Earlier this week, I was scheduled to chaperone Bess’ class trip to a local pumpkin patch. Given that she’s in half-day kindergarten, this was to be somewhat of a whirlwind visit, with the children being whisked to the field by tractor-drawn wagon to select one of ten thousand identical pumpkins that had been scattered there for us, whisked back to the barn to deposit said pumpkins in a box, across the street to feed some animals, and back to school for snack and dismissal.
I’m a little ambivalent about my level of involvement at school. I love being there, I love being around the kids (
especially even the ones that aren’t mine), and I want to support the teacher. That, and I a little bit want to spy on my kid and her friends so I know what’s going on, not that she doesn’t tell me. She does. Everything. On the other hand, I don’t want to burn myself out, as I am wont to do. I have issues with saying “no”. Mostly, my ambivalence springs from the fact that I don’t want Bess to feel smothered by my presence, like I’m there everywhere she turns and she can’t get a break from this crazy lady who was just packing her snack at home and is now hanging drawings outside the art room and waving wildly at her. I want my kids to know I am around and that I care about their lives. But who is to say that what I want to give them is what they want to receive?
Monday morning, things weren’t going all that smoothly. I had hosted a fundraising event for 200 people Friday night at work, and we had company on Sunday, and John worked all weekend, and I was T-I-R-E-D. John let me sleep in a bit, but then when I got up I was a little under the gun to get the show on the road, and I don’t like having to rush. I got beds made snacks prepared people dressed teeth brushed vitamins taken hair styled dogs fed and Bess onto the bus, and then it was time for me to get in the car and get over to school.
Harry was not really hip to the whole schedule thing. He was hanging on my legs and screaming, “Daddy doesn’t make good eggs! I don’t like Daddy!” Daddy, of course, was in the shower and unable to run interference for me, so I tried to gently loosen Harry’s death grip and calm him down, plying him with TV and chocolate so I could leave. Successful at my endeavor but now running late, I ran out the door and to my car. Which was locked. Normally I leave my car open and the keys inside (shhhh! Don’t tell!) but today…locked. So I had to go inside to get the extra set which my children had used to lock the car from the kitchen, repeat the Harry extraction process, and drive down the street and into the school parking lot at mach 3, speed bumps and all.
The teacher already had all the kids split into their groups, and gave us our lists when we got to the classroom. Each group was four kids. Totally manageable, fun even. We sat on the bus with our groups, and I was on the end of a three-bottom with my daughter and her friend Sarah, with the boys in our group on the two-bottom across the aisle. We were talking about Halloween, and before I could stop myself I started making up a song about pumpkins or witches or something. I have this habit of setting many conversations to music, and I’m not really that great of a singer.
A few lines in, I had a horrible thought: what if this embarrasses Bess? A mom who randomly belts out stupid songs about Frankenstein is way, way worse than a mom who misses the class Thanksgiving party. But I had already started. I couldn’t let them smell my fear, so I sang on.
And Bess turned to Sarah and said, “See? I told you I had a fun mom!”