Greyson said good-bye one morning last week as I was wrangling Charlotte into school clothes and scooping baby cereal mixed with applesauce into Henry. A minute later he popped his head back in the door, “My car won’t start. I need your keys to jump it.” He took them off the kitchen desk while I continued to wrangle and scoop.
It was the first week back at school so naturally things had to be more frustrating. Greyson had no cell phone since he put it in the pool bag and it got wet during the summer’s last fling at the neighborhood pool . It was at the phone repair shop, so there was no way to contact him when he wasn’t at work.
Now that school has started we live and die by the clock. We have to be out the door at 8:45 am to be at preschool on time. You can guess what happened at 8:40 when I was loading the car. I searched the kitchen desk drawer where keys, old lip balms and broken ball point pens in our house go to die. The car keys were not there.
I went back out to the car that was already packed with my purse, diaper bag, breast pump bag and Charlotte’s lunch box. The keys were not there either. It was 8:49. I started to panic. “Charlotte! Do you remember where Daddy put the keys?” She replied, “No, Mama. Can I wear my ‘Frozen’ bracelet to school?” “You may not go to school today if I can’t find the keys.” That’s when she asked a bunch of questions I tuned out before whining about not being able to wear the bracelet to the school I couldn’t get her to anyway.
There was no way to call him. I cursed the day I let moisture into the bag that tainted his phone. I knew he had driven off with the keys! Blerg! We were going to be late to preschool. I texted my preschool mom friends to vent. It’s the 21st century so started wracking my brain for other ways to communicate. That’s when I turned to Facebook. I ran to the laptop and friended Greyson’s coworker, begging her to have him call me when he got into the office.
At 8:52 I heard him pull up. I literally ran out to the driveway to grab the keys from him as he said something. I feel like it was an apology, but I was in the zone. I shouted for Charlotte. He helped her in the car. He asked, “Charlotte, was Mama mad at Daddy?” She grinned and said, “Yep!”
He looked at me through the car window slightly puzzled and said, “Why are you so concerned with getting there on time?” My eyes grew large, I took an exasperated breath from the drivers seat and replied, “Because those preschool teachers have us by the balls, THE BALLS!!”
They do. They rule our week. I have to drop her off at the right time and pick her up exactly on time or face the dreaded walk of shame to the director’s office to retrieve my child. I already got a talking-to from the director once. I have problems disappointing authority figures. I can’t do it. Plus, I don’t want to be “that parent” who is always late and appears to neglect their child and disrespect the institution of preschool. I’ve heard some of the moms talking smack on the playground about other moms who can’t get there on time. I can’t have that. Oh, no. I mean, if you wanna talk smack, come find me. Just don’t make the smack talk at my expense.
The teachers aren’t gonna put up with crap from some thirty-something who’s only been a parent for 3 1/2 years. They’ve been teaching preschool for 25 years and have helped raise a generation of 3 and 4 year-old’s. Who am I to argue with them? Charlotte’s teacher told me that getting to school on time is crucial because that’s when they come in, get settled and form that day’s dynamics, reinforcing relationships. Also, when they arrive they will begin spelling exercises at the start of the day. She said that children who are frequently late are often not ready to move up a class in preschool because of their spelling. Ahhh! That’s the way to terrify a parent. Tell them their slacker ways will hinder development. I pictured my child living on our third floor, eating Doritos and taking improv classes at the community college when she’s 30. Gah! No!
Greyson was like, “We pay for her to go to preschool.” This is true, but I explained that it’s not like it was when we were paying for daycare. At daycare I could take her and pick her up whenever because it was open all day and we paid them as much as our mortgage payment. I felt like a premium customer.
At preschool, it’s less expensive, but they own my ass. Own it. I do what the preschool teachers say. I wait in their long carpool line. I obediently sign out my child and wait in the designated area for pick-up. I write checks for the Booster Club. I buy only healthy snacks listed on the Snack List when I’m the “Snack Mom.”
They are genuinely sweet and kind people. I mean, they’re preschool teachers! But, for some reason I’m terrified of them, their sweet voices and perpetual upbeat attitudes. I smile at them and accept my child’s folder full of art work with gratitude. I can only hope they don’t see how frazzled and flawed I am as a parent and continue to educate my preschooler because I can’t.