Church or Donuts
Posted on February 11, 2013
When Ruthie made the offer, I took it. “You sleep in my bed a little bit. I’m gonna play by myself, okay?”
“Sure!” I’d been awake for all of two minutes. It sounded like a great deal.
“And–and–and can I have a donut?”
“We don’t have any donuts.” Her face dropped. Donuts are a favorite treat around here. On particularly rough mornings, we cheer ourselves up by stopping at the Marathon station for a Concannon’s donut. When Ruthie fills her sticker chart with Diego and Buzz Lightyear stickers for tasks like going to sleep by herself and walking to the car after daycare, her special prize is almost always a trip to the REAL Concannon’s, where she doesn’t just get to choose from the limited supply that is delivered to the gas stations. At the gas station she gets a twisty, but at the bakery, she gets something–anything–with sprinkles.
Her little face when I told her we didn’t have donuts was so sweet and sad, and I was in a sleepy haze, so I made a mistake. Instead of thinking things through and looking at the clock and remembering that Ruthie hasn’t filled any sticker charts lately, I said, “Sure. I’ll take you to Conannon’s before church.”
After all, it was a Sunday morning after a long, fun, busy weekend with Lebowski folks (a catch-all term for friends Chalupa and I have made in the Lebowksi fandom), and I needed the rest. I pulled some puzzles out of Ruthie’s closet and put them on the floor of her bedroom, and then I curled up under her quilt and went right back to sleep.
I didn’t expect Ruthie to play so quietly for so long. I didn’t expect to sleep as long as I did. Forty-five minutes after closing my eyes in my daughter’s bed, I woke up in a panic, running late for church.
I knew if I hurried to get showered and dressed and Ruthie’s clothes onto her and her hair brushed and her shoes on, we could make it on time. What I didn’t know is whether or not I could follow through on my sleep-indulged promise of a trip to Concannon’s.
The minutes ticked by. The shower wouldn’t stop making that awful teapot-screaming sound. I checked on Chalupa and found that yes, being social and active two full days in a row was too much for him, and now his oxygen numbers were down and his breathing was too labored to help me get Ruthie ready. He tried anyway, but her tights didn’t fit right, and the shirt I picked out for her wasn’t the style I thought it was, and she couldn’t find her shoes. I re-dressed her, tracked down her shoes (which were in the garage), dressed myself, lamented that my pants showed my underwear every time I bent over and that’s not really appropriate for the day’s planned trip to the Children’s Museum, changed my pants, realized that meant I had to change my shirt, found my shoes.
I felt like my mom for a moment, on those Sunday mornings growing up when nothing could go right and we were always late out the door. She had four of us to wrangle, which strikes me as far more complicated than my job of getting Ruthie up and presentable. Sunday mornings at our house tended to be full of sibling bickering and offenses that brought well-deserved parental scoldings down upon us.
Ruthie, of course, was the slowest turtle of a child ever on the I-Can’t-Wait-For-A-Donut morning. She moped, dragged her feet, pulled away from the comb, refused to let her hair be put into a ponytail. She whined. I snapped at her, scolded her, and tried everything I could to prod her along.
And she talked about her donut. “I’m gonna get sprinkles!”
“Look! I don’t know if we’re going to have time because you’re being so pokey! Get moving!”
“I’ll hurry! I’m hurryin’!” And suddenly her pace picked up a bit.
Church was twelve minutes from starting when I finally got Ruthie buckled into her carseat and realized I had locked myself out of the house without my car keys. A phone call to my sick husband brought him to my rescue a few moments later, but by then I knew: there was no way we could get to Concannon’s before church. I had thought maybe she’d just miss the beginning of Sunday school. Maybe I’d just miss the music. But looking at that clock, I knew it wasn’t going to happen. There was no way we could do both of those things.
And I had promised.
My frustration was at a peak level. I’d already slammed the door coming out of the house and told Chalupa as I left, “This morning sucks. I hope you feel better enough to come to the Children’s Museum this afternoon, but whatever.”
I decided I needed to break my promise. “Ruthie, we can’t go to Concannon’s. It took too long. We don’t have time. Sorry.”
She took in a sharp breath. Her eyes welled up. Her chin quivered. She pulled out every totally-real-disappointment-but-also-really-manipulative-physical-reactions she was capable of. That’s not what got to me. It was what she said. “Pwease! I’ll eat it weally, weally fast, I pwomise!”
I looked at her, my little three-year-old who just wanted a donut, and I realized how snippy I’ve been with her all morning. It wasn’t her fault (entirely) that *I* slept in. It wasn’t fair that I was irritated with her for running behind when I was the one who didn’t get moving until forty-five minutes before church.
I thought about my siblings and I screaming at each other on Sunday mornings and my poor mom trying to get us all to just shut up and quit fighting. I thought about the bready smell of the Concannon’s and how it has accompanied my sweetest memories since childhood, when I would stand in line with Mom and look at the rows of donuts and chocolates and cakes and cookies. I thought about how many times I’d snapped at Ruthie that morning and then dared to wonder why she had a bad attitude.
“You know what, kiddo? We do have time for Concannon’s this morning. We just don’t have time for Sunday School. Okay?”
“Okay!” she said. I buckled my seatbelt and backed out of the garage. “YAY! I’m so excited!”
“I’m sorry I was angry with you, Ruthie. I’ll be more patient next time, and we’ll just get an earlier start.”
“Okay!” she said again. “We shouldn’t say mean words to our friends.”
“No, we shouldn’t. Let’s not say mean words to each other.”
We enjoyed our bakery trip that morning. She branched out from sprinkles and asked for some glazed donut holes. I enjoyed a chocolate-iced, non-filled long john. She picked the table and asked permission to sit on her knees instead of her bottom in her brown wooden chair. We pretended my hand was “Nice Bug,” who came out to play because she’d heard there were donut holes to eat. We shared a bottle of milk and high-fived when we both finished up our donuts.
I like church. I need it. But some days, I need to recognize that plans need to be flexible. Sometimes a mom-and-daughter trip for a donut is the best way to say I’m sorry for being snippy.