I’m not going to lie. I’m about to cry.
I screwed up. Today was supposed to be Toddler’s first day at preschool with her whole class. Yes, supposed to be as in I totally botched things up and took her at the wrong time. In fact, I took her at the very time all of her friends were being dismissed for the day. I wish I could say that the whole phase-in schedule is beyond confusing and that there was some vindicating miscommunication on preschool’s part, but it isn’t and there wasn’t. No. In fact, Preschool sent us a very crafty little folder containing a very clear schedule. One that I have prominently displayed on my desk. One that very conspicuously states: Monday, September 21, 8:45–10:45 a.m., Whole Class.
At 8:45 a.m., when Toddler was supposed to be saying hello to her kiddie colleagues and vying for a plum spot at the sand table, we were pajama clad on the couch. At 10:20 a.m., when her buds were winding down their day and likely singing some very catchy Goodbye Song, we hopped on the M11. Toddler kept telling me how excited she was for school, and to see her teachers. Minutes later, we hopped off and entered school. The hallways were bizarrely quiet and her classroom was empty. Toddler and I sat on the floor in the hallway outside of the classroom. Parents and administrators walked by us, showering us with looks of sympathy. Because, this year, I am That Mom. A wonderful choice for Class Parent, no?
“Where are my teachers?” Toddler asked.
At this, I promptly concluded that I messed up. Big time. I asked an administrator and she told me that Toddler’s class was elsewhere in the building and about to be dismissed.
“But where are my teachers, Mom?”
Suddenly, that little face was three parts sadness and one part confusion. And I didn’t know what to tell her. “Mommy screwed up,” I said. Not once. But over and over. Because screwed is a wonderful vocabulary word for a two-year-old.
“My teachers went away,” Toddler said. “I’m sad because my teachers went away.”
“They didn’t go away,” I said. “Mommy got the time wrong. Mommy screwed up.” That lovely word again.
On the way home, I cuddled my girl and whispered apologies in her ear and assured her that we would see her friends and teachers on Wednesday.
“I’m so sorry,” I kept saying.
“I’m sorry too,” she said. Three little words. Three tiny daggers.
I called Husband and my voice cracked as I told him about our morning.
“It’s just one day,” he said. And it is. And then, likely in jest, he said, “Give her a cupcake when you get home and she’ll forget all about it.”
Back home, I gave her a cupcake and explained to Nanny that I am a delinquent mother because I do not keep track of important logistical information and because I give my child baked goods in times of sorrow.
Face smeared with powder blue frosting, Toddler said, “My teachers went away.”
And, horrified, I explained to her. “No! Your teachers didn’t go away. Mommy just screwed up.”
A delinquent mother indeed.
Nanny comforted me. I held back tears. Toddler demolished that timely medicinal confection.
As I write this, as I finish up this melodramatic mea culpa to my big girl, seeking sympathy and understanding and forgiveness from friends and strangers and teachers and myself, Toddler bounces into my study, once again all sugary smiles. She wears that precious back-to-school outfit no one got to see, saying, “Mommy, it’s okay. It’s okay, Mommy.”
And I’m pretty sure Nanny told her to do this. But I don’t care. I pick my big girl up and kiss her. And squeeze her tight. And she wiggles out of my arms and runs away. And this leaves me to contemplate the perfect image to go with this clichéd tale of motherly imperfection. I think, and look around. I pop by some of my favorite blogs and learn that my good friend Lindsey forgot that today was Picture Day for her little boy and sent him to school with adorably mussed hair in a stained T-shirt. And her blend of honesty and humor and that priceless picture of her compellingly un-coiffed child makes me giggle and makes me feel a shred better about things. Mothers, it seems, good and loving mothers, mess up from time to time. Maybe I should get used to this feeling.
And now I hear little footsteps. Running towards me.
Toddler hands me a painting she just made. A beautiful abstract masterpiece full of color and whimsy. It’s still wet. “I made you a picture, Mommy. To make you feel better.”
I look at it and smile. I look at her and smile.
Tears, begone. It’s just one day. And, despite everything, it’s shaping up to be a pretty good one.