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Missing It

13 Jun

You are not managing an inconvenience.

You are raising a human being.

-brilliant plaque I saw online


Sitting in a Boy Scout troop parent meeting last night, I stifled a big urge to shake people. Not the boys–the boys rock my world, loud and fast and smelly as they are. But because of the same scenario I saw play out four or five times during my tenure as school room parent this past school year (side note: that, my friends, is an eye-opening experience).

Our boys are going to summer camp, as they always do, and the troop needs parents to shuttle them to and from a bus depot at the start and end of camp. As they always do. A troop leader went through the equipment checklist, answered questions, and then said, “We’ll need drivers to and from the bus on Saturday morning. It’s about 20 minutes away.”

Parents physically recoiled. I watched it. Eyes that had been straight ahead hit the floor. Moms started rummaging through purses. Dads fiddled with phones or doodled on agendas. Silence blanketed the room. It was all I could do to not stand up, take them each by the shoulders, and hiss in their ears,  “You’re missing it.

It happened with every field trip this year. Getting parents to volunteer to spend the day with their kids was pulling teeth without painkiller. I saw it in Girl Scouts, saw it in church activities, saw it in birthday parties and playdates. Drop and run, baby. I’m not naive–I know we work and have more than one kid and there’s only so much time and blah blah blah. I do all that, too. Job, kids, house, dog, things to do, places to go, endless list. And I’ve done it, from parties to carpool to daytrips. Get out of my car! All but booted them out in morning carpool, soles of my feet on their butts, just for those seven precious hours of quiet. Preaching to the choir.

Here’s the thing: We get one shot at this. Our kids are kids one time–no do-overs I had a kindergartener yesterday, and I blinked and he’s going into eighth grade and we’re looking at high school. High school! After that is college and boom, we’re done. My younger just finished fifth grade, which is the last year of little-kid-dom. Sixth grade is middle school, and everything changes. Blink and they’re in high school and definitely too cool to have a parent (OMG, totes embar!), and blink again and they’re gone. All those days and nights, eyes on the floor, emails deleted, sleeping late on Saturday because we can, and we missed it.

I’ll drive the boys to the bus, and I’ll hear hilarious conversations and great stories and get a lot of insight into the kids my kid is hanging around.

I’ll take an extra lunch duty at school and laugh at the way they explain the world when they don’t know an adult is listening. I’ll work late that night for sure, but it’s a fair trade.

Field trips, wow. My favorite. Loud and stressful and stinky and sweaty and a pain, (and the overnights are sleepless and cold and lumpy) but those six or eight or 24 hours in my child’s world doing something hands-on and new and different and exciting? The memories of these days alone–totally priceless. This only comes around once.

My kids’ teachers…God bless them. With few exceptions, they have been patient and loving and kind with both my kids and me. They always thank me for taking an hour or a day to help (I suspect I’m really in the way, but they thank me anyway), and it really should go the other way round. They get my kids in a different world. They get a completely different picture of my children than I do. They hear their jokes and see their work and get to know them on a different plane than their dowdy old mom. I should be thanking them for those moments in that world and on that plane. The scrapbook between my ears is overflowing with wonderful memories of those lunches and parties and trips. And yeah, a big part of me would rather be getting my nails done or clearing my desk, and I’ve questioned my decisions more than once burning the midnight oil Working For the Man to make up for the time. But as that time goes, I know each hour with my kids is such a gift.

So yeah, my hand went up last night. I’ll drive. Both ways. Haul my aging butt out of bed and drag my sleepy self and my coffee to a parking lot and fill my car with sweaty boys and fight traffic. I’ll be on the field trip. I’ll take lunch duty. Moderate the club meeting. Sleep in a tent with 15 of my favorite 12-year-olds. Sign me up. Wouldn’t miss it. Ever. For anything.

One shot.

You’re missing it.






21 May

The screen door slams five, six, seven times an hour. It’ll be on my last nerve by the beginning of July, but for now, the constant in-and-out by my children is Beethoven wafting through the house. Spring is finally–finally–here.

We have a little more than two weeks of school left. It’s been a year, starting out full of energy and hope and ending with us (mostly me) limping toward the last day with one arm outstretched, hoping to cross that finish line even a nanosecond earlier. This was the year I volunteered more than ever before, and it was the one I learned the true meaning of the old phrase about no good deed going unpunished. Spending time with the kids has been wonderful, truly, but also offered an enlightening glimpse into my community from a different perspective; I offer my heartiest congratulations to any teacher who’s not developed a raging alcohol or NyQuil addiction between Labor Day and now. God bless you, my friends. God. Bless. You.

I–a mere unpaid Sherpa with no authority beyond following direction and carrying tasks from here to there–have had flaming darts shot in my direction with shockingly little ceremony five times in the last two days. We’re all in the home stretch, exhausted and smelly and pretty overwhelmed with checks to write and books to return and final exam preparation and those last group projects to finish (tiny note: My 10- and 12-year olds don’t have driver’s licenses) and dear God almighty 10 weeks to fill on our own after that. I get it. And I suppose everybody needs a target. Perhaps I even deserved it–maybe I really suck at this. But wow. The good thing, if there is a good thing, is that it’s going to make stepping away from my donated hours easier.

After 15 years of freelancing and contracting, I’ll return to full-time work this summer as a regular employee of one of my favorite clients. You know how every so often, the sun shines down just right and magic sort of falls in your lap? That’s what this is. A gift. I am excited to begin this new chapter, nervous about how we’ll all adapt, and hoping to figure it all out as so many moms do every day. It’s been a fantastic ride the last decade and a half, but it’s time. I’m ready–we’re ready–and very thankful.

I am also hoping to write here more regularly. Food, sure–heaven knows I love my food. But also share random posts about family and life and work and flaming darts (I believe there’s a wait list at this point). We’ll see what happens.

Happy spring, y’all. I wish you many slams of the screen door in the coming weeks. Sunscreen and flip-flops and drippy ice cream cones. Less stress; more grass stains. Flak jackets as needed (I may invest).

See you soon…

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