I am in a pattern of failing my child in school.
There is a scene from the late-90’s British comedy show, Coupling where the Welsh friend and goofball of the group attends a funeral with fellow Coupling characters and fears what he calls, “The Giggle Loop.”
“You are surrounded by people for a moment of silence when the Giggle Loop begins…
Suddenly out of nowhere this thought comes into your head: the worst thing I could possibly do during a minute’s silence is laugh. And as soon as you think that you almost do laugh–automatic reaction. But you don’t, you control yourself, you’re fine. Whew.
But then you think how terrible it would have been if you laughed out loud in the middle of a minutes silence. And so you nearly do again, only this time it’s a bigger laugh. And then you think how awful this bigger laugh would have been. And so you nearly laugh again, only this time it’s a very big laugh, it is an enormous laugh. . . . And suddenly you are in the middle of this completely silent room and your shoulders are going like you are drilling the road. And what do you think of this situation? Oh dear Christ, you think it’s funny!”
Though I may not be involved in a Giggle Loop, I am in a Mommy-Fail Loop. A loop of mommy-fails I cannot escape.
It started the first week of school. We were asked to bring in three photos of our child for use in the classroom. It took me three weeks to fulfill this mundane task. My daughter was the last of her classmates to have a photo taped to her cubby.
Then Back to School Night rolled around. Due to scheduling, I had to miss not one, but two parent-focused evening events at her school.
I showed up the following week, shamed* that I had been absent from meeting fellow parents and present to decorate my child’s placemat for Shabbat on Fridays. I was sent home with a placemat as homework.
As the weeks went on, my child became the kid always 7 minutes late to school–a number that is the most awkward of tardiness times. 5 minutes implies we ran into an extra stoplight or fumbled for our keys. 10 minutes implies there was unforeseen traffic, or perhaps an accident. But 7 minutes says we are almost on time, but failing to leave the house promptly.
February is one of my favorite months for Judaism as it’s the month of Purim. Purim is a Jewish holiday commemorating the saving of Jewish people from Haman. If you’re new to Mommy Has Struggles, it’s important to note that my husband is Jewish and I am not–so periodically there are references to our separate religions.
If you are not Jewish, just know that Purim is a day with a carnival where the kids dress up in celebratory costumes, like princesses, and then eat delicious triangle-shaped cookies called Hamatachen. If you’re really new to Jewish references, just know all holidays are centered around some sort of suffering on the part of the Jewish people many, many years ago, and then you eat good food and drink wine. Not too shabby. Well, unless you were Jewish back then.
During this year’s Purim, my daughter was dressed in a fun tutu dress with a giant fluffy headband and sparkle tights for her school’s Purim Parade. But, due to horrific winds in the DC area, school was cancelled and thus the Purim Parade. It was eventually rescheduled, but in an effort to prevent her tutu from becoming a sort of school uniform [in her mind], I dressed my daughter in regular clothes. After all, the teachers said they would have dress-up options for the children.
We walked into the school that morning to find every child in costume–from super heroes to turtles. I was mortified. My child is only three, so really she didn’t care. But I cared, because all of the parents could see I skipped dressing up my child. She was literally, the only child not in costume in the entire school.
Every Friday is Shabbat in the Jewish religion. Friday mornings in her school are spent with a little toddler Shabbat service lead by a parent volunteer. As the parent, we read a favorite book from home, help light the candles, pass out the challah to the children, and say the prayers–or in my case, listen to the prayers.
As we wind down the school year I have seen a decrease in my Mommy Fail-Loop scenarios. That was, until last Friday. I walked into Mae’s classroom in running clothes, ready to drop off the kiddo and get a start to my day. And then I was asked if I had brought my book. It was my turn to lead the Shabbat service. I had completely forgotten.
As my daughter ran off to play with some friends before the services began, I scrambled to reschedule two conference calls so I could stay and read a story. I had arrived to school unprepared and was shamed* into “borrowing” a story from the classroom.
Though these small stories do not represent my failure as a parent, we as mothers are hard on ourselves, regardless of how minor or major the fail we commit.
There are more stories I am forgetting. Such as the time I carried my daughter sideways out of her classroom’s Hanukkah celebration due to a massive tantrum. The tantrum resulted in my husband coming home early from work to intervene, only to walk through the front door and find me sitting at the kitchen table with a gin martini in hand at only 1 pm. For two months after the Great Hanukkah Incident, as it’s come to be known, my child continued to ask me not to cry in the car.
This coming Monday is my turn to bring in fruit for the classroom’s snack. As God as my witness, I will not let this be another mommy-fail. And if I do, I will get her to school on time so that if all else fails, I still have that 7 minute window of tardiness to pop into the grocery store, two blocks from school, for a last minute scramble of pineapple and berries.
*It’s important to note that we love our daughter’s school, including all of the staff and teachers. Please note when I say “shame” it is more of the self-inflicted shame I bring onto myself. But, that being said, whether you are Jewish or by affiliation, Jewish Guilt is a real syndrome for which I am a victim at times. But only part of the time as I am Episcopalian.