sticky messes, so I offer to trade her for the vinegar spray and go to the kitchen to get it, seeing that in the middle of the kitchen floor is the empty bottle of juice, with yet another juice spill, totally abandoned, on the floor beside it.
Syd does a lousy job wiping up the messes so that both floors are still sticky when she's done, so I ask her to do it again, whereupon she throws a big fit and then does another lousy job, so now I need to steam mop both the kitchen and the living room.
During this, Will has wandered outside. I look out the window to see that she's STILL not wearing pants, so I yell for her to come back inside and get dressed. Of course, she leaves the back door open, which is currently a dangerous practice since we have five foster kittens in the house.
I ask the girls if they'd rather do schoolwork or chores first, and schoolwork is the winner, so Will works on her presidents poem (she's got them memorized up through Grover Cleveland so far) without throwing a fit, and Sydney works on putting the months of the year in order with the goal of getting them memorized. She DOES throw a fit because she doesn't like to get them wrong, but she does it, and then reads me a Bob book, and then I read to her a chapter from a biography of Martin Luther King, Jr., while Will plays in her room. Will offers to read to her for a while after that, so I work for nearly an hour on a few huge etsy orders while they read together peacefully.
When I can hear that they're done reading, I tell them I'm going to take a shower, and ask them to put their books away and get started on their chores while I'm showering. Somehow, in the space of the two minutes that it takes me to undress, the girls manage to get into a giant fight and Willow, angry at her sister, announces that she's going to take a bath, then gets mad when I tell her that I'm going to shower first and she's going to do her chores.
Obviously, when I'm done with my shower, no chores have been completed--not only is their room not cleaned (something that they do every single day, so how they can wreck it every single day is beyond me, and the dishwasher not emptied, and their teeth and hair not brushed, but their toys are still all over the living room, their dishes and uneaten food from the last two meals are still all over the kitchen counters and the table that I've already cleaned off once today, their library books are still all over the floor, their schoolwork stuff that I've stacked neatly on the coffee table is somehow scattered all over (but not completed, of course), and those juice glasses are still on that overturned recycling bin, with paper scattered everywhere. Have I mentioned that everyone is supposed to clean up after themselves?
I send them to their room to spend the entire five minutes that it should take the two of them to clean it together while I clean around their messes in the living room and the kitchen, because I'll be damned if I'm going to pick up after two such capable children like a maid. Of course, such cleaning is basically ineffective, since I can't vacuum or mop with their crap all over the floor, and I can't load the dishwasher while it's still full, and I can't even throw away yesterday's newspaper since the recycling bin is overturned with juice glasses on top of it. And off course the back door is open again, so there has to be another kitten count.
I'm hungry for lunch, so I remind the girls that they need to stop playing in their room and get it cleaned, and ask if they'd like smoothies. They both say they would, so I make smoothies, dish them out, clean the blender, tell the girls that their smoothies are on the counter for them, and drink my own smoothie while doing some work on the computer.
After lunch I really want to get out and enjoy the lovely day, but I can't stand the fact that the kids still have not done the things that I've asked them to do, so I do the thing where I move my computer work to where they are and nag at them every time they stop working until even I get utterly weary of my own voice. In retaliation, the girls are doing the thing where they work as slowly and inefficiently as possible and stop working the second I stop nagging them, so their bedroom is still wrecked, the living room is still wrecked, and the dishwasher is still full. The library books do get put away, but only by ignoring the fact that it takes Willow a full hour to do so, as she stops to basically read every single book as she puts it away.
It's now 3 pm, and the day, in my opinion, is in ruins. I'm unhappy, the kids are unhappy, the house is wrecked, the etsy orders are unfilled, the schoolwork is not done, the day has not been enjoyed, and I haven't even unfolded the treadmill. I go into the kitchen to get some water and here is where I spy my breaking point:
I know, I know--I have happy, healthy, bright children who enjoy their lives. I have a lovely little house that I should enjoy keeping tidy, and a little extra income from those etsy orders and writing jobs. If I'm a crap disciplinarian and I can't keep my floors unsticky, well, that's my own fault, and if I can't get my kids to settle down to memorize their months in order or their five times table, well, they're probably better off unschooling anyway. You don't have to tell me how silly my own personal little pity party is.
Eh, maybe I'll just get my own work done and ignore the little hellions for the rest of the day while they happily raise hell, I'll walk on sticky floors, I'll eat a bowl of yogurt and granola for dinner and let Matt figure out what he can cook in a dirty kitchen with no clean dishes, then when the girls go to bed, it's margaritas and a Toddlers and Tiaras marathon on Netflix for me. And tomorrow, my fantasy of the perfect homeschooling day will certain come true, won't it?