As Jamie and I stood in line at our towns community center waiting to sign the babes up for the wonderful new after-school activity of gymnastics I daydreamed of Lars becoming a world class Olympic gymnast. This was our first experience with extra curricular progams and the possibilities seemed endless! It wasn’t until I did the math in my head and realized that we would be dishing out 400 bones for ten measly classes that I began to wonder if a gymnast would be such a lucrative career anyways…But on second thought, at that rate, I’m sure it is!
However because I’m a parent and this is what we do I sucked it up, wrote a cheque and before I knew it the kids and I were walking into their very first class.
Sophie’s class was first and ran for an hour. I figured Lars and I could handle sitting through it so we decided to stay and watch. I figured wrong.
The poor kid was so bored he began talking in tongues to the other parents who sat around us. There he was using a strange and perplexing dialect as he belted out the SpongeBob Squarepants theme song. There were some solemn looks of concern from the fellow Moms who sat nearest us. I had come unprepared and as a newbie after-school program Mom this was my first learning lesson.
I managed to keep him quiet and calm for the last half an hour by telling him a story I was making up off the top of my head. The first time in- well, ever- that my wacky story telling abilities have come in handy. As I was spouting off non-sensible gibberish about Pokémon and Sonic the Hedgehog I mentally made note that I would HAVE to take Sophie home for his hour and half class that was next.
There was only one glitch in my otherwise perfect escape plan. As I nudged Lars to go up to the front of the gymnasium to meet his teacher he looked at me with the same weary look I’ve seen every morning I drop him off at his kindergarten class. Nervousness.
Tears began to well up in his eyes and his feet become amazingly cemented to the spot in which he stood. The crazy, outgoing and oh so funny kid who I had just been dealing with moments ago vanished. In his stead there was a meek little boy who was clearly overwhelmed. In a wavering voice as he pushed back tears with the palms of his hands he whispered, “Mama please don’t leave me. I want you to watch.”
Well I sure as hell don’t have a heart filled with malice so “No” was not an option. As the words ventured into my earlobe I knew immediately the next hour and a half was going to be tricky.
What I had- A little girl who as soon as she leapt off the gym floor was asking to leave, saying she was starving to death and SO BORED.
What I did not have- snacks, toys, a purse with odds and ends in it. Anything really.
I could see the expert after school program Mom’s looking at me and shaking their head as Sophie lay on the floor screaming 5 minutes into our stay. And in all honesty I would have probably Mom-judged me too.
I was ready to throw the towel in and ditch the kid for a cocktail when a woman approached me. She slyly gave me a few toys she had stashed in her purse and a sweet that looked as though it had been living there for a while. But it wasn’t my place to be picky- we all know the saying.
I gave the goods to the girl and she immediately settled. I turned my glance towards the woman once more and it was as if she had an omnipotent glow about her. She was my saviour. My After school program saviour.
After introducing myself and thanking her a-probably-creepy amount of times she told me her name was Caroline. It was about that time Sophie started acting up and Caroline dug in her purse of goodies to pull out a sparkly pipe cleaner for my girl to play with. A DAMN PIPE CLEANER! This woman is amazing! It took everything in me not to start serenading my new friend with the lyrics to “Sweet Caroline”.
After class I thanked Caroline again and assured her I would come more prepared next time. She just shrugged and humbly laughed then added, “It happens to all of us!”
I realized then that if more of us Moms were willing to lend a helping hand like Caroline rather than judge and criticize, this parenting thing would be a whole lot easier and less stressful. I know that next time I see a fellow parent struggling I will be one of the first people to offer assistance.