I am the World's Worst Mother.
Today was my day "off" from watching my daycare baby. I mentioned by phone to my husband that I needed to go to Home Depot to buy some clog remover for the shower drain at some point. Since we have one reliable vehicle, I wondered if he would be staying in his office today or if he needed the car. He called me back later and offered to come home from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. and stay with YoungestBoy so I could run my errand. I said, "Great!"
At 10:45 a.m., he returns home and at 11 a.m. on the dot, I was in the car with baby Babygirl, heading for Lowe's. I wandered up and down the aisles, looking at hardware and furniture and shelving units and boards and doorknobs and cabinets. I found exactly what I needed and after wandering some more past doors and plastic pipes and sand, I paid and came home. I did not need the full two hours and was home by noon, so off my husband went, back to work.
YoungestBoy leaves for kindergarten between 12:25 p.m. and 12:35 p.m., depending on when the neighbor arrives to pick him up. At 12:25 p.m., without my prompting, he appeared with his jacket and backpack on. Then he stood in the living room, peering out the window, waiting for his ride.
Babygirl was watching television and I was sitting at the computer, waiting for YoungestBoy to leave so I could put the baby to bed for her nap.
At 12:30 p.m., YoungestBoy says, "Will she be here any minute?" And I said, "Yes."
At 12:37 p.m., YoungestBoy comes into the family room and says, "I don't think she's coming." I swivel and look at the clock. Twelve thirty-seven? Oh no!
At that moment, I remember that Beth, the neighbor, had mentioned yesterday that she would not be able to pick up YoungestBoy, but she would bring him home from school. I said, "Oh, you're right! She's not
coming! We're going to have to walk!" School starts for afternoon kindergarteners at 12:40 p.m. He would be late, but not much. No big deal.
I grabbed Babygirl (who was not even wearing shoes) and my jacket and a set of keys and off we went. The school is a five or ten minute walk from our house. The sun shone and I was thankful that it wasn't raining. As we left our driveway, YoungestBoy said, "I sure would be sad if I died today."
I said, "I would, too. I'd be sad forever." Then we had one of our usual discussions about death and he said he would be glad he'd be with our deceased cat, Millie, again. And then he said I wouldn't be sad anymore when I got to heaven because then we'd be together again. Then he chattered on and on about the two little white terriers who live in our neighborhood and how he misses our big dog, Greta, who was sent away after she bit him last September and on and on.
We came down the hill through the woods and wound along the chainlink fence until we reached the teacher's parking lot in the back of the school. They keep the back door locked, so we had to walk around the school to get into the office. When I signed him in, it was 12:48 p.m. Eight minutes late.
I walked him to his classroom and we went in. The children were gathering on the carpet for the morning circle routine. Three excited boys rushed towards YoungestBoy and said, "You were going to be the Helper today!" And his face lit up. "I am?" And they said, "No, you were
, but you were late, so Lauren's the Helper."
They were gleeful, thrilled to deliver this bad news.
Being the "Helper" in kindergarten is the biggest honor and the best possible day you can have as a kindergartener. The Helper gets to help the teacher, be first in line, pass out papers, and best of all, have a "Daily News" written about him or her. The "Daily News" is a piece of butcher paper that records the weather, the letter of the day and a sentence about the honored Helper. There is nothing bigger than being the Helper in kindergarten--with the possible exception of being the Birthday Boy or Girl. Being the Helper is like winning the Lotto. Big. Exciting. Random.
I handed the aide his tardy slip and she asked for his red folder, so he retrieved that. His face was flushed and I knew he was using all the self-control he had. I whispered, "Hey, are you okay?" and he fell apart. His whole chubby little red-cheeked face contorted in grief. He said, "I--w-a-n-t (sob) t-o (sob) g-o (sob) h-o-m-e." Great shuddering intake of breath. I said, "Let's go outside for a second."
So, in the hallway, I hugged him and he said he needed to get out of there. We walked down the corridor and he stepped into the brisk air and walked in a circle. Then I said, "Okay, are you ready to go back in?" He said, "Yes." He wiped his eyes and composed himself.
Back we went. He clenched his mouth and marched towards the carpet where the kids were talking about the weather. He almost reached them and then he turned back and ran toward me. "I can't do it!" he cried.
I said, "That's okay. Come on." We went back in the hallway and he insisted he just couldn't stay. I said, "Are you sure you want to miss a whole day of kindergarten?" He loves kindergarten. He adores school. He thinks recess is great. "Yes."
I went back inside to grab his coat. When I came back out, he had a hand in his pocket and he was fingering his six quarters. Fridays are popcorn day. Twenty-five cents a bag. "Can I still get my popcorn?" he said. I told him I couldn't interrupt the teacher. I thought maybe we'd find them selling popcorn in the multi-purpose room, but we did not.
He's still sobbing as we walk down the corridor towards the office. The principal says hello to me and I tell her what's happening. I ask if it's possible that we get some popcorn. She says, "of course" and makes a phone call. He says, "This is the worstest day of my life!" We wait for the popcorn, then leave the building.
I tell him I'm so sorry. He says with reproach and sorrow, "Why didn't you remember that Beth wasn't coming?" I said, "I don't know. Do you think you can ever forgive me?"
He says, "No."
I say, "Your dad is going to be so disappointed in me." He would never make his beloved boy late for kindergarten. Being late is a mortal sin in his book (if he had a book and if sins were classified in it).
As we cross the parking lot and head for the chainlink fence and trudge back up the hill and through the woods, I say, "This is all my fault. Is there anything I can do to make you feel better?"
He is wailing and crying and red-faced. "No."
Then he stops. "Well, there is one thing. If I could have a Crunch bar when I get home, that would make me feel a little better."
I say, "Well, that I can do."
He resumes crying.
I have caused my almost-six year old precious child to have the "worstest" day of his life. What kind of mother am I?
When we returned home, he ate his popcorn and Crunch bar while I put the baby to sleep. (She even napped in her crib. Hooray.) When I came downstairs, I said, "Do you want to play a game or something?" He said, "Yes. I want to play Shipmates."
So, we played Battleship. He won, even though we didn't finish. Fortunately, he finished crying.
Then we played Uncle Wiggly. I made sure he won, without letting on that I was reverse-cheating. In fact, he won twice.
Eventually, he even forgave me.
I talked to his teacher on the telephone and she was sympathetic and kind. She promised that he can be the helper on Monday. I love her now. (She's brand new. YoungestBoy's original teacher is on maternity leave and until today, I'd never even seen his new teacher.)
In the backyard, YoungestBoy practiced riding his bike without training wheels for the first time. The trauma of the morning seemed forgotten.
I tell myself that if this is the worst day he'll ever face, he's a lucky boy, indeed.
However, I could still slap myself for being such an idiot. As my husband would say (if he was insane enough to comment on this issue), I should write these things down! My memory is not what it used to be! Make a note! (He's learned to just not comment, though. Even though he doesn't comment, I know what he's thinking, though, which is kind of funny, when you think about it. He knows me well enough not to comment, but I know him well enough to know that he is commenting silently inside his head. Six of one, half dozen of the other.)
Tomorrow will be better. For one thing, there is no school.