My sons have ukulele lessons every Tuesday at 11 a.m. Every Tuesday. The lessons take place with a friend of mine approximately one hundred yards from my house. But inevitably, at 11 a.m. every Tuesday, I get texts from her, “Still coming this week?” “It’s 11 a.m.!” “Everything okay?” No, by then we’re not coming that week. I know it’s 11 a.m. I know it’s Tuesday. I just didn’t connect the two with ukulele lessons. And no, we are clearly not fine, because I can’t manage to haul my kids to something as simple as a recurring music lesson one football field away from my house once a week.
This is typical. We had homeschool co-op on Thursday mornings, and I was constantly just forgetting about it, or making Thursday playdates. Then I was double-booked, and I had to decide if it was more important for the kids to socialize with free play or socialize with academics. I consider both valuable and important, so not always an easy decision.
I managed to make it to Swim and Gym at the YMCA on Monday afternoons, but only because my oldest was obsessed with it and always reminded me. I’d be thinking about doing school in the morning, making pasta for lunch, then running to Target — and he would stop me short with, “Mama, we have Swim and Gym today!” He did the same with my babysitting his friend Jack. “It’s Jack Day!” he’d squeal when he woke up. My stomach would jolt. Crap. It was, indeed, Jack Day. I’m relying on a 6-year-old to keep my plans straight.
Don’t ask me to remember doctor’s appointments. I have to put them in my phone to remember for me. I would do that with everything, but I can’t figure out how to do that without having to manually enter every event. I tried once. It didn’t work. Either I mess up the input, or miss the reminders, or screw up something else. All the technology Steve Jobs can throw at me, and I’m still rendered helpless.
It’s not just that I forget things. I’m never, ever, ever on time. I’ve calculated that it takes approximately one hour per kid to get ready, (which means mothers of eight never bother to go to bed), so I have to wake up three hours before any event. This goes one of two ways: I get lost in the internet, drinking coffee, and putting on makeup. The kids don’t want to get dressed, and I can’t find clothes for them anyway. Suddenly, I look down and realize I have twenty minutes to drive twenty minutes, but no one’s brushed their teeth yet, and I haven’t made my requisite Starbucks stop. So we end up a half an hour late.
Other days, I wake up the same three hours beforehand. But this time, I feed the kids breakfast quickly, find them clothes, and don’t screw up my makeup. I dress myself with minimal fuss and the internet is quiet. We brush our teeth and then I look down to see we have an entire hour before we have to be wherever we need to go. So we slooooowly let the dogs out, then let them in, and sloooowly put our shoes on, and slooowly strap everyone into the car. Then we go to Starbucks. We even drive slowly. But we make it to our destination, and we’re a half an hour early. If we’re going to someone’s house, we have to drive around aimlessly for half an hour. If it’s somewhere public, we amuse ourselves as best we can until the other people show up.
We are constitutionally unable to show up to any event on time.
We don’t show up pretty, either. My kids, as often as not, have not had their hair styled, so they resemble demented hedgehogs. We forgot to brush our teeth. The baby usually has shoes, because he takes them off in the car and throws them, but sometimes I assume he’s thrown them and he hasn’t, so he shows up without footwear. I’m the mom that forgets the water bottle, that forgets the snack, and just generally that, if there’s any requisite item for any activity we’re doing, half the time, we don’t have it.
This means everyone thinks I’m a disorganized mess, that I fulfill all the stereotypes of females who can’t get themselves together. It’s a running joke that I’m either early or late and never on time. In the end, it’s not that big of a deal; it looks worse than it is. But I still seem like the frazzled mom, and people think my kids suffer for it. They don’t really, truly. I’m lucky enough that people are tolerant. I wish I was like normal mothers, who show up precisely at 11 a.m. with juice box and cleats in hand, Junior’s hair styled and his teeth perfectly brushed. I wish I could make it happen.
But until then, we’ll be a half an hour late or a half hour early. And don’t expect hairstyles. If you can’t deal with it, you can’t deal with being my friend. In the end, it’s a pretty good barometer for friend-ability. And if anything, I’m grateful for that.