Editor’s Note: This is a guest post from my wife, Amy.
“That’s not where you’re supposed to park.”
This is the first thing Alex says to me as we pull into the lot outside his preschool. It’s my turn as a visiting parent to spend the day with his class. I’ve canceled and rescheduled twice. I want to reschedule today, but I can’t. Instead I will live with surreptitiously checking my phone, sweating out that little red number totaling up the unread emails.
I take Alex’s hand and walk down the path to his class. I must be hesitant because he drags me along. “It’s room number 1,” he tells me. We have arrived. Another Mom doing drop off gets right to the point. “Are you Alex’s mom? We’ve never met.”
I’ve never met any of the moms. Or any of the dads. Or really any of the kids.
Drop offs, pick-ups, lunches and play dates get scheduled and chaperoned by my husband. He is the one who remembers that Thursday is Alex’s turn for Share Day, the one who picks up the birthday present for the party, and the one who everyone wants to see on this windy Wednesday morning when I roll up to school with Alex. The other moms ask where Neil is. The teacher reassures me she knows about an upcoming late day because Neil already told her. The director of the school wants to tell me how great my husband is. I smile and nod – I already know this – and my phone is vibrating in my back pocket. I have three more hours to ignore phone calls. Crap.
Circle time starts and I’m instantly transfixed. These kids are hilarious. They are unfiltered. A conversation starts about fire and one girl blurts out that she once burned her hand on her mommy’s cigarette. The teacher catches my eye…OMG. Alex gets to introduce me to his class, and none of the kids seem surprised to see me make an appearance. The girls notice my nails are painted pink and I’m an instant rock star.
The day goes on and I learn a few things. First, Alex is doing amazingly well. He’s everything at school that he is at home – charming, funny, a little wild…and very observant. I think about him being in the 3’s class barely able to talk and how much he must have stored up in his head that he couldn’t ask or tell us about. I’m in awe as he breaks up a disagreement among two of the girls in class by getting between them and saying “I don’t like when you fight” or when he tries to convince one of the other boys that, in fact, snakes can eat people.
The girls in the class have gathered up their favorite stuffed animals – mostly cats. They bring them over to me one by one and ask if I’ll babysit. “Sure,” I say, “I can do that.” I arrange them in a circle around me. I’m watching the kids tear around the playground. Alex and the boys are playing some kind of superhero-themed game of tag. A little girl runs by, and tells Alex that I’m babysitting the “babies.”
Alex’s frowns. “She’s NOT a babysitter,” he declares. “She’s a mommy. She’s MY mommy.”
It’s noon and the school day is over. The kids are dismissed, and Neil is waiting to pick Alex up so I can go straight to work. We all walk out together. “I really wish you could go to school with me, Daddy,” Alex says. “Instead of Mommy” hangs in the air among us, unsaid but felt. My heart breaks a little more than usual. I’m so used to these comments that sometimes it takes me by surprise when they sting.
I hug Alex goodbye, tell him how much fun I had, and get in my car. A minute later, he’s dashing through the parking lot to my car with my husband right behind him. He wants another hug.
Tonight we’ll play Star Wars games, talk about giant spiders, and dance around the bedroom to Taylor Swift. That’s not the same as drop off and pick ups, but that’s what I can do. He knows I’m Mommy; I’m HIS Mommy.