There are a lot of special activities that are unique to the end of a school year. As our son has finished up second grade, there have been awards ceremonies, a piano concert, a party, desk cleaning, and of course, early dismissal days. Every week, the teachers send out study guides in an e-mail to the parents to let us know about upcoming tests, assignments, and anything special for those days. The last study guide we received, which covered the final six days of the school year, was chock full of information. When I read it, I saw “awards ceremony/11:45 dismissal” for Wednesday; then “show and tell” for the next day; then the Bible verse to memorize for the week; then information about the party on the last day. I like to think of myself as a fairly thorough reader and a relatively organized person. I had responded to his teacher about what I would bring and help with on the day of the party. I made sure the show and tell item was packed in the backpack on the right day. Lunchbox, check. Water bottle, check. Uniform on bathroom counter, check. We’ve got this school routine down to a science.
For those of you who are under the impression that I have it all together (where did you get that idea, again?), here is where you can have a good chuckle and a sigh of relief. For those of you who, like me, know that I don’t have it all together, here is where you can probably (I hope) relate to my mistake. This past Thursday morning, I took my daughter to a neighborhood playgroup. We came home and got our lunches together so we could get ready for her nap afterward, leaving us enough time before having to pick up her brother around 3. As she was munching away on a piece of bread with cream cheese and I was scooping up some really garlicky hummus onto a pita chip, the phone rang. I don’t answer our phone during meals, especially since it’s usually a telemarketer. Then, my cell phone rang. It was a local number, so I answered. One of the kind administrative assistants from my son’s school spoke up on the other end: “Hi, Mrs. P., I’m here with L. and he thinks that maybe you didn’t realize that today is an early dismissal day. It was in the study guide…”
She was never condescending, accusing, or unkind. She assured me that our son was fine, that he would just go down with the other students to aftercare and I could pick him up from there. We live a solid twenty minutes from school, so after I profusely apologized and restated my embarrassment, I picked up all the perishable items from the table, wiped the cream cheese from my daughter’s face, and gathered all our things to head out the door.
Had I gotten sloppy at the end of the year and not read the study guide as closely as I thought I had? How could I have missed the words “early dismissal”, written in bold print? Would my son’s teacher think that I’m a total flake even though I’ve never been late to pick him up in the two years he’s attended this school? Most importantly, what would my dear, sweet boy have to say? Would there be tears? And how did he know that I didn’t know about early dismissal?
A handful of red lights later, I parked the car at school and headed to the cafeteria to claim my child. No tears, that was a good start. I felt rather sheepish as I made eye contact with the supervising teacher and of course with my son. I gave him a contrite apology and told him the truth, that I just had not read the study guide closely enough. He somehow knew that, I suppose, because we usually talk about what’s going to happen during the school day before we part ways in the morning. We had talked about his item for show and tell, but we definitely had not talked about seeing him any earlier than our normal afternoon pick-up time. There had been a few tears, he said, during lunch, when it dawned on him that I might not be there on time. This was good foresight, but I reminded him that it wasn’t the best idea to assume the worst before anything had actually happened!
He forgave me, his teacher reassured me in an e-mail later that we all make mistakes, and a few other moms piped up with their own stories of being late or in the wrong place at the wrong time. It was a good reminder of my fallibility as a mom, as a person. I obviously didn’t read all the words carefully enough; I’d glossed over things and assumed I saw all the important information the first time through. Needless to say, I have re-read that study guide many times since that day, and I was extra early the next day to pick up my sweet boy. Our routine for school works, and it works well. Sometimes, though, like at the end of the year, we need to sharpen our vision so that routine doesn’t blind us to what’s important. I think there might be a bigger lesson I’m supposed to learn from this…