It was *really* awful. I shouldn’t have done it. I know that. But I was desperate. I felt like I had no choice.
So, I did what I had to do. And Ashley was the one who suggested it anyway. It wasn’t even my idea.
Let me explain.
We have a very complicated and intricate carpool schedule. EVERY SINGLE DAY is completely different. The times of pick up, locations, and even the order of which child gets picked up first changes from day to day. It requires a steel-trap mind to keep it all straight and the timing of a ninja to pull it off perfectly.
But Old Granny (my minivan) and I were rocking it this year making each pick up like a boss. We left no child standing in the rain or waiting helplessly after practice. We were on fire scooping up one child here and dropping another child there.
Until football season ended.
Suddenly the carpool routine changed again throwing the whole schedule into chaos and changing each day again…in the middle of the year…when I already knew what I was doing. I had to commit another completely different schedule to memory. I wrote it in on my calendar. I set my phone alarm to go off. It didn’t take long before I had the new schedule down pat! I mean it. I had it down…I did…I swear I did!
One fateful Friday, I dutifully got in my car to pick up Lucy in her 3rd grade pick up line. I was even at the front of the line having left 5 minutes earlier than usual. I was thinking how much I rocked because I am *never* in the front of the line.
I picked her up and we happily chatted all about her day. She’d played four square at recess and learned about raptors in science. We were talking and laughing–you know really *connecting*. It was how you always imagined picking up your child would be like but seldom is. Birds were singing. Smiles were bright. I was a paragon of motherhood at its finest!
We got home and healthy snacks were doled out. Lucy got out her homework. It was officially a delightful afternoon. My husband, Robert, even got home early! He walked right in, said hello to us both, and asked, “Hey, where’s Bobby?”
Oh, right. My other child. Who was actually supposed to be picked up that day right after Lucy…about 20 minutes ago. GAH!!!
This is where I should tell you that, until that moment, I had NEVER, EVER even been officially late to a single pickup, much less totally forgotten about one. And Bobby is in 7th grade…so I’ve had 8 years of school pickups (11 if you count preschool). My record was, up to that point, completely unblemished.
Now, you might be thinking, “Oh, Lisa. You forgot/were late to ONE carpool in either 8 or 11 years. That’s not really a horrible or shameful thing. Give me a break!”
Oh, no. That’s not the shameful part. Just wait.
You see, my two children are very different, and not just because they are different ages and genders. They are just very different people. Lucy is very adaptable. She will go with the flow. Nothing much gets her down or ruffles her feathers. Bobby is not that way. He’s a bit more sensitive. He’s a worrier and a planner who likes to know what’s happening. And when the expected doesn’t happen, he gets really unsettled.
So what I’m saying is, if you are going to forget to pick up one of my children, make it Lucy. She won’t be upset. She’ll be happy she got to talk to the nice lady at Extended Day (where unclaimed children are shuffled) and consider it an adventure. But if you forget Bobby, he will think you have died in a fiery car crash and also know in his heart of hearts that you don’t love him anymore. No question.
Yeah, THAT’S the one I forgot.
I ran out the door, squealed out of the driveway, and started to head to the middle school which is 4 to 7 minutes from my house depending on traffic. I felt like crying. I used that time to do the only reasonable thing possible. I called Ashley.
Me: OMG, Ashley. I screwed up the carpool schedule and forgot to pick up one of the kids.
Ashley: Oh, Lucy will be fine. She’ll barely notice. She’ll probably think it was cool to get to go to Extended Day. Don’t feel bad. It could happen to anyone.
Me: No, I got her. I FORGOT TO PICK UP BOBBY! I’m 20ish minutes late to pickup.
Ashley: Oh, God nooooooooooooooooooooo! Not Bobby! He will be destroyed.
Me: I know. Help me. What do I do?
Ashley: Well, you obviously can’t tell him that picking him up slipped your mind. That would crush his spirit. Can you tell him you had car trouble? Old Granny could certainly have car trouble making you late.
Me: I don’t think so. He’d always be worried the car would break down every time he got in it. I don’t think I can deal with that for the rest of my life. Plus, Robert got home early and I left Lucy at home with him. Why would I have taken her home if I was simply running late?
Ashley: Good point. WAIT! What if Lucy had to poop. You’d have to take her home to poop. He’s a boy, he’ll understand that.
Me: Okay, but he’ll still think he’s a second class citizen who I cruelly left on the corner at middle school with no notice at the whims of his sister’s bowel.
Ashley: Ugh. True. WAIT! Is Bobby still doing that thing where he doesn’t ever remember to turn his cell phone on when school is over so you can’t ever reach him, even though you’ve told him a thousand times to turn it on?
Me: Of course he is.
Ashley: Perfect. Just perfect. You can’t play defense on this one, Lisa. You just can’t. There is too much at stake here. You’ve got to remember, he has a Y chromosome. You have to spin it around on him as you can only do with a Y chromosome person. You have to play offense on this one. Are you following me?
Me: No, not at all.
Ashley: Okay, when you hit your Robert’s car as it was parked in the driveway, what did you do? Did you grovel? Did you beg for forgiveness for your mistake?
Me: No. I blamed him for parking in my blind spot, of course.
Ashley: What did he say?
Me: He said he was sorry.
Ashley: There you go. You Jedi mind tricked him into thinking it was his fault. He actually apologized to YOU when YOU hit HIS parked car! Case closed.
Me: Okay, but how does that help me with Bobby?
Ashley: Well, you tell him that Lucy had to poop and you had to rush her home. OF COURSE you tried to call him–several times in fact–BUT HE NEVER PICKED UP THE PHONE because he FORGOT AGAIN to turn it on. You are livid. This is unacceptable behavior. You have to be able to reach him. He apologizes. Crisis averted. The end.
Me: Oh, I don’t know. I’m a terrible liar. TERRIBLE. I feel so awful and guilty about this. I don’t know I can summon up the kind of maternal irritation and rage needed to pull this off.
Ashley: Of course you can. Just think of how he leaves the lights on in his room every single day when he leaves for school…and how he never flushes the toilet…and how he leaves wet towels all over his bedroom floor. Feel the rage, Lisa. Embrace it.
Me: Yeah, those things are REALLY annoying.
Ashley: I know. And really, it’s either this or he will think you don’t love him. He will feel it in his soul. Oh, and you’ll also be listening to him talk forlornly about the time you forgot him at middle school from now until he graduates from college. Your pick.
Me: I’ll do it. It’s really my only choice. It’s for his own happiness.
Ashley: Atta girl. Now, hang up right now and call his cell phone number two or three times so it will show he has missed calls from his mother. You can do this. May the force be with you! Call me when it’s over.
And that’s exactly what I did.
When I pulled up to the school there he was standing all alone by the flag pole. He looked a combination of pissed and worried. I knew it was now or never.
Before he could even draw a breath I began a motherly tirade about how I had tried to reach him but couldn’t. I mentioned all of Ashley’s talking points. For good measure, I added that maybe I should just consider canceling his cell phone service since I spend a small fortune on it and if I can’t reach him, then why should I bother paying for it??!!
And do you know what he did?
He said he was sorry. And then he sweetly asked me what we were having for dinner. Crisis completely averted.
Now, I’m not saying I’m proud of this. It’s pretty shameful to be totally in the wrong and use your parental powers to turn the tables on an unsuspecting and loving child. (Husbands are another matter. There is a level playing field there). But honestly, he would have been crushed. This way was SO much better for him.
I’ll also never, ever do it again…well, unless it’s absolutely necessary.