Monday, May 18, 2009

The Great School Picnic Debacle, Part III

It's like deja vu all over again.

Exactly one year ago, I was fretting and stewing about attending Max's end-of-year school picnic.

But this year, I decided not to do that.

I heard glowing reports about last year's picnic, for one thing, but also I know it is important to be a familiar presence in my son's school. I want to meet his classmates and their parents, thank his teachers, and observe Max in his element. In return, I also want all of them to see Max in his context -- to see the loving family behind the kid. (though I whisper that very quietly, while holding my breath and crossing my fingers in hopes that we would actually appear as such!)

To be clear, I was still dreading many things about the event -- the actual picnic buffet itself, in particular! -- even though Max has matured & mellowed somewhat over the past year. But the memories of last year's angst coupled with the promise of friendly, familiar faces and thrills galore (bounce house, dunk tank, and PETTING ZOO!?!) erased all doubt. We would attend! Of course we would!

As the date drew near, we realized the older kids each had other activities and places to be that night, but my husband & I still agreed to take Max to his picnic. I was invited to a friend's house that night, too, and I replied that I would be there....right after Max's picnic.

So we were ready and willing. Optimistic, even!

And then it began to rain.

It sputtered around, starting & stopping & starting again throughout the late afternoon. The original information sheet sent from school listed an alternative date in case of rain, so it seemed quite likely that the picnic would be postponed. I checked the school's website to verify a cancellation but didn't see anything. (My husband told me to just call the school and ask, but I didn't want to be one of those people -- people who didn't have the common sense to simply LOOK OUT THE WINDOW -- clogging up the phone lines asking that very same question.)

So I just kept watching the weather channel radar and scanning the skyline...and finally it began to pour. It was a soaking, drenching rain. The kind with distantly rumbling thunder. The kind with dark skies and no end in sight. The kind that is clearly NOT compatible with picnics. I finally put on my Captain Obvious hat, turned to my husband, and declared the picnic cancelled.

Fast-forward to today.

Today I stopped in the office to pick up Max for his weekly Speech Therapy appointment.

"So the big picnic will be on Friday now, right?" I said conversationally to the school secretary while I was waiting.

"Oh, no, we had that last week!" she answered.

And then my brain fell out and I sputtered something about rain and rain dates and postponing and huh??

Right then the principal walked through the office and said, "Hey! We missed the life of the party at our picnic last week!"

And then my ears melted right off my head and I sputtered something about weather channel and radar and plans and RAIN!! DATES!!

Apparently the school sent home a paper the day before the picnic, announcing that everything would take place as planned, regardless of the weather. They would simply move into the gym if it rained.

The paper was not sent home to me. (It's true. The oversight was confirmed.) I am once again in this oddly annually familiar place: slightly relieved that we avoided the whole crazy picnic scene, slightly guilt-ridden that I feel that way, slightly saddened that we missed it, and slightly comforted by the knowledge that I did, at least, have the right intentions.

I am heartened to realize, too, that while this place is familiar, it is not identical.

We are both, Max & I, one year older, one year wiser, one year matured, and one year further along the path.

The path to where, you ask? Well, I'm still not exactly sure where this path goes, actually, but we seem to be on it (mostly), meandering along. I can tell you this much about the path today: The landscape is similar, but I'm pretty sure we're in a different county now. (Yes, you read that right: county, not country. Baby steps, folks. This trip is gonna take a while.)

Sometimes when there's a bump in the path, I scream at the lousy, inadequate map and threaten to quit....but sometimes there's a bump in the path (like a school picnic debacle, for example) that allows me to stop and catch my breath while I gaze back in amazement over all the miles we've come.

Tonight I'm kind of amazed. Picnic, Schmicnick. The REAL story here is that I caught a clear glimpse of progress when I wasn't even looking for it. And that's a thing worth noting!

So to Max, I say, "You've come a long way, baby! Way to grow! I'll get you to a picnic one day soon."

To myself, I say, "Hey, you -- you've actually come a long way, too! Keep on keeping on. Remember, even baby steps start to add up!" And then I hum a little of Dori's song ("Just keep swimming, just keep swimming....").

And to the picnic, I say, "Too bad about the mix-up. Maybe next year?? Because I really think you're special. CALL ME! Bye."

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