Mom, Inc.

A Better Plan

Secrets to a saner morning

By Renee Phile

All siblings have that recurring argument, the one that will sometimes give a false sense of resolution because it may lie dormant for a few days. Then, it’s back again, as fierce as ever:

Act I, Scene 1

It’s Monday morning, 7 a.m. David (13) is still in the bathroom getting ready for school. Kevin (8) is slamming both hands on the bathroom door yelling, “Hurry up, David! I’ve got to brush my teeth! You’ve been in there foorreevvveerr!”

It dawns on me that Kevin is wearing the same clothes he wore yesterday, but we simply don’t have time for him to change. Wait, a stench passes through my nostrils. 

“Kevin, when was the last time you changed your socks?”

“I don’t remember.”

“Ugh! Change them! Now!”

Sigh. We have got to go. The dog acts crazy, racing around the house, knowing. We are around seven minutes behind schedule, and because I teach an 8 a.m. class, those seven minutes are (were) necessary.

I leave the boys in the house and start the car. After about two more minutes, David and Kevin tumble out of the house, slam the front door, race for the front seat . . . and it begins.

“I was here first!”

“No, it’s my turn!”

“You sat up front last time! MOVE!”

“Mommy said it was my turn!”

“I said MOVE!”

I am so done I contemplate leaving them both in the driveway. They can find another way to school.

“Both of you! In the back! NOW! This is ridiculous!”

They make a dramatic entrance, throwing their book bags on each other and falling into the backseat.



“STOP IT!” I yell. “No one talks. No one!”

We are all in a bad mood now, and the silence can be sliced like deli meat.

I was talking to my best friend from grade/middle/high school the other day and told her about this constant battle. She reminded me of our “backseat middle” call. You see, “backseat middle” is what she and I used to “call” on road trips in order to “claim” the backseat middle, to make it appear as if it was, indeed, the treasured seat. Actually, we didn’t really want the backseat middle, especially not while riding in a car in the mountains of West Virginia where we grew up. But after calling “backseat middle,” others would decided that they, too, wanted backseat middle and then we would, of course, fight over the backseat middle, and finally give it up to get the front seat, which was the goal all along. Psychological warfare at its finest. It worked great, until others caught on.

“You need to tell one of them to claim the backseat middle, Renee. There’s no other way around this,” she said.

I thought about this for a few days. It couldn’t hurt to try.

Act II, Scene 1

Another Monday morning. 6:50 a.m. rolls around. The hustling begins. David’s in the bathroom, like always way longer than necessary. The dog is darting around. Kevin needs to brush his teeth, but he is wearing clean clothes. We have a few minutes before we need to be in the car.

“Hey Kevin?” I say.


“I have a secret, kind of, to tell you . . . ” He leans in. “This morning I want you to do something a little different . . . ”

His eyes widen as he listens, and a grin spreads across his face.

Renee Phile loves being a mom, even if it doesn’t show at certain moments.

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