I talk to my sister, who is a second grade teacher, at least every other afternoon at 4:30pm. We discuss, among other things, our kid-related issues, which include everything from our own pregnancy and parenting challenges (Sara's daughter, Lily, is 22-months-old and she's pregnant with her second baby, a little boy I'm calling Seamus*) to the good, the bad, and the ugly we experience in the classroom.
Lately, however, our conversations have focused primarily on MY kid-related issues.
Sara taught preschool before she taught second grade, so while she's been my primary resource for all things school-related for the last four years, I've needed her help more and more throughout the last year or so. She has tons of great ideas when it comes to positive reinforcement and reward systems; age-appropriate consequences for misbehaving; and educational activities, games, and apps, not to mention the fact that I trust her to honestly answer my questions about what is and is not normal behavior for kids of my kids' ages. She's kind of like Google.
Sara talked me through how to bring up my concerns, and assured me that it was completely normal to tear up during these emotionally-charged exchanges. "I've seen plenty of parents cry during parent-teacher conferences," she shared. "I've even cried during parent-teacher conferences!" We're similar, me and my sister.
When the day of my parent-teacher conference rolled around I was still nervous, but I was also confident I could survive the conversation. (For the record, Will's teacher is awesome. My nervousness had nothing to do with her, and much more to do with my own anxiety over this kind of situation.)
Because I wanted to be able to focus on Will's teacher during my conference, and because Hallie doesn't really like it when people - especially me - focus on anyone else except her, I decided to leave her at home with our babysitter. Our very amazing ("can Mary** live with us, Mama? She's so much fun and she wears costumes with us and she colors boooooteeeeful pictures for me") and dependable babysitter.
The conference was at 1:30pm, which meant I needed to leave at 1:20pm, which meant Mary was going to arrive at our house at 1:15pm. When 1:20pm came and went I knew something was wrong and called Mary's cell phone. As it turns out, she was calling me at the same time, and when we finally connected she was incredibly upset. A car accident had occurred, and her roommate had just been loaded into an ambulance and was en route to the hospital. Mary apologized profusely and said she was leaving the scene of the accident and would arrive at my house shortly. I assured her that babysitting in no way trumped following the ambulance carrying her roommate to the hospital, and told her that she was completely off the hook when it came to Hallie. I promised to check in with her later and we hung up.
I went into late-Erin (late-Erin = crazy) mode, yelling to Hallie to grab her shoes and run to the stroller in the garage. "No! You don't need shoes! Wait! You do need shoes! Grab ANY two shoes! No! They should match! Don't put them on in the house! Put them on in the stroller! Run!" (We live three blocks from school, therefore it would take longer to buckle Hallie into the car, drive to school, park, and unload than it would to walk there.) Hallie sensed I was serious (seriously crazy) and hurled herself into the stroller headfirst as I pushed it out of the garage.
A few minutes earlier I had brushed my hair, touched up my make-up, and reapplied my deodorant, efforts that turned out to be a complete waste by the time I'd run - on a 90+ degree sunny afternoon, wearing a skirt and sandals, and pushing Hallie in the stroller - the three blocks to school. I ran panting into the office, threw my driver's license down on the counter, apologized to the office staff for looking like a crazy person, grabbed my badge, and took off running again, this time down the hall to Will's classroom.
I had envisioned arriving for Will's conference in a state of calm. I would look prepared and confident, even if I didn't feel that way on the inside. Instead, I arrived in a state of complete disarray. I wasn't prepared or confident, and I was a minute late (which is actually six minutes late in my book, as I am perpetually five minutes early), flustered, out of breath, and unbelievably sweaty. I can only imagine what went through Will's teacher's mind when I fell through the door and into her classroom.
I apologized profusely for not arriving earlier, for bringing Hallie with me, and for being so ridiculously sweaty. Yes, I apologized for being sweaty. She assured me I didn't need to apologize, and shared with me that when her kids were little she was often stuck bringing one or more of them to parent-teacher conferences. She helped me get Hallie set up in the Home Center, and we started talking.
I heard very little of what she said during the first five minutes of the conference because I was so distracted by the sweat POURING down my face. I imagine it was tough for her to concentrate as well; she was probably trying to remember the custodian's phone number so that after I left she could call him to clean up the puddle of sweat that had pooled beneath my chair.
Just as I finally started to cool off, I noticed out of the corner of my eye that one of Hallie's hands - the one not baking and frosting imaginary cupcakes - was inching closer and closer to her butt. I ignored her for close to five minutes, at which point she finally spoke up and informed me that she had to go potty.
"I'm so sorry for the distraction", I apologized to Will's teacher.
I quickly set Hallie up with what she needed in the small classroom bathroom and went back to the conference.
I left the door to the bathroom open a crack so Hallie wouldn't freak out, and because of this, for the next five minutes Will's teacher and I continued our conversation over the sound of Hallie pooping.
"I'm so sorry for the distraction," I apologized again.
Then, from the bathroom, came Hallie's little but loud voice, "Mama! I pooped! I need you to wipe my buuuuuuuttttttt!"
"I'm so sorry for the distraction," I apologized again.
"I'm so sorry," I apologized for the 47th time.
Once Hallie was finally back in the Home Center, I sat down to finish my conference. At that point we launched into the part of the conference I wasn't looking forward to, and while it went very well, I definitely cried.
So to summarize, I arrived late, sweaty, and in a state of disarray with a loud, poop-filled preschooler in tow. I left a puddle of sweat under my chair. The poop-filled preschooler provided disgusting background noise. I spent a good third of my conference time frame dealing with the preschooler in the bathroom. I tripped and fell over the step stool. And I cried. I am absolutely sure Will's teacher thinks I'm crazy and wishes I weren't her room mom for the year.
As soon as I left Will's school I called my sister, who was fairly certain that while she'd seen tears, she'd never seen what I described at a parent-teacher conference. I guess there's a first time for everything...I just hope there's not a second.
* They're NOT naming their little boy Seamus - I'm just going to call him that for the time being.
** Our babysitter's name was changed.