Snap my suspenders and label me a yodeler, cuz I just have to climb up into the Desperately Seeking Superwoman Swiss Alps and echo the statement I’ve said from this platform a thousand different ways, using a thousand different words … time is freaking flying, man! I disappeared from DSS for a hot second to collect the final sunny seconds of the girls’ summer vacation and get our shit together so this household could slide back into the dreaded grind, but I don’t really know how we got here. It was like we went to get frozen yogurt on the last day of class and, before it even had a chance to melt, we’re back to CrockPot dinners and homework folders.
When I said, “get our shit together,” I was mainly referring to one thorn that is still lodged in my bitter, soft side. Can we just talk for a second about the transformation of the school supply list? What the Boy George happened there? I can remember, as a greedy grade school gal, sorting through stacks of Lisa Frank Trapper Keepers and folders with puppies in various states of play and trippy holograms and Disney characters, agonizing over the decision, for what felt like an eternity. I needed Troll pencil toppers to tickle my chin during boring Spanish lessons and gel pens and, of course, a killer crayon box. I despised the required items … Paste? Why? So Betty has an afternoon snack? No. 2 yellow pencils, my ass. Maybe for amateurs and basic Bs. I’m gonna mix this up right here with some mechanical action that’s gonna blow their minds.
So, let me fill you in on a little something; it’s not like that anymore. The school supply list has been twisted and bastardized into the most exhausting, infuriating scavenger hunt known to man. I waited too long, I did, I’ll admit it. Like a fool I downloaded the list and shuffled into the local supercenter the Sunday before classes resumed. JoJo came along for what she optimistically categorized as, “special Mom and JoJo time.” She trailed behind me as I snaked, dumbfounded and squinty eyed, up and down the same 3 aisles over and over again searching for stupidly specific items like, “vinyl 2 pocket folders in yellow, green and blue,” and “pack of 3 plain pink erasers with the word ‘eraser’ printed in Comic Sans.”
But the best part was the camaraderie. Hell hath no fury like a group of parents driven by the mob mentality of collective failure. You know when you talk to your child about something, but you’re really just sending out a Bat signal for an adult to commiserate with you? There was a lot of that. “Honey, I don’t know why you can’t just use the generic colored pencils. The list says they have to be Crayola.” “Stay with me, honey, we have to find this last folder. I know you’re tired. I’m really trying, babe …” And then, the connection … “I know, I couldn’t find that folder either. This list is insane,” a fellow frazzled grownup says. “I know, right?” I responded in an aggressive, clingy tone. Success. You’re both pissed. You’re not alone. You have delivered a synchronized verbal middle finger to the supply list and all it represents.
Confession: 20 minutes in, I called it and told JoJo we’d shop at mommy’s favorite store, Amazon. We got frozen yogurt and laughed through the window at all the suckers walking in with their lists. Now that’s special mommy and JoJo time, if ya ask me.
In spite of my lackluster preparedness, the first day came and went without incident. One brutal update to the routine is the bus, which conveniently arrives 10 minutes earlier this year. Before I share this next part, it must be said that the driver she had last year was religiously tardy, OK? We’re talking up to 20 minutes late some days. It conditioned me to be lax with our roll out time. It all came to an unpleasant climax this morning when, pulling out of the driveway, I saw the taillights of the big golden bird disappearing down the neighboring street. JoJo, always a bit high strung, began sobbing at the thought of being left behind. It never occurred to either of us that I could have just braved the drop-off line and taken her to the actual school. Oh no, we were going to catch that bus.
I sped down our street, knowing the driver had at least 3 more stops. Holding a mug brimming with steamy coffee in one hand, I leaned over the steering wheel, anxious and recklessly accelerating while calmly assuring my oldest daughter that we would get her on board one way or another. After a second miss, we approached the bus at its final stop. The next 30 seconds were a flurry of action. “Run! Go! Go! Go!” I coached. Of course she couldn’t get the door open. I was still in drive. I hit the unlock button and, with tears in her eyes, JoJo took off down the sidewalk. Two SAHMs, standing at the corner having a leisurely chat with their chai tea and boat shoes saw my girl sprinting with every bit of energy her Cinnamon Toast Crunch would give her, and they gestured for the driver to wait. We had done it.
As the bus pulled away, I allowed my car to crawl toward them. I rolled down the window and raised my mug in genuine gratitude. “Thanks guys!” I said. “Of course!” they responded. “Hey, aren’t you Matt’s sister?” one of the moms said, squinting in my direction. Great … juuuuust great. I always prefer my early morning servings of humble pie with a side of anonymity. No such luck. [awkward laugh] “Oh, yeah, I’m his little sister who apparently needs to change the batteries in her watch!” [more awkward laughing] “OK, see ya!” I can be a real turd sometimes.
An extra-special treat this year, our Spikey started preschool. I know her teacher. JoJo had her a few years back, so I know she’s sweet, but let’s all pray she has a good sense of humor. Spike picked out her prettiest floral dress for her first day. She couldn’t have looked more precious if her entire face was made exclusively of dimples and cuddling sloth babies. On JoJo’s first day, I remember she was tentative and sheepish. She stood at my side and looked up at me with questioning eyes. Not Spike. She barreled in there, found her cubby and all but kicked me out. I think her confidence worked like a dam for my mommy tears. They never actually came until I was away from her, in my car, pulling out of the parking lot.
The subsequent days got a little more interesting. Hank was out of town, so I was sure to organize what I could the night before to ensure a smooth morning. I put out their clothes, packed snacks, boiled eggs for breakfast, and set out shoes and bookbags. I had it dialed in. On our second day of the chaos, just as me and my car full of chicks started to pull out of the garage, my little preschooler innocently asked, “Mama, do I have to wear underwear to school?” “Yes,” I answered. “Do you not have underwear on, honey?” “No, I’ll go get some.” I backed down far enough to watch JoJo run to her bus stop and waited, patiently, as my streaker sauntered back into the garage, skimpies in hand and proceeded to pull her boy shorts on over her sandals while standing in the streaming bright yellow glare of my headlights. A jogger came upon the scene and I causally waved.
That night, Spike described to me the difference between a mouse problem and an elephant problem. “See, Mama, a mouse problem is when someone says they don’t like you … or your body smells … or they don’t want to sit with you at snack. You should just talk that out. If you tell about a mouse problem, that’s called tattling. An elephant problem is when you throw up or get cut or get hit. You should always tell someone if you have an elephant problem.” I can tell you that, to me, sending your child to their second day of preschool bare-butted in a dress is what I would categorize as an elephant problem, but to Spike, we’re talking about merely a mouse situation.
That night at dinner, she took it up a notch.
“Spikey, how was your day?”
“There was this girl and the other girls were so mean to her and I told her to sit with me.”
“That’s so nice, Spike!”
“Yeah and she can’t see very well, so I hug her and kiss her forehead.”
“And today, she went to the hospital.”
“I’m lying. I don’t know why I said that. I just made that up.”
Have a great school year, everyone!