I had just joined a conference call that wasn’t on my calendar, that I had only realized was scheduled because the agenda had landed in my inbox ten minutes before the call.
It would be my 3rdmeeting that morning and it wasn’t even 10:30 yet. My afternoon was crowded with kid-logistics because it was a half-day of school and one of my older sons had a play date; my youngest was supposed to go to a meet-your-teacher event for his new school (he will be starting kindergarten in the fall), which meant I had to pick him up way early from preschool; and we had two baseball games that evening, thus I would have to pick up my oldest from extended day somewhere after the teacher meeting so we could swap kids with another family for carpooling. It was still up in the air when I’d be picking up my middle son from his playdate.
I wondered when I was going to get any “work” done that day, and resigned myself to the fact that I’d be up for the third shift that night (first shift = regular work day, second shift = managing family time, which sometimes overlaps with first shift, third shift = catching up with work after kids are in bed).
Then my cell phone rang.
Fortunately I had the conference call on mute, and when I saw it was my youngest’s preschool calling, I took the conference call off speaker to answer my cell phone.
“We have an anger issue today…” the director started.
Oh, thank God that’s all it is, I thought. I had lent my car to my neighbor for the morning so it would be a tricky proposition if I had to pick anyone up before noon.
“When I say we, I mean your son.”
“Oh, I knew who you meant. You don’t sound angry…What’s going on?”
“Well, he’s hitting his friends and told his teacher he wants to kill them all dead.”
“Hmmm, that’s not so good. You want me to talk to him?”
“Yes, I would love that.”
I sighed – I could hear my conference call buzzing away on the other phone that I had set down on my desk – and then switched on the perky and cheerful voice for my son, “Hi honey!”
“What’s going on, little man?”
“Hummina friends hummina laughing hummina, sniff.”
Our conversation consisted of him sniffling and sobbing, and me cajoling and consoling. I couldn’t quite get what he was talking about but figured he was upset because his friends were laughing at him.
When the director came back on the line, I learned that he got in trouble when his friends were laughing because he was acting silly during graduation rehearsal and disrupting his class.
“Oh, don’t tell me, he was singing Old Glory, wasn’t he?”
“Yes, how did you know?”
“He was practicing it in the backseat of the car the other night in a raucous way. Never mind the yelling in the car part…uhm…I told him he needed to be more respectful to the symbol of our nation…ahhh…He told me ‘Mom, I’m just kidding!’…I told him that some people…one sec…wouldn’t think that was funny.”
I wondered if that made sense as I was simultaneously IMing one of my other colleagues on the conference call – “brb,” “otp – other line,” “one sec,” “k” – who was looking for some information that I would gladly have been able to discuss if I hadn’t been coaching my son on making a fresh start and brokering an apology for his teacher.
The note I found in my son’s file later that day elaborated that he was “having a difficult time listening to his teachers and following directions” and that he had “several chances to make better choices” and was actually on his second office visit when I had spoken with him.
I am certain that graduating from preschool and all that entails – turning five, leaving the only school/daycare he has ever known, going to summer camp, and ultimately starting kindergarten – is one of the most monumental turning points in my son’s life to date, aside from potty training – though perhaps that was more of a big deal for me, given that if I factored in his two older brothers, I was ending a near decade of diapers.
Ultimately I was able to switch gears and rejoin my conference call and the rest of my day was “business as usual.” When I saw my colleagues in time zones across the globe begin to sign on to IM to start their days. I realized it was time to call it a night.