I thought that after spending two weeks getting the kids ready to go back to school, followed by another two weeks of actually completing the back-to-school process, things were going well.
I felt proud to have stared down 42 parent sign-up sheets, only volunteering for what was essential. I felt empowered by arranging for six children's first days in playgroup, preschool, kindergarten, elementary school, junior high and high school, with the attending traumas of car pools, clothes, backpacks, immunizations, lunch boxes, fees and school schedules. And they all had the appropriate papers signed and were on time.
A mother can feel pretty darn terrific at this point, until she has casual conversations with her children. Like when, two weeks after school began, I was chatting with my son and he said he could finish his homework in study hall the next morning. Well, kind of study hall. It's a good thing I was actually paying attention because, on further investigation, it turned out that this was an important piece of information.
We completed his school schedule back in April and confirmed it in August. But, alas, like an overbooked flight, the class was still full on the first day. He was sent to another class, but that was also full. He was sent to the sign-up line, which he felt was "just too long." So, being the creative and industrious child that he is, he went to the librarian and asked permission to study in the library. She said yes.
My son then came home and told me, "I have study hall now first period." I naively and excitedly replied, "Wow, that's terrific. What great luck."
After learning that he didn't really have study hall at all, we called and remedied the situation. But this wasn't to be the last of the back-to-school surprises.
Like when I took my sons to soccer practice. One practices right after the other, so I took both at the same time and gave them detailed instructions that each one should stay on the side of the field while the other brother was practicing. I explained that I would pick them up in two hours, and instructed each of them to bring a book so they wouldn't get bored when they weren't practicing.
When I picked them up, my older son told me his brother had not practiced. My younger son simply said, "I forgot to go to practice."
Before I started hitting my head on the wall, I asked, "So, you're saying that even though you were at the soccer field, and that there is nothing else to do at the soccer field but play soccer, and that your coach and teammates all came to the soccer field wearing their bright green soccer shirts, you forgot to go to practice?"
He said yes, and that there was a really cool scooter someone had brought. And, apparently, joyriding on the the scooter for two hours caused temporary amnesia.
These are the times where you simply need to laugh or cry. Or have a conversation like, "OK, when I take you to the soccer field for soccer practice, tell me what you think needs to happen there." And keep at it until you elicit the appropriate response.
These are times of pure confusion for a mother. And, though the temptation to get angry is strong, when you let that go there comes a sweet feeling of calm, curious disbelief and interest. Yes, this is a time to marvel, ladies. To marvel at the delightful, creative reasoning inside a child's mind.
It's a time to attempt understanding when, for example, a child who gouged a hole into the truck dashboard with a screwdriver while waiting for his father explained that he "wanted to see what was underneath."
So my thought to you this week is just when you think it's going well, be prepared for a few back-to-school surprises. As they come your way, remember to feign curiosity rather than feel frustration. And, for a small moment in time, you too may be able to enter into the marvelous world of a child's way of thinking.
LIFETip: When back-to-school surprised, breathe, count to three, and remember that this will be funny in 10 years.