99 Problems

Published on June 12th, 2014 | by Malina Saval


Malina Saval on MORNINGS

7:05 AM:

Woof! Woof! Woof!

My iPhone alarm is the sound of a barking dog (to add to the cacophony of my two actual real-life dogs) and every morning I slap its snooze button at least five times to avoid getting swept up in the tsunami of chaos that comes as the result of having two small children: one that’s a willful, heavily opinioned, possibly OCD five year-old girl who walks around barking orders and belting out the soundtrack to Frozen, the other a seven year-old boy with a list of diagnoses for various behavioral disorders and learning delays – ADHD, Tourette’s, sensory integration dysfunction et al – that’s longer than your college application.

7:20 AM:

“Get up!” Paul screams from the kids’ bedroom where he’s been sleeping for the past six months, surrounded by Sonic the Hedgehog toys and Lalaloopsy dolls, because and my son has recurrent nightmares and refuses to sleep alone and my daughter, who didn’t stop nursing until she was five, still can’t fall asleep without feeling me up.

My plan every night is to put them to bed and then crawl out and join my husband in the bottom bunk, but I usually fall asleep after a long day at work as a magazine editor and wake the next morning to find myself on the wet spot of the sheet – my son still isn’t toilet trained and it’s impossible to find a diaper for a kid that size that doesn’t at some point leak through.

“I’m up!” I scream.


7:25 AM:

Woof! Woof!

My son is on two different kinds of medication, and the first order of the day is to get him to take it. He hates taking it, I hate giving it to him, but after years of not putting him on anything and countless consultations with pediatricians, psychologists, and a child psychiatrist – all of who my husband and I trust and respect and who errs on the side of caution – he is now on a low dose of medications that, for the most part, help him work to the best of his ability at school and get the sleep that he needs.

Even still. Nobody wants their kid to have to take medication and nobody wants to have to administer it on a daily basis.

“Come on, buddy, time for crunch and munch,” I say in a sing-song-y voice, slowly waving a spoon in front of his face, onto which I’ve scooped kosher Israeli chocolate and buried a chalky white pill.

“No medicine!” He screams. Sometimes he’ll kick me in the stomach or grab the spoon and chuck it across the room, chocolate splattering like a Pollack painting on the wall or on one of the dogs’ tails.


7:45 AM:

At this point, my husband usually pads into the room in his boxer shorts and pulls off my son’s diaper, which is soaked to the point of dripping onto the floor, and hands me a pair of clean Superhero underpants. Then we both help dress him, massaging his back and lightly kneading his arms in an effort to calm him down.

“I want soft pants!” he screams. Because my son doesn’t tolerate well even the slightest of scratchy material, most of his clothes do meet that criterion. But on those days when a pile of a laundry has swallowed up all the sweats and we’re left with Old Navy Khakis (required school uniform), well, this requires a bit of skilful negotiation.

“These are soft,” Paul says. “They’re cotton. They’re super awesome and super soft.”

“They’re totally awesome,” I say, launching into The Lego Movie theme song: “Everything is awesome…!

“Stop it!” He screams, kicking off his khakis and throwing them at Paul’s head.

At which point I reach blindly into the laundry bag and dig out a pair of sweatpants with grass stains on the knees.

“Give me my iPad!” my daughter screams.

“Give me my iPad!” her brother echoes.

Recommended by a team of special ed teachers and meant for reading games and math puzzles, the iPad is now the stuff from which future 12-step meetings are born.

“We don’t have time for iPads now,” I say. “It’s time for school.”

“I’m not going to school,” my son screams. “I hate school!”

“But school is awesome. Everybody at schools thinks you are so cool.”

“I don’t care,” he yells, curling up into a tight ball and yanking the covers over his head. “I’m never going to school. Never! Never! NEVER!”

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8:10 AM:

On my way to the kitchen there’s a pretty high likelihood that I’ll step in a puddle of dog piss because my bichon-poodles mutts, whom I rescued in 2004 and 2005, are nervous creatures with tiny, weak bladders that no amount of walks around the block will prevent from peeing in the house. My children love the dogs beyond words, especially my son, whose behavior mellows out instantly around them. As he scratches their stomachs, I throw together lunch, pop veggie breakfast sausages in the toaster, search for matching sets of sneakers and prep the toothbrushes with toothpaste.

8:20 AM:

“Time to go!” Paul calls out. We trade off taking them to school depending on how early I need to get to work, a convenient one-hour-fifteen-minute drive from Pasadena to West LA.

“NO!!!” My son gasps for air, a habit he has when hit by anxiety. He’s fine—well, at least on most occasions—once he gets to school, but the anticipation of making the transition is nearly intolerable. “I do not want to go to school!”

And his shoe goes flying across the room.


8:35 AM:

“Bye bye, Puppy Butter! Bye Bye, Sugar Pie!” I call out, as Paul prods them toward the car. “Love you!”

The school bell rings at 8:40 AM. If we’re lucky, they’ll only be a few (or ten, or fifteen) minutes late.

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About the Author

Malina Saval is an associate features editor at Variety where she pens articles and essays about TV, film and music. Her book “The Secret Lives of Boys: Inside the Raw Emotional World of Male Teens” earned her the title “boy whisperer” in the Boston Globe. Her novel “Jewish Summer Camp Mafia” includes myriad references to Bruce Springsteen, Bob Dylan and, for good measure, Kelly Clarkson. She lives in Los Angeles way too far from the beach.

One Response to Malina Saval on MORNINGS

  1. jj says:

    I am glad I’m not the only one with a school aged kid who’s mornings are repeatedly occupied by dealing with pee. Not one dry night, ever, even once, no sign that my child is going to wake up at night to pee any time soon, and you’re right, there’s no diaper or pull-up that can stand up to the bladder capacity of a kid over 5. I try to be patient and layer up the bed with waterproof mats, but man, the smell of the pee gets to me sometimes. And the fact that my child could care less about getting on with his morning with the gross pull-up still on his booty makes it so much worse. Grrrr….
    (Thank you for letting me vent for a moment there… I needed that more than I thought I did.)

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