Brought to Tears…Over Giftwrap

by Abby on September 19, 2011

woman crying cartoonMy 5yo asked me another stumper in the car the other day: “Mom, do you ever cry? Like, not when you hurt yourself?”

“Sure I do. I cry sometimes when I’m tired, or stressed, or when Daddy makes me really mad.”

“You do?”

“Yes, everybody cries sometimes. There’s nothing wrong with crying.”

As if to prove the point, I cried the very next day. What set me off was the freaking school fundraiser. Let me explain: my husband had been away on business for a week. As if the pre-dawn toddler wake-up calls, the torrential rain, the start of kindergarten and preschool, and the endless coordinating of who’s supposed to be where and when weren’t enough, that day there was a big ol’ scheduling snafu.

I was on the phone with C. “So we’ll see you first thing in the morning, right?” I said.

Pause. “Tomorrow? What day is it? Tuesday? No, I get back THURSDAY morning.”

My heart dropped. Because, you see, this is what was supposed to happen on Wednesday: he was flying home and picking up the kids from school and the sitter while I attended a long-scheduled important meeting downtown. Oh, and after that was Back-to-School night.

Panic set in. The juggling began. After a flurry of phone calls, backup plans were put into action. It seemed like everything was going to be OK after all. Then my son came home from school clutching a big fat packet of fundraising materials, all fired up about parties and prizes. All we had to do was sell a whole bunch of magazines and gift wrap to our family, friends, and neighbors – oh, and provide a list of addresses BY TOMORROW.

Now let me just say that I am all in favor of school funding. I know that libraries need books and students need art and PE and working toilets. And if buying a few rolls of overpriced wrapping paper or frozen pizza helps achieve those goals, then by God I’ll do it.

But there was just something about my son’s utter enthusiasm and my utter exhaustion and the (I thought) utterly unreasonable overnight deadline – because did I mention that night was Back-to-School night and that my husband was STILL away?! – that just put me over the edge.

It wasn’t like I could just say, “Sorry sweetie, I’ve got too much on my plate right now. Maybe next time.” If I didn’t fill out those address cards ASAP my son’s dreams of getting those precious plastic prizes would be dashed to bits in front of all his classmates who no doubt had conscientious parents who bought $10-a-roll giftwrap in bulk.

My breakdown passed before my son noticed. Not that I was trying to hide it from him, but it’s just as well he didn’t think his mom could be brought to tears over a school fundraiser. Just imagine that conversation with his teacher: “Well, Ms. P., I gave my mom the forms like you said and she just, like, started crying.”

I was hugely relieved to discover at Back-to-School night that I was not alone in thinking the fundraiser hype was a bit overblown. The teacher reassured us that our children would not be ostracized if they didn’t sell enough magazines. Whatever you can do is fine, she said. Being the responsible, upstanding citizen of a school-aged child that I am, I dutifully filled out the addresses and my son got his plastic prize the next day. No more tears.

BONUS LAUGH (OR CRY) O’ THE DAY: The afternoon of the travel mix-up, the doorbell rang and I thought I was getting a flower delivery from my contrite husband. Nope. It was a guy selling gutter-cleaning services. Doh. Later, when our sitter showed up so I could go to parents’ night she asked if I was pregnant because it looked like I had gained weight in my face. Not my day, people. NOT MY DAY.

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