Friday, February 18, 2011

Turning Back the Clock

Dropping Penny off at school is usually the same. We stand in the lobby with a dozen or so other kids and parents until the school clock reads 8:15, and then the monitor will release the kids to class by grade. Usually she calls them in order, starting with kindergarten. Sometimes she'll send the 4th grade after 1st, just because those are the two grades whose classrooms are furthest from the lobby. Either way, when she calls for the kindergarteners, I give Penny her hugs and kisses so that when the 2nd grade is called, she can bolt down the hall without any delay. (Parting hugs and kisses, for Penny, is an involved process: five squeezes to the hug, five kisses each for her face and both hands.)

This morning, for whatever reason, the lobby was more crowded than usual. Thirty or more students crowded the line, and the monitor was having trouble keeping the kids from blocking the path to the office. The worst offenders were a clump of second graders.

So when it turned 8:15, she started calling the grades, but saved 2nd grade for last. And, in fact, refused to call them until the clumping kids finally got a clue and moved out of the way of the office path.

At 8:17, they still hadn't gotten a clue.

"I've got to go," I told Penny. She'd already had her hugs and kisses, as usual, so I said, "Have a great day! I love you!" and turned for the door. Like usual.

"Mom!" She held up her hands. "I want more!" More hugs and kisses, that means.

She hasn't done that to me in a while, but she used to do it a lot, as a stalling tactic. She always does it when I'm feeling time-crunched. She always does it as I'm leaving, not when we're standing there doing nothing. It always turns me into an angry ball of resentment.

"You need to do this when we're just standing, and not when I'm trying to get to work on time!" I hissed. I gave her the most perfunctory and un-loving hugs and kisses ever, and stormed out the door.

Stamping across the parking lot to my car (parked half a block further away than usual, thanks to a lingering bus that had caused at least ten cars to park somewhere other than their usual spots), I seethed. I hate that the school's before/after program won't take her. I miss being able to be at work at 7:30 so I can leave at 4. I resent every single little imposition on my time, even the ones that only take ten seconds.

But by the time I got to the car, I was starting to feel bad.

It's not her fault. She doesn't even know that I used to work from 7:30 to 4. And it's not like I was, actually, late to work. Or even that I've got a lot of work waiting for me today. I was just impatient with the school monitor playing headgames with the kids and feeling crowded by there being too many of them and wanting out.

By the time I'd got the car started, I felt like dirt. I wanted to get out and run back into the school and go to her classroom and pull her into my arms and tell her I was sorry. That I love her so much and that it wasn't her I was mad at.

When did extra hugs and kisses become a bad thing?

I feel like a bad parent today. I want to turn back the clock and start it over again. I don't need a lot of extra time. I just want to go back to 8:17.

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