I wrote this column more than a month ago and then went on vacation and completely put all my parenting writing aside. I needed to take a break from self-imposed deadlines and pursuing interviews via Skype or my local cable channel. I started focusing on health and wellness. I’m at a crossroads and I have to start writing about this stuff and ironically (given the name of this blog!), step one was completely giving up coffee (sad, but true).
Anyway, here’s the story.
I was going to call this story “Almost out of gas,” because it’s an apt metaphor for how I felt during the tightly orchestrated last week of school, but the bit about the stage sums it up better.
I was actually on my way to school to watch Youngest’s stepping up ceremony when I noticed my fuel gauge was at almost-empty, my first thought was, I don’t have time to get gas! He will be heading to middle school next year. It was the fourth time in six days I’d be sitting in the performing arts center, waiting for one of my boys to go on stage.
The end of the school year was in sight and the home stretch had been looooong. Oldest had finished his finals the week before and went to stay with his dad for a week, but was planning to return to attend his brother’s 8th grade promotion ceremony: his responsibility as one of last year’s scholar leaders was to pass the torch (hand out the certificates) to this year’s recipients, much to his chagrin because he wanted to go to a party that he had been invited to.
This prompted a repeated discussion about obligations and responsibilities (“And by the way, remind me why you didn’t join the debate team?”) and how even his younger brother went to his classmate’s pool party rather than baseball practice, because he had already committed to the party and besides, the coach changed the practice time just the day before. Who can handle whimsical schedule changes in an already full calendar?
“There will be plenty of parties, Hon. You’re young, you have a lot of friends, life is good,” I told him. It reminded me of what I told his youngest brother when he mentioned his birthday party. I had said, “What! What party? Your whole life is a party! We celebrated your birthday the other night when we went shopping for baseball equipment and out to eat. You got presents at dinner and the whole restaurant sang to you. Today you’ve got baseball game and a dance recital. Tomorrow a pool party and recital – what party!?” I felt panicked.
He said, “Well, I’d just like to go to a baseball game with a couple of friends, like last year.”
“Oh, yeah – that would be fun.” (And I thanked God he didn’t want one of the dog-and-pony-show extravaganzas that ring in at $500 plus. I wanted to stay all done with those as I had for the past few years.) “I am sure we can fit that in sometime over the summer.”
I arrived for Youngest’s stepping up ceremony and parked strategically in the already crowded school parking lot for a quick getaway.
I watched him walk across the stage and shake his principal’s hand and hug his teacher, as I had done with his older two brothers four and five years before. I went back to class for a little party and slide show, and received a lovely gift from the class to thank me for volunteering that year. I had only momentarily thought about the fact that the week before’s reading circle would likely be my last classroom volunteering ever (since history has illustrated that “no one wants their parents in the classroom in middle school, Mom.”). And I only thought briefly about how my baby was really not a baby anymore – he had turned double digits the Saturday before. The recital that day was the first time in six days that I’d been to the performing arts center, to watch his premiere performance at his dance recital.
I noticed Youngest liked dancing when we were at a baseball tournament the summer before and he was in center field. That particular tournament played the Star Spangled Banner, had an announcer, and had music between innings. I watched him dance in the outfield. We sought out a dance studio and even though he was the only boy in the class and one of only two boys in the studio, he danced all year long until the recital. His teacher designed the routine with him at the center of it. I got goosebumps when I watched him, thinking not only how amazing it was that he knew the routine so well, but also that he had dared to do something outside the box with people he did not even know, sometimes sitting around at the studio waiting for me to pick him up as I juggled his other brothers’ shuttling needs. (Performance #2 the next day was the second time in six days that I’d watched one of my kids on stage.)
I raced home with a minute to spare before my next meeting (and still didn’t have time to get gas). As soon as I could, I called the pediatrician’s office to discuss Middle’s concern that “something’s wrong with my toenail.”
I did not think I could add another thing to our schedule; Youngest’s coach had called another practice for that evening, in preparation for the tournament game happening the next night. Middle’s promotion ceremony was that night so I had to call on a member of the village for help getting Youngest back and forth from practice, because the doctor’s appointment for Middle (to have a portion of his ingrown toenail surgically removed) would give us just enough time to get back and for him to change for his big night on the stage, which was my fifth time in six days at the performing arts center. He had lost the tickets to the ceremony when he was cleaning out his locker but he assured me that I could explain my way in and “well, I’ve gotta go meet my friends in the cafeteria so see you later, Mom.” I met his dad and brother outside. Fortunately, he got a ride to and from the after-party – I had still not stopped for gas.
My third time in six days at the performing arts center was to watch Youngest’s band concert, and that is just one of the reasons that the home stretch felt so long. Aside from band, we had chorus (Middle), Oldest’s out-of-the-ordinary schedule for finals, and numerous projects and presentations, and then I heard this:
“I need a haircut.”
“Yeah, me, too.”
I need new sneakers. We’ll, I’d like new sneakers…”
I’m not sure I want to wear this shirt to the promotion ceremony.”
My playoff game is at 10:00, not 12:30.”
Two thirds of the boys got haircuts, no one got new sneakers, I taught someone else how to iron, and thankfully, the playoff game reschedule worked. To make things really special, I added to the mix applying for passports (which necessitated three separate visits to the town hall and lots of paperwork) and orthodontic consultations.
The next day was the last day of school. Middle was supposed to go home on the bus with a friend, but the friend went home sick. Arrangements made on the fly included kids texting parents, parents texting parents, and the office calling home in order to occupy Middle elsewhere while I took Youngest to his first tournament game. Middle then texted me to tell me he did not get a yearbook. I guess I forgot to order it? I couldn’t even remember and all I could say was, “I’m so sorry – I’ll see if they have extras.” “It doesn’t matter anymore :/,” he replied (and I don’t really know what emoticon that is supposed to be because things don’t always translate from iOS to Android). I relayed the scenario to Youngest who had got home moments after this text exchange, he said, “Oh, well.”
Yeah, that’s right!I thought to myself. Oh well!
I finally got gas on the way to Youngest’s tournament game and it’s a good thing we stopped before we arrived at an intersection with a 10-minute wait that put us at five minutes late for Coach’s requested arrival time, otherwise I would have truly run out of gas.
Refilling the gas tank is a literal reminder for me to take a breather between school year and summer, to relish the milestones my boys realized (on stage) this past week, and to celebrate two months off from driving 30 minutes to and from high school twice a day and making lunches.