Oh, mothers of school-aged children, those odd disheveled creatures! (the mothers, I mean, not their offspring). Unless they work really really hard at it (or take Adderall) they’re usually a day late and a dollar short. Their cars are filled with crud and crumbs. They’re forgetful. They wear ugly sensible shoes. They are the faint ghosts of whoever it was that they used to be: sexpots or rockers or type A overachievers. Until you’ve become one yourself, they’re offputting. So offhand about things, and Good God, can they kvetch.
Especially at the end of the school year. Yeah, yeah, we know. Plates are full, and overfull: End-of-the-year t-ball picnics. Recitals. Awards ceremonies. Potlucks. Field Days. Fundraisers. Committee meetings.
When you’re a brand-new mom hoisting your first six-month old everywhere in a sling, listening to the end-of-the-year schedules of the parents of school-aged children can be like hearing about Mayberry, or wherever Beaver Cleaver and his family lived — or maybe even hell. The way parents of school-aged kids spend their time is so different from the way you spend yours. Hell, if all you’ve produced is a single six-month-old, you’re still probably propping up the illusion of an adult life. You might even have conversations with your spouse now and then — your child doesn’t talk, or talk back yet.
And — oops! – there I go, off and running, with that blithe, offputting, parent-of-the-school-aged callousness.
But here’s a secret: there is much we’re attempting to hide under all that nonchalance.
Yesterday was what was called Portfolio Share at the Elder Girleen’s school, and every family made sure to have at least one parent representative there — to hear the song the class had practiced for them, to be shown the classroom mice and hairless pink eraser-like mouselings those mice produced in April that, along with a pregnant teacher, brought many interesting birds-and-bees type discussions to our dinner table this spring. To applaud at the “awards” and hand tie-dyed t-shirts the teachers presented to each child in the class. And o yes, to see the above-mentioned portfolios of drawings and writings and addition and subtraction.
There they were, the parents, perched precariously on first-grader sized chairs at first-grader sized tables, shoulder to shoulder with their offspring. In suits and ties, in yoga pants. Cell phones blatting at inopportune moment; nursing babies in the corner of the room or with younger sibling toddlers in tow.
They all had one thing in common. When they looked at their children, they were completely stripped naked. Love, fear, anxiety, pride …as they sat there on those uncomfortable chairs, their hearts were in their faces, no matter what cool customers they might be in other areas of life.
Babies are beautiful, and gee, they’ve got such lovely little toes, but our kids, once old enough to push and pull at us — they unman us. They keep us real.
As the fifth-graders said at the end of the assembly at Elder Girleen’s school this morning:
And Happy Summer.