You are not managing an inconvenience.
You are raising a human being.
-brilliant plaque I saw online
Sitting in a Boy Scout troop parent meeting last night, I stifled a big urge to shake people. Not the boys–the boys rock my world, loud and fast and smelly as they are. But because of the same scenario I saw play out four or five times during my tenure as school room parent this past school year (side note: that, my friends, is an eye-opening experience).
Our boys are going to summer camp, as they always do, and the troop needs parents to shuttle them to and from a bus depot at the start and end of camp. As they always do. A troop leader went through the equipment checklist, answered questions, and then said, “We’ll need drivers to and from the bus on Saturday morning. It’s about 20 minutes away.”
Parents physically recoiled. I watched it. Eyes that had been straight ahead hit the floor. Moms started rummaging through purses. Dads fiddled with phones or doodled on agendas. Silence blanketed the room. It was all I could do to not stand up, take them each by the shoulders, and hiss in their ears, “You’re missing it.”
It happened with every field trip this year. Getting parents to volunteer to spend the day with their kids was pulling teeth without painkiller. I saw it in Girl Scouts, saw it in church activities, saw it in birthday parties and playdates. Drop and run, baby. I’m not naive–I know we work and have more than one kid and there’s only so much time and blah blah blah. I do all that, too. Job, kids, house, dog, things to do, places to go, endless list. And I’ve done it, from parties to carpool to daytrips. Get out of my car! All but booted them out in morning carpool, soles of my feet on their butts, just for those seven precious hours of quiet. Preaching to the choir.
Here’s the thing: We get one shot at this. Our kids are kids one time–no do-overs I had a kindergartener yesterday, and I blinked and he’s going into eighth grade and we’re looking at high school. High school! After that is college and boom, we’re done. My younger just finished fifth grade, which is the last year of little-kid-dom. Sixth grade is middle school, and everything changes. Blink and they’re in high school and definitely too cool to have a parent (OMG, totes embar!), and blink again and they’re gone. All those days and nights, eyes on the floor, emails deleted, sleeping late on Saturday because we can, and we missed it.
I’ll drive the boys to the bus, and I’ll hear hilarious conversations and great stories and get a lot of insight into the kids my kid is hanging around.
I’ll take an extra lunch duty at school and laugh at the way they explain the world when they don’t know an adult is listening. I’ll work late that night for sure, but it’s a fair trade.
Field trips, wow. My favorite. Loud and stressful and stinky and sweaty and a pain, (and the overnights are sleepless and cold and lumpy) but those six or eight or 24 hours in my child’s world doing something hands-on and new and different and exciting? The memories of these days alone–totally priceless. This only comes around once.
My kids’ teachers…God bless them. With few exceptions, they have been patient and loving and kind with both my kids and me. They always thank me for taking an hour or a day to help (I suspect I’m really in the way, but they thank me anyway), and it really should go the other way round. They get my kids in a different world. They get a completely different picture of my children than I do. They hear their jokes and see their work and get to know them on a different plane than their dowdy old mom. I should be thanking them for those moments in that world and on that plane. The scrapbook between my ears is overflowing with wonderful memories of those lunches and parties and trips. And yeah, a big part of me would rather be getting my nails done or clearing my desk, and I’ve questioned my decisions more than once burning the midnight oil Working For the Man to make up for the time. But as that time goes, I know each hour with my kids is such a gift.
So yeah, my hand went up last night. I’ll drive. Both ways. Haul my aging butt out of bed and drag my sleepy self and my coffee to a parking lot and fill my car with sweaty boys and fight traffic. I’ll be on the field trip. I’ll take lunch duty. Moderate the club meeting. Sleep in a tent with 15 of my favorite 12-year-olds. Sign me up. Wouldn’t miss it. Ever. For anything.
You’re missing it.