I Chose My Son Over Work. Just Barely.

My son didn’t go to school today.

It started with shoes. He wouldn’t put on his shoes.

I cried. I yelled. I threatened. I took away privileges. I made up more privileges just to have more to take away.

Finally, I picked him up without shoes on and buckled him into the car.

In the car, he began to cry: Mama, I don’t want to go to school.

I railed against his stubbornness. His tears. The attempt to change my plans. I called my husband and swore that I would never bring E to school again.

I didn’t care how I looked to my neighbors or husband or his classmate’s parents. I JUST WANTED MY SON TO GO TO SCHOOL. IT’S MY MORNING TO WORK!

I thought: If he doesn’t go to school, he’ll do this FOREVER. I CANNOT GIVE IN.

E: I want my school privilege taken away!

Me: School isn’t a privilege! I didn’t ask if you wanted to go. You’re GOING! You are SO FRUSTRATING!

My husband interrupted through the phone: Stop it and drop him off at work with me.

I take a reproached breath. I remind myself that he’s four years old. I freelance to be flexible. And while school is important, it’s not SCREAMING important. It’s PRE-SCHOOL for goodness sakes.

E is quiet while I contemplate my morning and my choices. And then he says from the back seat: Mama, it’s hard day.

Me: I know, babe. I guess Mama’s having a hard day, too. Do you want to go to work with me?

E: Yes.

Me: You still need to put your shoes on so we can drop off N at school.

E hesitates but then acquiesces: Okay, Mama.

As we get back into the car after kissing N goodbye, I offered my husband’s work. Because I’m not sure of my fitness as a parent. I’m tense and appalled by my lack of control this morning. And I don’t want my son to be hurt by my edges. I imagine that he wants to get away from me. Be with someone more grounded. More consistent. Better.

E said: I want to stay with you, Mama.

So here we are.

At the coffee shop.

Taking turns reading and writing and glancing over at each other.

We are by ourselves and together navigating parenthood and childhood the best we know how.

Comic books and coffee help.

Alex Iwashyna

Alex Iwashyna went from a B.A. in philosophy to an M.D. to a SAHM, poet and writer by 30. She spends most of her writing time on LateEnough.com, a humor blog (except when it's serious) about her husband fighting zombies, awkward attempts at friendship, and dancing like everyone is watching. She also has a soft spot for culture, politics, and rude Southern people who offend her Yankee sensibilities. She parents 2 elementary-aged children, 1 foster baby, 3 cats, and 1 puppy, who are all Southern but not rude. Yet.

44 thoughts to “I Chose My Son Over Work. Just Barely.”

  1. You’re the best Mom ever!!! When he’s in highschool will you write him notes to leave early too?? I use to write them myself so if he needs any help he can call Aunt K! Just kidding 🙂

  2. I think you made a good call. The frustration this morning is totally understandable. I worked as a nanny and I was amazed at how something 2 feet tall could be so imposing. I know your doubts can’t be helped, but it’s meaningful that you have them, ya know? Some parents don’t take the time to consider things like that.

  3. I have had mornings like that. They are not good mornings and they make me feel all kinds of crappy about the mom I appeared to be at that moment vs. the mom I really want to be.

    I understand.

  4. Oh honey…I’ve been there. Too many times to count. And yes it matters, it matters that we notice. But YOU DID. And you regrouped. And you know what? That’s more important a lesson than a perfect mom who never had a bad day. Because bad days are real life.

  5. You have no idea just how much I am inspired by the way you parent your children. It is so tempting to stick to the script, to stay firm and resist what feels like weakness.
    That you heard him…that you listened to him…is a beautiful thing.
    He knows that he matters and that you genuinely care about what he’s telling you. It’s situations like this that lay the foundation for a lifetime.
    Awesome job, Alex. Truly.

  6. I had the mornings when I am sharp around the edges, when even the simplest task turn into a battle of wills. Somedays I just want to go MY way.

    What amazes me daily is how my girls get edgy and then soften. They are so supple. I get stuck in my grump. I think the deepest gift of parenting is how it requires flexibility.

    You did good.

  7. Love you very much. You are a great mom! The two of you are so much alike (I Love Both of you SO much). I can’t wait for the teenage-years fights between the two of you…I think I’ll start building a bunker now. (That christmas book is going to come in very handy!) Great job Super Mom. It was very cute to see you guys sitting in the coffee shop working.

  8. You’re a great mom Alex. I used to tell my mom that the key to being a good mom is making mistakes and then quickly apologizing for them. Know if I could just get rid of this pesky calendar (swatting at it like an annoying fly) . Even if we do all this kicking and screaming, we’re doing it and it should count for something! (As I stomp my foot). When my kids don’t want to go to their dad’s for the weekend, the first thing that comes to mind is “oh, yes you are!! This is MY weekend!”. And then I proceed to spend the next couple of days, hours and minutes (down to the last second) reminding them how much they want to go to their dad’s. I’ve even had their dad call and talk to them, hoping that something will convince them to go. . . guilt. . . a happy memory. . . Anything!!! I don’t care what it is as long as they go! Does that make me a bad mom? No. It makes me a normal mom that simply longs for some time alone to “refuel”.

  9. “We are by ourselves and together navigating parenthood and childhood the best we know how.”
    That really sums it all up right there. My favorite thing about parenting young children is how forgiving they are. They let it go and love us anyway. I am constantly learning how to forgive, and my son is constantly showing me how.

  10. I love that you modified your plans and kept him with you. I think that is the sign of good parenting. Some days are hard, and some days a kid just needs his mom (and comic books!)

  11. A day of listening to him when he tells you “I can’t,” is light years from a daily acquiescence to preferences that might undermine learning/teaching/growing.

    A day of “caving” (and I use the terms ironically) does not a lifetime make.

    A day of “caving” (or a couple…as they are needed) is love.

  12. Oh Alex…
    I love your husband’s comment. My E and I are stubbornly similar too. He is only 18 months old, but already this sounds like something that would happen between us. And I would wonder if he should go away from me for awhile…and he would choose ME.

    You are an inspiration to me as a mother. Your choice to listen to him and work with him…

    I hope I can do this too.

  13. I’ve had those mornings! So glad you were able to turn things around. I don’t think I’ve ever regretted saying “it’s OK, no school today” in the long run. We all need those days.

  14. “E: I want my school privilege taken away!”

    Haha, that’s funny. We sometimes have struggles in the morning, but we haven’t gotten to that kind of place yet. Usually it’s more of an inertia issue than not wanting to be at school. It’s good to remember that this is an option, though.

  15. The day may have started off difficult, but it looks like things are starting to look up from here. How nice to be able to spend a special day together.

    My daughter is the opposite; she loves school so much that we’ve never had an issue getting her there but my daily battle is to get her to leave. She is thrilled to see me but then she refuses to leave. She’s the only kid crying because she would rather stay in school. I have to fight her to leave the classroom, put on her jacket, walk to the car, etc. etc. It’s exhausting!!! Definitely mars the the end-of-day reunion for me a bit.

  16. you’re a good mama. I love how quirky your son is. he’s really his own person even at 4.

    I go to the coffee shop to work too and I occasionally see kids there doing the same thing. the one I like even has a shelf of kids books and some toys. geniusy these coffee shop owners are. Yoda I must also think I am.

  17. You’re a wonderful Mom! I believe we all go though days where control is out the window and crazyiness has taken its place. But the beautiful thing about kids is that they always love us. No matter how crazy we get. Hopefully tomorrow will be a better day.

  18. My three year old once hand a temper tantrum on our front porch for the entire neighborhood to see – while wearing only her underwear in 50 degree weather – all because she didn’t want to go to school. I packed her up in the car and took her school just like that. I’m lucky that she calmed down and got dressed in the car in the school parking lot, because I don’t think I could have followed through on my threat to bring her into school in her underwear. I had to work that day otherwise I would have said forget it and let her stay home. Some days it’s just not worth the battle.

  19. I’ve been there and yelled and threatened and gotten upset, too. Usually happens to me when the early morning walkers are passing by.

    I agree with everyone else and think you made the right call. Will you tell him tonight that it was a special day and that his teachers and friends will really miss him if she doesn’t go to school tomorrow? Of course you will.

    I think you role-modeled a very important set of behaviors: reigning in your own temper, taking a moment to weigh your options, then coming up with a compromise.

    E said: I want to stay with you, Mama.

    There’s your answer.

  20. I had a similar morning. It was my daughter’s first dance class. It was so exciting. She talked about it for days. She was so freakin adorable in her leotard and tutu. Then it all fell apart. She wailed, cried, yelled and whined the entire time. I did my best to hold it together, but it was tough. In the car afterward, I attempted to process it with her but really just made things worse. Much worse. Somehow I managed to make it all about me. Sounds like you did a great job. I will try harder next week to be her support system while she learns how to navigate this scary world. Parenting – it is not for the faint hearted.

  21. Oh, we’ve all been there (or I assume most of us have, anyway). This just tugged at my heart:

    “I’m tense and appalled by my lack of control this morning. And I don’t want my son to be hurt by my edges.”

    I was that woman yesterday, when I went postal on the way home from school. Over a shoe, as a matter of fact. The taking off, rather than the putting on, though.

    The good news? Forgiveness. E has already forgiven you (if, in fact, he was every really mad at you – sometimes I think they’re just so worked up in their own little heads, we’re not completely in the picture). Ask for the forgiveness you need, and you’ll get it.

    P.S. – I despise school drop-offs and pick-ups. Pick-up is the worst. I’m trying not to dread it, b/c I’m sure the kids sense my hostility, but it’s really hard. If I’m going to lose it, chances are it will happen on the way to or from school!

  22. Pull at my heartstrings. I’ve had many moments like these. Where I beg and plead and scream in my head because my kids aren’t doing what I want them to do. Just last night, my eldest woke up right before her daddy got home from work (around midnight) and I was steaming mad. When he walked in the door, she ran to him and said (in her two-year-old voice), “Momma’s mad, daddy.” Boy did I feel that shame.

  23. I think you made a good choice. And I think that he’ll treasure the time he spent with you at work.

    Sometimes, at least for me, it’s hard to remember that these little persons we have in our care, have ideas, wants and desires contrary to ours.

    And sometimes, it’s worth the fight. Other times? Not so much.

    You are an awesome Mom.

  24. I love you. You and your edges. :o) I try to hard to remember Riley has this special little number on him…that big ole 3. I miss seeing it many times though. Just when I applaud myself for not yelling when he is carrying Sampson’s big ceramic dog bowl filled with food and drops it seeing it shatter into pieces (even though he’s done it so many times – carry it I mean), I freak out and YELL because he didn’t respond to me asking if Handy Manny was on when he was in the playroom and I was upstairs feeding Lucy. “ANSWER ME WHEN I CALL FOR YOU AND ASK YOU A QUESTION!” Ok Mama (i.e. crazy nut who replaced my mother) I didn’t hear you.” You totally did the right thing. It’s not a habit, just a hard day. Remember, do not let one day define you as a parent. :o) BEST ADVICE EVER (not from me, my friend and parent guru T).

  25. I’m sorry, but how did you just post about my day? 🙂 Not quite, but I’m right there with ya. Sometimes I have to step back and look at the big picture. It’s tough because those little things still have to get done even if they look unimportant from that perspective. Glad you found a solution.

  26. I’m just sending you a knowing wink and lots of love.

    Your guts will always tell you more about how to parent well than conventional wisdom. Conventional wisdom only works for conventional kids.

    Hey, I like that! I just wrote my own aphorism! “Conventional wisdom only works for conventional kids…” I’m like a genius over here today.

    Also, I’m very humble.

  27. I have so been there. Yesterday in fact. After a day of trying to de-spoil a spoiled rotten by the grandparents little boy. You can’t reason with an unreasonable child. Especially when you are being unreasonable too. We’re learning, us parents and kids. Learning how to live together and how to grow up.

  28. Alex,

    I think I have found a new hero! Your post totally reminds me of how frustrated I get when H refuses to get in her car seat or when she refuses to put HER shoes on. What I should do is stop and remember, like you did, that she is only two. I think you are an awesome person for posting this because it is exactly how I feel at times and now it will just be a reminder of what I should do instead of getting frumpy and ugly. Continue to kick ass!


  29. Rough morning! The sympathy pains are intense as I reflect on my own similar moments. Being a mom has catapulted me to some of my most thin places. I hope you can find the space to be kind to yourself!

  30. Oh, how sweet. I so rarely get to spend individual time with my kids, and one of my favorite times was when one twin wouldn’t nap, so we sat at the kitchen table, me with my computer and she with her Disney princess coloring book. For one small moment everything was idyllic!

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