“See you later, Dad.” Trevor had finished packing his backpack and was now zipping it up as Emily raced around the house after the girls. She was fast on Katy and Becky’s heels, calling out first for them to get dressed, then to brush their hair and teeth. Then Becky couldn’t find her hairbrush, and Katy’s pink shoes—which she had to wear, or her first day back would be a disaster—disappeared. Emily still had to get them to organize their supplies and help them pack their lunches. With Trevor, it was easier now that he understood his routine, which, as of late, he had been picking up faster.
“Katy, if you’re planning on going to gymnastics after school, I suggest you pack up your body suit. Don’t forget a ponytail tie for your hair, either, and a water bottle.” Emily snapped her fingers as if just remembering something, or maybe she was sifting through a mental list in her head. “I’m not running to the school because you forgot something!” she called out as she zipped up Katy and Becky’s lunch kits after finally packing their lunches herself.
“I know, Mom,” Katy yelled from upstairs.
“You got everything you need for school packed?” Brad strode over to Trevor, who was standing beside the kitchen table with his stuffed Spiderman backpack. Half the dishes from breakfast were scattered, as everyone had eaten and was now rushing around to get ready, everyone except Trevor, who was calm and appeared ready to go. It was always a transition, the first day back to school, from the lazy days of summer.
“Yes, Dad, all done.” He always sounded so happy.
“Show me what you packed, bud.” Brad rested his hand on Trevor’s shoulder, and his son smiled that easy smile of his as he lifted out his lunch kit then gestured with the flat of his hand to the supplies he’d stuffed inside the backpack: folders, paper, and an orange pencil case. “What about your lunch? You made it yourself today. Show me what you did.”
It took Trevor a minute, and then Emily rushed into the kitchen. “Trevor, come on, we have to go. Let me see what you packed.” She reached for his lunch kit just as Trevor was about to unzip it.
“Em, I got it, honey. Go get the girls ready.”
She gave him one of her harried looks as she ran around, trying to get everything done and everyone organized. As if right on schedule, frown lines appeared between her eyebrows.
“Aren’t you the one who keeps telling me we have to let Trevor do it for himself or he’ll never learn?” Brad said.
She rolled her eyes and sighed. “How about I trade with you? You deal with the girls, I’ll take Trevor.”
Trevor unzipped his lunch kit. “See here?” Again he gestured with the flat of his hand, looking up at Brad. His eyes had a sparkle of love that was so genuine. Emily went to reach in and lift out the two lunch containers and a Ziploc bag of broccoli.
“Em, let him do it,” Brad said. “Besides, I’m taking the easy one today. You deal with the girls.”
“Mom, I can’t get the brush out of my hair,” Becky cried as she raced into the kitchen, half dressed in a red skirt and pajama top, her long hair tangled in a round hair brush.
“What did you do?” Emily cried out as she touched the brush and tried pulling the knotted hair that was wrapped around the bristles.
“There’s tuna, carrots, broccoli, an apple…” Trevor started just as Katy raced into the kitchen in her too-tight skinny jeans and a black and red floral shirt.
“Mom, my shoes! I can’t find the new ones you bought. Someone took them!”
Emily looked as if she was going to lose it as she pointed to the back door. “Go and look in the shopping bag that’s still sitting exactly where you left it four days ago. I told you I’m not your maid—”
Brad put his fingers in his mouth and gave a loud, sharp whistle. Everyone stopped. Even Trevor looked up at his dad, still holding the container with a rice wrap stuffed with tuna salad. “Katy, you’re responsible for your own clothes and shoes,” Brad said. “Your mom already made your lunch. Get moving. Becky, what did you do to your hair?”
“I wanted it all curled in ringlets for school, so I used Katy’s gel in my hair and was blow drying it.”
“You used my gel?” Katy yelled as she dragged a shopping bag from the back door, but she took one look at Brad’s face and sighed. Maybe she knew she was skating on thin ice. Brad wasn’t a pushover, and he certainly wasn’t a mom. The kids thought they could vent and Emily would always be there to take it. “Okay, I’m going,” Katy said.
“You’ve got less than five minutes, and then you go as you are,” Brad called out after her. He set his hand on Trevor’s shoulder. “Good job, Trevor. Pack it all back up, but you forgot an icepack for the sandwich. Where do you find those?”
Trevor smiled brightly as he looked up at his dad. “In the freezer?” he said, a twinkle in his eyes. Brad swore, at times, that Trevor was making fun of him.
“Yeah, go get it,” he replied, shaking his head. He watched as Emily tried to untangle Becky’s hair as the little girl screeched, “Mom, that hurts!”
“Can you get it out, or do you have to cut it?” Brad asked.
“I don’t want my hair cut!” Becky was almost in tears.
“No, I won’t cut it. I almost have it.” She pulled the last piece out, but Becky’s hair was a mess. “Go upstairs—we need to rinse this gel out. Of all the times to do this, Becky, when we’re late to get out the door?”
Brad’s calm and organized wife was quickly losing it. She sighed as she took Becky by the arm and hurried her upstairs, and Brad took in Trevor standing beside the table, happy.
Trevor gestured again to his lunch kit when Brad glanced his way. “There’s the icepack. Can I zip it, Dad?”
Brad rustled his son’s dark hair, which was brushed back on one side and forward on the other. He was neat and tidy in blue jeans and a green and blue striped shirt. “Well, at least you’re ready for school. Pack it up, and let’s go fix your hair. Remember to brush it back on both sides. Let’s go try it again.”
“Okay, Dad,” Trevor said, and Brad followed his son—the easy one, who grabbed hold of a routine and followed it without fail and without arguing. But everything he did had to be taught, and some days were easier than others. There were some days when Brad wondered whether he’d ever get it.
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