Friday, May 18, 2012

Aaaand, They're Off!

I don't know about you, but here SCHOOL IS OUT. For the summer. I'm so over my panic attack and am ready to dig in and make the most of it. But, you should probably hear a little back story before you understand why.

Last week my daughter had her first BIG field trip. That's when the school decides to take a bunch of 2nd graders to Dallas (2.5 hrs away) by bus to the Aquarium. I honestly don't know why. I wouldn't take anybody's 8 yr old across state lines. I'd rather wait until they're 10. But maybe that's just me.

Because she's (barely) 8, my hubby and I decided one of us needed to go as a parent helper. And because he works from 8pm to 8am, I got elected. It's simple logic. Let me help you understand that I didn't want to go. I mean, really did not want to go. I wanted her to have this experience. Very much. And I felt one of her parents should be there. But I seriously didn't want to do it. I chalked it up to one of those things we do as parents that we may not want to, but feel it's best for our child.

Until everything goes horribly wrong.

Like, I had no idea my daughter's bladder couldn't take the 2.5 hr bus jolting ride all the way to Dallas. If I had even considered that, I would have packed a change of clothes. But she isn't the one to have regular accidents (one recently during testing because she was told she couldn't leave the room for anything, and she's just a kid to I figured that was an isolated incident). I can't recall the last time she wet the bed. But as my dripping, sobbing, sock-footed baby girl got off the bus and approached me while all her other friends ran off to the aquarium, I knew I had a problem on my hands.

And, we're not immune to economic troubles, but I knew we had the money in the account to get through the day. Or so I thought. And, these days, who doesn't take debit/credit cards? Well, suddenly I had to buy my daughter a whole new outfit. And my debit card would not work. Called my husband, got him out of bed, and had him check the account. The money's in there. But the card was declined. Repeatedly. Finally I wrote a check. Thank goodness they still accept checks at Ross.

Don't ask me why I didn't take cash with me. It was stupid. Poor planning, poor thinking. Totally my fault. All week this little voice in the back of my brain said "Go to the bank" and all week I let things distract me into not going.

Then it got worse.

Brand new clothes, shoes and panties make my little girl a whole new person. She was happy, bouncy and excited to see the exhibits. So we drove back to the aquarium. 3 or 4 times because I got lost. My instructions from google don't help much if I'm coming from a different direction. But we made it back. As her class gathered in the gift shop because they were nearly done. And, guess what, you have to pay to park in downtown Dallas.

Duh. I know that. I've lived in enough cities where I know you have to pay to park in downtown. But I hadn't considered (bad Mommy) that the aquarium was downtown. Dallas is a big place. And nothing I'd heard or received about this trip said downtown. So I didn't think about it. Guess what? You can pay with your debit card. If it works. Or cash. If you have it. But one thing they don't accept? Personal checks of any kind.

I'd reached my breaking point. I had two options. Turn around and go home, disappointing my daughter and wasting all that money we'd spent to get to that point (gas for the car, the new outfit including shoes because hers were soaked, the entrance fees to get into the aquarium, etc) or go through the aquarium and risk having my car towed.

I cried halfway home. My daughter didn't even get a chance to express her disappointment because she was too busy worrying about me. I seriously couldn't get a hold of myself until we were almost back in OK, and still, now, when I think about this too hard I choke up.

I felt like the worst, most idiotic mother in the world. I felt every bit a failure. I felt like this was the stupidest thing I'd ever done. And I'd broken my baby's tender heart. I felt lower than a snake's belly (which is a lovely cliche, but quite descriptive).

In retrospect, the fleeting idea I'd had that morning of skipping the field trip altogether and taking her to the lake to dip our feet in the water would have been sheer genius. I could have fed her breakfast and lunch at Sonic and not spent nearly as much money as I'd spent on our failed aquarium excursion.

And that's to say nothing about the praying I did on the way home that the little E on the gas gauge meant "just a little bit more." 

But here's the thing. If I'd listened to that prompting, I'd never have known the hell I was sparing myself and her. Which, on the surface, sounds like a good thing. But sometimes we have to go through the little miseries (that feel like huge, epic miseries at the time) to appreciate what those promptings truly do for us. There were so many different ways to do that day. I could have been better prepared with a change of clothes and cash and she wouldn't have lost a moment in the Aquarium. I could have taken her to the lake instead and promised her a trip to Dallas later this summer. I could have let her go by herself with the class and have her either be the pee-smelling child all day or the one someone's mom had to bring home early. That would have been horrible for her. Probably more horrible than what happened with me there.

Look, I'm not saying I can turn that terrible, horrible, no-good, very bad day into a rose. But I am saying I'm grateful for agency. I'm grateful for a God who loves us enough to let us make mistakes. And I'm grateful for hindsight--which is 20/20--because I can use it, not to store regret, but to see and learn and grow.

Maybe, by sharing it, I can help someone else avoid having this kind of day. Maybe.


  1. Holy Cow, Cheri. I've had days like that but this sounds awful. I'm glad you were able to find the lesson in the day, but I sure hope you don't have one like that for a long, long, while.

  2. Wow, that does sound terrible, but I have to tell you that you definitely earned endurance points for that one. Whenever I have a truly trying day, I think, "This is what it REALLY means to be a mom," and I congratulate myself for simply surviving it, even if most of the catastrophe seemed to be my fault (and I really don't think you can blame yourself for most of that- I would have probably made the exact same decisions you did). Just think- the summer can only be an improvement, right? ((HUGS)) to you! :-)

  3. Thanks, ladies. This is the kind of experience you either laugh about or try to make a point of. I'm not to the laughing part yet, so I figured I'd try to find the point in all the madness. :)

    And yes, I do expect summer to be an improvement. This year we're trying mandatory writing time--2 hrs a day when NOBODY is allowed to distract me. It's very healing. :)



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