Wednesday, January 05, 2011
So my being on call yesterday was not just mere happenstance, it was actually a request--not so much for the fact of working overnight last night, but the need to be post-call this morning, so I could go into Cal's school to be the "mystery reader" for his kindergarten class. Every week a different "mystery" parent shows up to read a book, and the big excitement is that none of the kids know which parent it will be until you actually show up. Outside of the setup, there's not very much to it, I just showed up at the predetermined time and read a book (well, actually two books--I brought a backup in case my first choice did not go over well, but in the end enthusiasm was high so I ended up reading both) but Cal was very excited to see me.
As per tradition, the kids were all sitting on the carpet when I came in, but they had their heads down so they would not see me until my big "reveal." (Yes, very makeover reality show, I know.) As I walked to my spot it was high drama, as the class was all shouting out muffled guesses of whether I was a man or woman based on the sound of my footsteps. When the teachers finally told them they could lift up their heads to see who the mystery reader was, everyone went "WooooOOOAAAAH!" (imagine the sound of twenty-two kids screaming) and Cal's reaction was priceless--he literally fell down with shock. If it was a cartoon, his hat and shoes would have flown off. Also he would have had exclamation points shooting out of his head, and maybe a couple of springs and cogs.
"You're here! But you never come!" he kept saying to me. (Joe managed to make it in for about twenty minutes two, having scheduled a gap between surgeries.) "I can't believe this! You never come to my school!" I reminded him that mom and dad work at the hospital, and we're very busy, so it's hard for us to come to school for every little class party and field trip and performance during the school day...and anyway, we're here now, aren't we? It takes some planning and some trading and occasionally some wheeling and dealing, but for things that matter, we're here. And that's something, right?
Probably this is a message he'll understand a little better when he's older, because I remember feeling pretty much the same way when I was a kid about my parents' participation at my school. (My parents never even went to Parent-Teacher Conferences, which so far as I can tell are essentially mandatory, but which my parents seemed to view as a somewhat indulgent American custom, and at any rate, only for the parents of kids who were flunking out, which I wasn't.) Joe and I are never going to be those parents who are planning every class party and chaperoning every trip to the zoo, and aside from guilt (which everyone has, regardless) we're fine with that. But we do what we can, we try our best, and we're always there when it's important. Which is essentially what parenthood is, right?