Photo: Photo by Luca Upper on Unsplash

Its 6 am and I reach my arm out still half asleep, fumbling around for the snooze button. This is my morning ritual. Why can’t I just get up when the alarm goes off at 6 am? What good are those extra 15 minutes of sleep, I think I so desperately need anyway? I haven’t a clue, but I can assure you I’m avoiding some God-forsaken tragedy that might occur should I break from this routine. Not really, but you know, why do we do half of the pointless things that we do? From 6:15 to 6:45 I revel in peace and quiet. This is my “me” time. A time when I can actually hear myself think. The only time of day where I can actually, for lack of a better phrase, pee in peace. These 30 minutes are very sacred to me, because at 6:45 the clowns awaken and the circus begins.

I always look forward to Mekhi because at ten months of age, he is the easiest of my four rugrats to please and doesn’t yet have an opinion, not one he can share with me, anyway. His face lights up every time he sees me. He laughs and babbles, “da-da,” which I’m working on, seeing as this shouldn’t have been his first word since I’m the person who fulfills his every need and desire. But in the meantime, he seems to really like it and if he likes it, then I love it.

I have to clock in at work at 8 am so in order to get the kids to each of their destinations and make it to work on time, I must be out the door no later than 7:27 am. Yes, 7:27. Not 7:28 or 7:30, because, trust me on this, I will not make it on time. I have my schedule down to a science. By 6:51 I am finished changing and dressing Mekhi and Khadyn, my whiny and cranky three-year-old, is patiently waiting his turn.

“Khadyn, do you have to go potty?” I ask every morning before his pants are pulled up and snapped, “No,” he says. “Khadyn, are you sure? Why don’t you just go and try anyway”? I tell him.

“I don’t have to go!” he snaps back. So I put on his pants, after I’ve firmly told him to never raise his voice to me ever again, and move on to child number three, my two-year-old diva, Aniyah. In the middle of dressing her I feel a tap on my leg. I look up. It’s Khadyn.

“Mom, I have to go potty,” he whines. It never fails, as soon as his pants are up and buttoned and I’ve moved on to the next kid, he has to go potty. So, as usual, I have to stop what I’m doing and take Khadyn to go “potty.”

Between me and you, I have been known on occasion to put the “clowns” to bed in their outfits for the next day, so we can just get up and go. My mother calls this laziness. I like to refer to it as a good time management skill.

Derryck, kid number four, gets himself dressed because he is eight going on 18. He is the biggest help in the world. He’s like my own little blackberry. Derryck reminds me of appointments and practices. He reminds me of early outs and lets me know when we’re running low on milk, toilet paper, or whatever it is that we need, and all without complaint. He’s more responsible (the majority of the time) than most 12-year-olds I know.

After everyone is dressed and all heads are combed and teeth are brushed it is now 7:20 and I run around the house frantically turning off every light so at the end of the month I don’t have to give my every penny to the electric company. I then snap Mekhi into his carrier while Derryck searches for his backpack that I know I repeatedly told him to put by the front door the night before, to be certain to avoid this very situation.

It is now 7:23, Aniyah is prancing around half-naked, with a face full of my mascara and lipstick, and has informed me that she doesn’t want to wear, “this.”

“You’re two!” I say, “You don’t know what you wanna wear! And what is that all over your face!” She just looks at me and gives an awkward smile. One of those smiles she gives when she knows she’s going to be in big trouble, but she’s hoping that maybe if she looks cute enough, I’ll somehow instantly forget and everything will be just fine. That only works on dad.

“Are you serious?” I exhale. I say this phrase 50 gazillion times a day. My version of “this can’t be happening.” So I redress Aniyah, and remove my makeup (that I knew better than to leave out) from her face while she screams bloody murder, at which point Derryck yells, “Mom, the big hand’s on the five,” his way of telling me we’re going to be late if I don’t hurry up.

“Everyone get by the door,” I holler while running to grab my purse and keys from the kitchen, which would be a whole lot easier to grab and go if I kept them by the front door. However, I watched on T.V somewhere how you should never keep them there and so now I don’t.

Keys and purse in hand and headed for the car, I smell this unmistakable odor.

“Mom, the baby pooped,” says Derryck. I look up at the clock. It’s 7:26.

“Are you serious?” I think to myself.

“And, yes Mom, I’m serious,” Derryck answers before I’ve even had a chance to ask the question out loud. He is my mini-me. He knows me better than I know myself at times. I could easily leave Mekhi for the lady at daycare to change. But then what kind of mother would I be? And besides, that would mean I’d have to withstand that awful smell the whole drive there. I think I’ll pass.

So with one minute to spare I un-strap the baby, get him cleaned off, and use the diaper that Derryck has run and grabbed for me (I don’t know what I’d do without that kid), re-strap Mekhi in his carrier, and last head for the car.

With everyone in the car and seat belted in, I go over my checklist:

“Derryck, backpack?”

“Yes.”

“Aniyah, diapers and change of clothes?”

“Yes”

“Khadyn, backpack?”

“Where’s my power rang-“

“Khadyn, do you have your backpack or not?”

“Yes,” he whines. Back to my checklist.

“Mekhi, diapers, change of clothes, and diaper bag?”

“No diaper bag”, Derryck answers.

“What?! No diaper bag? I just brought it out here! How’d it just all of a sudden disappear?”

So I jump out the car to go get it and there it is on top of the car. See? This is why I do my checklist, I remind myself. I grab the bag and hop back into the car that is now filled with giggles and laughter because my children find the fact of me running around like a crazy person, quite amusing.

I reach into the console and grab some granola bars to give to them because

it dawns on me that school doesn’t serve breakfast until 8:30 am and daycare doesn’t

start serving until 9 am.

“But, Mom, you said we’re not allowed to eat in your new car, remember?” Derryck reminds me.

“You said-“

“Just this one time,” I cut him off. I drop Derryck at a neighbor’s, Khadyn to their grandma’s, and the two youngest at daycare with seven minutes to spare before I have to clock in.

At 8 pm I get off, pick the kids up, go home, cook dinner, give baths, do homework with Derryck, and put them to bed, if I’m lucky, by 10:30 pm. This is my typical day. I work 12-hour shifts Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, and go to school from 9 to 5 on Tuesdays and Thursdays. My weekends are spent juggling homework with Khadyn’s and Derryck’s T-ball, basketball, and football games.

When the rare opportunity of a free minute or two occurs, I stop and mentally replay my day. I wonder, did I yell at the kids too much? Did I take time out to listen and respond to whatever it was my child was trying to explain to me? Did I make them each feel like they were important and loved? Do they feel as if they can come to me with whatever it is they feel they need to talk about? Am I dividing my time up equally between work, school, and the kids?

I was asked to answer the question, “Where am I coming from?” As I write this I have yet to come up with what I believe to be a good answer to this question.  I could start off by saying I was born in Charleston, South Carolina, a fact that seems quite useless when it comes to gaining insight into who I really am.

I could also tell you I come from a long line of strong black women. I recently learned that I am a descendant of the Great Queen Nefertiti, a female pharaoh that once ruled Egypt.

I could probably bore you with the old cliché story of how my parents divorced when I was three, forcing my mother into single parenthood, raising three children on her own while working full time and going through nursing school, all to provide my two younger brothers and me with the best life possible.

My mother instilled in me a hard work ethic. She wasn’t like some parents whose motto was “do as I say, not as I do.” She actually practiced what she preached. She constantly chided, “Anything worth having, you have to work hard for,” and “If it comes easy, it goes easy.” I didn’t always appreciate everything she told me and made me do as a child. I didn’t understand her reasoning behind some of the things she did. But now that I am an adult with my own family to care for, I realize these are some of the values I’d like to instill in my own children.

My goal is to raise self-sufficient, productive members of society. I constantly question myself, “Am I doing what needs to be done to make sure these children grow into well-rounded individuals with morals and values?” and after certain incidents happen I wonder, “Was there some life lesson to be taught that maybe I overlooked?”

Not to discredit my early years with helping to mold and shape me into whom I am today, they have nonetheless, however I find my most recent years to hold my most valuable life lessons that give me insight into who I am and where I’m going.

At the age of 14 I became pregnant and gave birth to a healthy baby boy, the best thing to ever happen to me.

Before I became pregnant I lacked ambition and took life for granted. Now I realize just how precious life is.  When I found out I was pregnant, many people told me hateful things. Adults told me I should “get rid of it.” Teachers told me my life was as good as over. They said I’d never graduate high school and most likely have two or three more kids before I was 20 (I waited until after 20 to have the next three).

I had no idea people could be so mean spirited and hateful. So cruel. So I took their words and used them as motivation to do what they said couldn’t be done.

At 15 I got a job at Food-4-Less, found a landlord willing to rent to a minor, and made a vow to raise my son on my own and graduate high school. I went to school full time and worked 25 hours a week.

I used state assistance such as food stamps as a hand up, not a handout. Despite what some would believe, I did not and could not live off of cash assistance, due to an age requirement of 18.

At 17, I graduated high school having taken all honors courses with a 3.2 GPA, and got accepted into nursing school. Once I graduated and became self-sufficient, I then expanded my family and the rest is history.

Right now, I am on a quest to find and reinvent myself. I suppose I will be for most of my life. Right now, I’m trying to follow my passion in life. I’m pretty certain it’s writing.

I’d love to have a successful writing career. I plan to write a book. What about? I haven’t got that far just yet. Maybe I’ll write for “Oprah” magazine or “Woman’s Day” someday. My ultimate goal though is to have peace of mind and to simply (or not so simply) be happy.

After a long, daunting day, I’m worn out and exhausted. Some days I don’t want to do this anymore. Some days I’d like to pack my kids up and leave them on a doorstep somewhere. But I remind myself what my goals are and know that one day I’ll look back and long for these days.

I know what I’m doing has to be done if I want to be happy. I have to set an example for my babies. I have to practice what I preach.

As stressful and chaotic as my life may be, I wouldn’t trade it for anyone else’s. My babies are my world and the inspiration behind everything I do.

I’m not on a quest to find riches and fame. I don’t want the latest designer bag. I want peace. I want happiness. I want to appreciate the life I’ve been given and live fully and wholly in the present moment.

Money means nothing to me (except for when I have none). When people find out I’ve returned to school they assume I’m trying to advance in my nursing career. When asked what I’m going back to school for I simply say, “To be happy.” The typical response is, “You’ve got to be joking, right? Are you serious?” I just smile and say,

“Yes, I am very serious.”