Jada was having trouble with her daughter Zareen, and it wasn’t the first time. Jada’s husband works graveyard and is not home to help. Zareen was late for school twice this week and was having anxiety about getting to school today on time. She thought that maybe she would stay home, that way she wouldn’t be late. That leap of logic is not an option for Mom who can’t miss any more work, or Zari who simply needs to be at school.

Alexa, what time is it? The time is 7:12

Ok, we can do this, Jada said to herself, if we are out the door in 18 minutes. Honey, are you out of bed? Shit, she went back to sleep, who does that? I wish I could do that. Jada is having her own anxiety about being late for work. Shit, that new night medication really knocks her out, I’ll have to talk to her doctor about that.

Alexa, what time is it? The time is 7:16.

Ok, I have to finish making her breakfast and get her morning pills.
The dog barks, and Jada knocks respectfully on her daughter’s door.
Zareen-Kimani are you ready for breakfast?
No, I’m not getting up today, too tired.
You need to go to school, we had an agreement. No screen-time if you don’t go. Whatever, I’m not going. You ARE going, you have to go, it’s your job, and mine is to make your lunch…breakfast is on the table.

Alexa what time is it? The time is 7:21. 

Shit. Shit. Shit. 9 minutes to go.
The dog barks. I will feed you. You just have to wait. The dog continues to bark. Jada, in exasperation, Zari is supposed to feed you, I am only one person. Ok lunch is made.
[Knocking on door. More frantically now]
WHAT? Zari, don’t get sassy with me. I’m not! Jada opens the door. Zari, you are not even dressed! Why should I be?  I’m not going to school. Hell yes you are. Why should I?
I’m not going through all that, do you want me to call the school police?
Do you want to call the school police?

You will go or not go to school, but if you don’t, you can’t go to Keily’s birthday party. That’s not fair. Fine I’ll go. None of this is fair, you better get up. I’ll get your stuff. You are the worst mom. Probably.

The time is 7:28.

Two minutes, we are threading the needle. Not late yet. Got her meds, and breakfast for the car, we got this. Just 40 feet to the car. Let’s go, get your books. In the bathroom, MOM, I have to go and do my hair. Maybe a little makeup. Zari, you are 9, you don’t need makeup, stay out of my stuff, WE NEED TO GO NOW.

The time is 7:34.

Ok if I hit every green light… The door closes. Two sets of footsteps on the way to the car. Mom, I forgot my water bottle. Honey, you can live without it one day, I already locked the door. I need to go back inside or I’m not going. There is a stand-off. No one is winning here. Jada unlocks the door and let’s Zari back in. Zari closes the door, a crooked smile crosses her face, then a frown.

The time is 7:35.

Jada opens the door. Everything she says is bleeped. Mom, I’m late. I’m not getting a tardy. It’s your fault, you should have woke me up earlier. Jada is beyond herself. She has the keys in her hand and Zari’s breakfast. Zari, I’m coming to get you, you ARE GOING TO SCHOOL. Ok, Boomer, see if you can catch me. I’m still not going. I’m not a…her voice trails off as she sees her daughter’s muscles flex.

In a bold move Zari pushes past her mom, just out of reach and breaks into a run. She is a competitive dancer who is extremely fit and is able to jump the locked gate like it was nothing. Jada drops the breakfast to the ground. She’s exasperated, not just by what is happening, but the gate is locked and she can’t catch a break, or her daughter. She turns the key. When I was her age, I would have never thought of jumping a gate. Five years of competition and she has been trained to fly though the air. We paid for that. Mom runs after her and Zari climbs the ladder up to her treehouse. She’s outgrown it and hasn’t actually played up there in years. But now Zari is about 15 vertical feet away from mom, 1500 feet away from the car and 10 minutes late for school.

The time is 7:38.

Honey, you need to come down, NOW. No! I need to go to work, you need to be in school. No! Come get me. While this seems like a game, it is not funny to Jada, and now Zari knows she will get a tardy. She is too afraid to go to school and too afraid to face mom. Jana imagines getting to the top and tossing Zari off the roof. Then pulling her down. None were good options.

Honey, your father is going to be so disappointed.  GET… DOWN… NOW. Zari, starts to shake, her voice trembling. I can’t. You mean you won’t. Mom, I can’t, I’m 9, I know the difference. The kids are mean to me at school, the lunch room is too loud, and other stuff you don’t get because you are old.

Even if Zari got down now, there was no guarantee Jada could get her daughter all the way to the car, or even in the car. If she got her in the car, would Zari stay in her car seat?She’s jumped out and attacked her mother before while on the road.

Jada, could hear her boss in the back of her mind, reminding her that her consistent lateness was a problem, was unacceptable, and could result in termination. Jada, there will be consequences. Mom snapped back to attention. Jada starts to cry, she turns her back so Zari won’t see that her behavior was breaking her mother. You are so mean. You can take everything away from me if you want but I can’t come down, and you can’t make me.

Jada was F’d. She can’t go to work with her 9 year old daughter literally up a tree. She, sighs, looks at her watch. Jada yells up to her, “I’ll be here when you get down, I do love you.”

But there will be consequences. For everyone.