No, Stimey. You don’t. In the future, if I ever say, “HEY! I HAVE A GREAT IDEA!” this should be your response:
“No. You don’t. The activity you are contemplating will end with you feeling angry and your children feeling resentful. You should probably just let them stay home and play video games. Attempts to leave the house never work out well. Attempts to leave the house are NOT great ideas. Good day, ma’am. I SAID, GOOD DAY, MA’AM!”
Otherwise, I will end up in this situation:
So, I am on the PTA at Quinn’s school. I am the secretary, which means I take minutes at meetings and can otherwise pretty much keep my head down and not volunteer for anything else because, Look! I have an elected position here! I already help!
It’s actually quite a calculating move. If that doesn’t work, then I sigh deeply and mutter about having kids in three elementary schools. That is a really effective backup plan.
Well, at one of those meetings where I was to be taking notes, I didn’t keep my head down far enough and I ended up agreeing to be on the “Cultural Arts Committee.” Basically, what that committee does, as far as I can tell, is attend some Cultural Arts Showcases that the school district holds where acts that want to be hired for assemblies do 15-minute versions of their acts. They hold five days of these showcases and I volunteered to go to two. The first day went from 9:30 to 2. Do the math on how many 15-minute acts that is. It was a long day.
By the second day I went, I was totally into the performances. I even had to participate in one of the acts as an audience participator for an improv group. I pretty much made the whole day worthwhile.
I was that good.
The fifth day of the showcase was today from 9:30 to 12:30. There was no school today, so none of us committee members were going to go because we all had our kids at home. Then I was all, “I HAVE A GREAT IDEA! Kids like assemblies! I bet they would like 12 assemblies all in a row! What a GREAT idea!”
(You: “I SAID GOOD DAY, MA’AM!”)
This seemed like a really fun idea until we arrived at 9:30 in the morning to a Celtic music band complete with kilts, microphones, and amplified bagpipes, whereupon Quinn tried to crawl under a chair. I think Quinn is now afraid not only of zombies, but bagpipes as well.
The band was actually pretty awesome. They were awesome enough that I felt bad that we spent the whole 15 minutes with my hands pressed securely against Quinn’s ears, which framed the pained grimace on his face. I almost left right there. But there was science up next and I know that my kids are nerds and like science, so we stuck it out.
Quinn wanted to sit front and center and he was smiling, so I let him. Unfortunately, this did not last for long.
I spent a few minutes at the end of this act and the beginning of the next act wallowing in self pity. You know of what I speak: Why is it always my kids? Why can’t my kids pull their shit together? Can’t they just go somewhere and enjoy the fun like everyone else in the damn room?
Then I checked myself, remembered that there are sensory issues and fear of unpredictable acts at play, and took Quinn and Jack out to the hall for a minute. (Sam was in ideal-student heaven.) I chatted with them and told them my expectations and how we have to respect the performers. Then I found the building’s cafeteria, where I bought snacks and cans of lemonade for everyone. I figured that spending the next two and a half hours policing open cans of juice were worth the peace that they would bring.
Things were looking up—especially considering that there were no more bagpipes on the horizon.
Many of the acts asked for volunteers from the audience, which was awesome for my kids, who probably rarely get chosen at school assemblies because there are a million kids, but when there are only 20 kids and 12 acts, your odds go way up.
There was one guy, Andres, who wanted volunteers to basically jump up and down, which had Jack’s name written all over it. Then they had to act out animal actions and learned some Spanish words. The guy was trying to finish his show, but Jack volunteered that he knew how to say cat in Spanish, so the dude added a little section for cats. Jack couldn’t decide how a cat would move, so Quinn launched out of his chair, having spent many hours contemplating cats in his brain.
Incidentally, in my head, that is how Quinn moves most of the time—blurry-like. I liked Uno, Dos, Tres con Andres. He was cool. Available to visit grades K-5.
Sam got to be an actor in the bullying skit. That lady asked the audience to help her figure out gestures for certain phrases. My awesome kids were quick to volunteer gestures for “stupid” and “sissy.” In fact, Jack’s gesture for sissy was “a little violent, but okay.” The whole thing stressed me out a little.
Eventually we got to the jazz ensemble, which is when I discovered that Quinn doesn’t like jazz.
To be honest, I don’t much like jazz either, which is something I try to not tell people, because they tend to think me unsophisticated and dipshittish if I tell them. This little group was actually pretty good. They were not of the interminable, noodley jam type of jazz group that makes me fall asleep in self-defense.
Nonetheless, it was time for Quinn, Jack, and I to take another walk.
When we returned, Quinn wanted to know how many acts were left, so I told him three and that the last act was the Maryland Zoo. Quinn took that to mean that they would be bringing a baby tiger for him to play with. Seriously, I said that the zoo was coming and he immediately perked up because of the tiger they were bringing. It was that fast.
I was all, “I don’t think they’re bringing a baby tiger, Quinn,” and he was all, “But they could bring a baby tiger,” and I set about to trying to repair 39 years of atheism by promising lifelong servitude to God if only the Maryland Zoo could bring a baby tiger—or at the very least a non-subpar animal.
You know what I’m talking about. No one wants to see another box turtle.
No offense to the box turtle.
We watched a dance performance (They counted aloud, “one, two, three, [pause], five, six, seven, [pause]”; Jack counted aloud, “[pause], [pause], [pause], four, [pause], [pause], [pause], eight,” and Quinn waited for the tiger.
We watched a Shakespeare performance, which Sam loved (Jack shouted “to be or not to be!” in the middle of the dramatization of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, to much acclaim), and still Quinn waited for the tiger.
Then it was the zoo’s turn. They had a small, baby tiger-sized box, but I wasn’t hopeful. Quinn started saying, “I hope it’s a kitty! I hope it’s a kitty!” Then I saw what was inside and breathed a sigh of relief. It wasn’t a baby tiger, but it wasn’t subpar either. The two women from the zoo gave their lesson on habitats of the world and then…they released the Kraken!
His name is Tails and he is awesome. We were not allowed to pet Tails, because…well, would you let a room full of kids pet Tails? We did get to see him up close though, which made my membership on the Cultural Arts Committee totally worth it.
And with that, we were free.
Now, remember how I was all, “Oh, this was a terrible idea”? Well. I kind of feel like we turned it around. I think once I consciously decided to recognize that my kids weren’t being jerks on purpose and that I just needed to take some simple steps to accommodate them, we were able to hack it. At the end of it all, each of them said that they’d had fun—although I don’t know if that is truth or just the penguin high they were riding.
In the end, I’m glad I took them. I’d probably do it again. See, this is the great curse of being a big, dumb, stupid optimist like me: I always come away seeing the bright side and the silver lining, which leads me to believe that the next idea will be great too.
Don’t worry though. The next outing is going to be GREAT.