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?
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.