This morning after dropping my kids off at school, I pulled into the garage … and saw The Animator’s backpack on the floor between the seats.
Yes, he forgot his backpack.
To make it worse, when I dropped him off, I opened the door on Girly Girl’s side because it was the one away from traffic. So he had to crawl over his backpack to get out.
Let me repeat that because I’m having trouble believing it. The Animator crawled over his backpack at his school — but forgot to actually take it with him.
I’m probably more tolerant of this sort of thing than many parents because I was exactly like him. My mother made countless trips to school to bring something I’d forgotten.
Still, I also believe children learn best by having to face the consequences of their choices. I came inside and took off my coat and boots.
Then I changed my mind. I turned out pretty much OK. I’m mostly dependable and responsible. It won’t damage The Animator either, for me to bring a forgotten item now and then. And he had an assignment due today for which he had written a truly fantastic story (I’ll ask him if I can post it). And isn’t that one of the great benefits of being a stay-at-home mom, that I can make an unexpected trip to school?
If I hurried, I could get it to him before school even started. I hit the voice dial as I backed out of the garage. “Call The Animator,” I told the Bluetooth, and a few seconds later I was talking to …
His voicemail. Of course. You didn’t really think I could just call him and reach him, did you?
Yeah. I thought I could too. Isn’t that why I am paying every month for him to have a phone?
I hit the voice dial again. “Call Junior High School.” When I got the secretary, I asked her to please have him wait outside, so he could get to class as quickly as possible.
“He’s right here,” she said. “I’ll tell him.”
I drove to the school feeling good about myself and mentally planning the speech I’d give The Animator with the backpack. “No worries,” I’d tell him. “My brain works exactly like yours, and my mother brought forgotten things to me many, many times. I’m happy to do it.”
I negotiated an exciting series of hockey moves on rinks that used to be streets, and pulled up to the school two minutes before the final bell.
Ms. Vanity Plate was parked in the loading/drop-off zone. She’s got a new truck apparently — the beige long-bed has been replaced by a white, four-door short-bed. But it’s the same license plate, so I know it’s the same person. In Canada the plate belongs to the owner not the vehicle, so you can do that.
Plus, she’s parked in the exact same place she always is: far enough forward that it looks like there’s room to park behind her, but there isn’t, not without blocking the sidewalk. How does she do that so consistently? It’s a tough calculation. If she were to accidentally pull two feet further forward, someone could park behind her.
Remember how I charitably chose to assume she is disabled and cannot walk the extra thirty feet herself, hence it’s only fair that every other person makes the walk instead? Nope. Not disabled, unless it’s by the fashionably high-heeled, chic leather boots her pants were tucked into.
Unfortunately, because of where she parked (in a drop-off zone, remember, not a parking lot), I couldn’t see the front door. Nor could The Animator see my van. And I couldn’t pull in front of her truck because another entitled pickup driver had stopped on the diagonal, blocking both lanes, and his child was good-ketchup-slow getting out.
I watched a minute and a half tick by before I could pull forward and look for The Animator. He wasn’t there. And time was up.
I turned off the car, grabbed the backpack, and hurried down the sidewalk, muttering curses at The Animator. And at myself for leaving the house in pajamas and uncombed hair.
He was just inside the door, waiting for me. He didn’t think he had time to go back to his locker and get his jacket, he said, so he decided to wait for me to bring his backpack into the school.
I was furious. My good mood was gone. Apparently I have enough grace to be willing to drive back to the school, but not enough grace to carry the backpack thirty feet to the front door. I gave it to him with a sour attitude I am ashamed of, and left.
I do understand why that extra thirty feet was the final straw. Groups of teenagers deplete my Interaction Energy Bank faster than anybody else because of a horrific year teaching, years ago (someday I’ll write that memoir). And my IE account was already low from navigating the icy streets.
But I felt like a monster for being so angry at having to get out of my van and walk a few steps to save my child from a terrible day. What kind of mother am I???
I expend a fair amount of energy every day trying to stay upbeat. Focusing on the doughnut. The past few years have been so difficult that my automatic emotional place is one of fear and dread, distrust and pain. I’m still struggling out of a Big-D depression. Though I am getting better, it’s happening much more slowly than I would prefer.
So when I heard me call myself a monster, I said, “Stop!” I tried to refocus.
It helped that Silver Linings by Kacey Musgraves came up on my iPod (music often helps). “If you’re ever gonna find a silver lining, it’s gotta be a cloudy day.”
It would have helped more if I’d called a girlfriend for comfort instead of Mars.
When I asked, “What’s wrong with me that I’m willing to make the drive, but not willing to get out of the van?” he replied, “I don’t know.”
A girlfriend would have known to say, “Oh, honey, there’s nothing wrong with you. You aren’t a monster. You just hit your limit.”
By the time I got home, I had managed to stop the gasping sobs. I sat at the kitchen table to write this blog entry — and there was The Animator’s phone, dutifully charging for use it’ll never get.
And now I’m annoyed all over again.