By the time I came to get him (at 3:00, just like I was supposed to), there were only four kids left in his class.
"Mama, where were you? There might be a tornado! And almost everyone went home already!"
I was crushed. And kind of pissed. How did all these other parents know that they could pick their kids up early and I didn't? Who told them that was okay? And why didn't they tell me!?
I got on Facebook to see if I had missed some major announcement or something (sometimes it's the best source for this kind of information) but none of the parents I knew had mentioned anything. Then I saw a post from one of the teachers at school that said something like, "Thank goodness this day is finally over! A school full of frightened children and storms on their way and teachers who can't go home to their families until every last parent shows up. Times like these remind my why teachers are heroes!"
I felt like I got punched in the gut. There was absolutely NO reason I couldn't pick Liam up early and yet he was one of the stragglers. It was totally inconvenient (and a little stressful) for me to leave him at school until 3:00 and yet I did it without even thinking for a second that there might be another way. Why? Because school gets out at 3:00 and no one told me otherwise.
I knew I had a bad case of blind rule following when it came to myself but I honestly thought I was stronger than that when it came to my kids. And yet, here I was, forcing Liam to feel abandoned and scared (or at the very least bummed out that he had to stay at school while his friends got to go home) for no other reason than I was waiting for someone to tell me it was okay to pick him up early.
That is total he cow poo.
Why am I so afraid to do what I want? Or, honestly, to even just want without checking to see if it's okay first. I mean, seriously. What the heck!?
As we huddled in the hall waiting for the storm to pass and Liam's nerves settled back down to normal (he had never been upset by a tornado warning before), I realized something had to change. But since knowing and doing are two completely different things I needed one more lesson to drill it through my big thick skull.
Enter: this morning.
I was pretty sure Liam's reading club was doing job day today but I didn't save the handout and couldn't totally trust my calendar so instead of encouraging him to wear his career outfit (or Mario costume, since he wants to create video games and a Mario theme park when he grows up), I suggested he wear his regular school clothes and bring his costume so we could check with his teacher before wearing the costume because if you don't wear standard school attire and it's not job day then, well, I don't know. They probably won't hang a kindergartner up by his toenails for coming to school one time without a polo shirt. Or take away my license to parent. Would anyone even care? Probably not. And yet, here I am, acting like the sky will fall if for one second I do something I haven't specifically been told is okay.
Anyway. We got to school and after I got the permission I so desperately needed, Liam changed into his costume in the bathroom. We went to the library and for a second there I thought everything was looking up. Liam was wearing a Mario costume at school! And it's not like a whole lot of other kids were dressed up. There are only 6 kids in his reading club. And none of their career outfits were quite as bright or polyester as Liam's.
I was leaving the school on a high note when I ran into a mom I know whose son is also in the reading club.
"Are you staying for their presentations?" she asked after I said hello.
"What do you mean?"
"You know, their job day presentations."
"Oh," I said, feeling like once again I didn't get the memo. "I mean, I knew they were doing presentations but I didn't know we could watch. When are they?"
"Darn. I have to babysit at 8:15. How'd you know about this? Was it on the handout?"
"No. I just asked when they were doing the presentations because I wanted to watch."
So while I was waiting around for someone to invite me or tell me it was okay, she was just doing it. Because it's her life and her kid and she wanted to do something so she did it. Just like that. So simple and yet, WOW. Kind of a major moment for me.
As I hurried home to babysit, I started to feel totally defeated. This was crazy! Why am I going through MY life following someone else's rules? Rules that aren't even real rules! I can't keep doing this. I have to make a change. Not someday. NOW. But how? Liam's presentation would be starting in a couple minutes and I had two babies, one stroller, a missing front porch (long story...) and I had only gotten half way dressed to drop Liam off at school (a big coat can be such a lifesaver on those almost late mornings...). I started to wallow ever so slightly (poor Liam, I always do this, I'm such a loser, etc) and then it hit me - this is MY life. If I want to do something, I just have to DO IT.
So I walked the plank (a front porch reference that will make absolutely no sense whatsoever...), strapped both babies into the car, drove the block and a half to school, parked in a loading zone (!), walked though the front door and past the office without signing in (!!) and with Finn on my hip and my little buddy banging along side of me in his car seat, I strolled down the hall like I owned the place.
When Liam saw us his face completely lit up. And when I got to see him bravely stand up in front of the class and talk about what he wants to do when he grows up (not because anyone else has ever done it but because it's his life and he's going to do what he wants to do), I knew that anything that could stand between me and a magical moment like this one had to stay in the past.