I missed a thing at my daughter’s school the other day.
Doesn’t matter what kinda thing; it was a thing. The kinda thing that some parents make and some parents don’t. The kinda thing that leaves some kids teary eyed and sad, watching as classmates joyously reunite with the same parents who just dropped them off a few hours prior, wondering why their own mommy or daddy didn’t care enough to come. The kinda thing that some parents reluctantly use vacation days on, simply to avoid their kid being THAT kid– the sobbing one whose mom and dad didn’t show up because clearly they hate him and bask in his misery. The kid making everyone uncomfortable. The one breaking everyone’s heart.
I usually make all the things. I work from home so there’s no reason to miss them and make my kid be THAT kid. The worst part about missing this particular thing is WHY I missed it. Her classmates’ parents think I was too busy with work to make it. I could never fess up to the truth. Nope, no way I’m telling the folks — the ones who consoled my little girl as she sobbed — that I had simply forgotten about it.
That’s right. I forgot. I fucking forgot.
Somehow, in the midst of all the deadlines, conference calls, meetings, girl scouts, boy scouts, gymnastics, football, doctors’ appointments, birthday parties, holidays, homework assignments, tests, trip slips, bills, theme outfit days, cooking, cleaning, laundry, etc. etc. etc., something managed to slip my mind. Can’t imagine how on earth that happened.
I had written it on my calendar, the one hanging in my kitchen with a different family photo for every month that makes visitors think I’m an organizational supermom with her shit together.
Unfortunately, no one told me wall calendars are SO 2017, because I hadn’t also plugged it into my phone. Nor did I instruct Alexa to set dozens of piercing reminders to chime at 10-minute intervals until I got up off my lazy ass to get ready.
So at 1pm Friday afternoon, when I should have been herding into in a hot classroom with 20 or so other parents, feigning enthusiasm while silently counting down the minutes until we could be released back into the wild, I was instead staring wearily at a computer screen at home, contemplating quitting my job and moving to an uninhabited island for the tenth time that day. Meanwhile my seven-year-old was at school just two blocks away crying big, fat tears into her pink and purple sequined tee-shirt.
I’m just so angry with myself. How could I miss it? I know these things happen; even the best parents forget stuff sometimes. Still, I keep seeing her sad little face in my head. I’ve been beating myself up since the minute I picked her up from school and she hurled a venomous “you weren’t there!” in my direction. Her words stung me the way my actions did her. The difference is she came home and busied herself setting up a tea party for her American Girl dolls, already unaffected by the day’s disappointment — my indiscretion forgotten more quickly than it occurred. Yet here I am, still chastising myself over the whole thing, two full days later. My guilt even lead to an epic Wendy’s trip that night, complete with cheeseburgers, vanilla Frosties and giant chocolate chip cookies (sanctimomies, save your fast food lecture. I already feel like mother of the year).
But how could I care so little that I’d actually forget to be there for my child? Well, I’ll tell you a secret: I never wanted to go to begin with. NO ONE really wants to be at these things! No sane parent ever wakes up like “YAY! I can’t wait to sweat my tits off in classroom today listening to my kid read a story about purple tigers,” as though she doesn’t spend hours describing, in detail, every thought that enters her head, every single moment of every single day. No normal person wants to clear an afternoon for that shit.
But you do it. You do it for your kid. You do it so she’s not THAT kid.
Wouldn’t it be great if they just stopped doing these things, like, altogether? I mean, some parents aren’t total dumbasses like me. They have legitimate reasons for not making every school gathering under the sun. They have work, young children to care for, other commitments to tend to. They want to save their sick days and vacation days for their intended purpose, not waste them merely to avoid wading in the same tepid pool of self loathing I’m currently drowning myself in. They want to keep their newborns out of germ-ridden classrooms.
And just for the record, I’m not blaming the teachers. It’s not up to them. In fact, they tend to empathize because their kid is usually THAT kid. They can’t miss a day of work at the drop of a hat. They’re just following directions from the higher-ups who require staff to encourage parent involvement. But can someone let their bosses that two hours of begging my kids to finish their goddamn homework every night is all the parent involvement I can bear?
It’s not the PTA either. A PTA superstar, I am certainly not and will never be. But someone has to do the bake sale stuff because it contributes to much-needed funding for school programs. Or so I hear.
So can’t we all, like collectively as a community of parents, just agree once and for all that these things are hurting a lot of kids more than they are helping?
There is a solution. A real one. You might have seen it making rounds on social media. You probably tapped the “haha” button, or maybe even went for a “love” click before moving on to the next like-worthy post.
But I’m serious, people. Let’s do this. It’s not cheap but it’s worth it.
You just need to write a quick, hefty check on the first day of school, with a little reminder in the notes section that this generous amount should cover financial contributions AND attendance at all events occurring between the first and last day of school. Holiday fairs, basket auctions, book fairs, bake sales, class parties, literally all of it.
Let’s keep our kids and everyone’s kids from the yucky feeling of being THAT kid. I will gladly fork over at least a buck for every would-be tear shed by my child if she were left parent-less at a school event.