Most of the time I think I have this parenting thing figured out well enough that we can get by. And by get by, I mean that my kids are wearing clothes, can speak in sentences and know how to give pretty decent hugs. (What else do you need, right?)
But when I do screw-up at parenting, I do a fairly decent job at it.
I know. It’s not like I’m the only one who screws-up with their kids. It’s just a whole lot easier when you are comforting someone ELSE about their screw-up rather than reconciling your own.
Also. I’m probably over-reacting a little bit about just how bad I screwed up. But it was bad enough that I needed some time to pass because I was… embarrassed. And now I am posting about it as some sort of strange blogger’s version of repentance. Maybe if I share it with EVERYONE, I will pay my dues and be forgiven.
This past Monday morning, I had only one of my sons in my car, the older one. My five year old was off to the doctor with my husband for a re-check on a recent ear infection. So my eight year old was in the back, lunch in his backpack, ready to go, staring out the window. We were earlier than usual, I had a busy day ahead. Funny that the crossing guards weren’t there yet because I wasn’t THAT early. Oh well. And look, no one is really here yet. Odd. Well, I wanted to get him dropped off earlier than usual so I could get a quick jump start on the work week ahead. I felt badly that none of his friends were there yet so I thought I would be nice and told him he could go get a second breakfast in the cafeteria if he wanted. I’m a nice mom like that.
And then he jumped out of the car. I waved, and drove off.
Something felt weird. Well. I had to call the office and tell them my other one would be late.
“Hi, could you transfer me to the sick line?”
“Um. You know there is no school today, right?”
Cue mad, heart-in-my-throat U-turn, holy shit.
“But I just dropped my oldest son off!”
“Where is he?”
“Sitting out front!”
“I’ll go let him know you’re on your way back.”
“…How could I have forgotten??”
“Um. I don’t know, actually.”
And as I pulled up, there was a woman from the school office talking to my son whose eyes were filled with tears. Confusion, embarrassment, fear, all of the above.
I rolled the window down.
“Thank you!!! I can’t believe I did this!!!”
Small smile and a wave. And, as she walked away, a huge bubble over her head that read something like this: “Some mom, dropping her kid off like that on a teacher planning day, unbelievable.”
When he got in the car, I asked him if he knew it was a planning day. And he said yes.
He said yes.
But he assumed that I, his parent, the responsible adult KNEW what she was doing when she dropped her child off. He trusts me, you see. When I say a shot won’t hurt, he believes me. When I drop him off on a teacher planning day, well, there must be a good reason.
He said he thought he would just read his Harry Potter book.
Mind-blown. Utterly mind-blown.
I know parents do this stuff. In fact, I am quite sure it is some sort of parenting requirement to either forget to pick your child up, drop them off at the wrong time, leave them in the wrong place or never even get their kid to the place they were supposed to be at all. I know my mom did and every mom I have shared this story with has had some story to comfort me with.
But what bothers me is where my 8 year old son is right now. I remember 8. I remember how scary the world could be, and how confusing. I remember being scared of venturing into it without my parents because they needed to be by my side to interpret how all of it works.
Sometimes I really hated being a kid.
And to be left, and knowing my parents screwed up, and not knowing exactly what to do or how to fix it… well, that is a very lonely, very scary thing. The stuff of nightmares, honestly.
He’s fine of course. But I haven’t come close to quite forgiving myself. I ignored my spidey senses. Scratch that. It shouldn’t have taken spidey senses to figure out there was no school WHEN NO ONE WAS THERE. I ignored that enormous detail. And thought, “Well, people will get here eventually…I gotta get to work.”
So here I am. Admitting my super screw-up to who ever is reading this. Because I want to make it very clear that I am no where NEAR close to having a real clue about this whole parenting thing. NO WHERE CLOSE. I don’t care what soapbox I tend to climb up on now and again when a rare streak of confidence sneaks in. *I* was willing to leave my child in front of an empty school… without looking back.
I do good, but I do bad. And then I do some good again. I just have to hope that this lesson will prevent so many more screw-ups in my future. And then prepare me when I mess up again. And I can tell myself that if I forgave myself this time, I can do it again the next time.
A little postscript to this story.
That very same day, I came home for lunch only to find that my children’s beloved pet hamster, Scabbers (yes, named after the rat from Harry Potter) had died out of the blue.
And that, my friends, is exactly how parenting goes.