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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{ 13 comments… read them below or add one }

Angie September 19, 2011 at 10:04 am

More proof we live parallel lives. Shawn’s been out of town all week, and TODAY I was supposed to turn in wrapping paper orders, and I’ve sold not one roll of wrapping paper. Teacher assured me the deadline was padded, so I’m going to buy myself some gift wrap, I will not solicit to family and friends, and go about my business.


Abby September 20, 2011 at 10:32 am

I guess it’s that time of year, huh? I plan to do the same thing.


Nadine Feldman September 19, 2011 at 10:33 am

I love the way you wrote this post. While I never had young children, with all their school projects and activities (I got mine by marriage when they were nearly grown), I can certainly relate to that sense of overwhelm. Thank God for tears! My husband understands that sometimes I need to just let ‘er rip sometimes and have a good ol’ sobfest…then I have the strength to go on and handle whatever needs to be done. Thanks for sharing something that so many of us can relate to!


Abby September 20, 2011 at 10:32 am

Thanks, Nadine! Yes, thank God for sobfests. 🙂


Lou Mello September 19, 2011 at 12:33 pm

So sorry you had such a rough day, I do recall those kinds of days when my daughter was young and I was teaching school, farming full time, coaching at the high school….AAARRRRGGGGHHHH!! Sometimes we all just want to put the covers over our heads and let someone else be the grown-up today. BTW, did I mention it’s “Talk Like a Pirate Day”… swing to, matey!


Abby September 20, 2011 at 10:33 am

Thanks for the reminder, Lou! My kids are huge pirate fans. Arrrr!


Mz M September 19, 2011 at 2:19 pm

Ugh, I know exactly those kinds of days. I love that my daughter’s current school has a no-fundraising option, where parents can just write a $25 check for the year instead. I hated fundraising as a kid, and really hate supervising it as a parent.


Abby September 20, 2011 at 10:33 am

That is a great idea!


Mrs Ebrahim September 19, 2011 at 11:11 pm

I totally understand where you are coming from, and sometimes crying really does bring relief! I am glad everything turned out ok in the end. Personally I hate people who insist on commenting about weight gain/loss!! Get a life and comment on something useful why won’t ya?!!


Kim September 20, 2011 at 1:36 am

The juggling act seems to only get harder as our kids get older! They not only become more involved, but it seems like other people and places are involving themselves with my children 🙂 which ultimately means, they are putting themselves on my schedule and it is so hard to juggle it all when we’re just exhausted. If my girls don’t get enough time at home for down-time, they start to get a little crazy and then it just gets even harder for me. I’m learning to use my voice and say no, not just to my kids but to adults and organizations that request my time and energy. It just seems to be getting only harder though.


neena September 20, 2011 at 7:09 am

First – I hug you!

Second – I skipped the school fundraiser last year. They were selling cookie dough and despite numerous calls to the company I couldn’t get anyone to give me the ingredient list for the dough. I refused to buy something if they couldn’t at least tell me what in the darn things.

Third – I hug you again because I know exactly how you feel!


Abby September 20, 2011 at 10:35 am

Thanks, neena, Kim & Mrs Ebrahim! Kim, you’re so right. I never thought I had trouble saying no and consciously keeping my kids underscheduled (like I prefer), but it does get harder w/ school, etc.


Shannon @ AnchorMommy September 23, 2011 at 3:22 pm

Seriously? I would have lost it too. I nearly cried last night when my husband came home early from work, said he felt sick, and went to lie down, just as I had to start making dinner. (This is after several nights of him being away, by the way.) It just sucks, sometimes.

And who asks someone if they are pregnant due to WEIGHT GAIN IN THE FACE?!?! Are you kidding me???


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