Parent-Teacher Abandonment Week

The week of parent-teacher conferences strikes fear in the heart of every…well, teacher and parent.

Teachers spend weeks preparing, evaluating, observing, and writing. Parents realize a few days before that the whole freaking week includes early release day.

And the precarious balance of pickup and dropoff and playdate and aftercare and work and meals and life are thrown off.

Wait, that’s just me? Um…of course I’m just kidding. Having to change my life to pick up my child 70 minutes early for five days straight is a joy that knows no bounds.


I hate parent-teacher conference week. Of course I appreciate all the effort our teachers pour into making the secret world of common core bare unto my family. It makes me a little weepy each time a teacher writes me a long editorial about how wonderful my son is to have in class, how kind he is to other children, and adorable and welcome are his personality quirks. Lovely. Makes me want to live at school so I can see more of that version, and less of the home-study (read: version.

But I digress. My boys’ schools overlap for exactly two hours, and when the eldest is out early, I have exactly one hour in which to do my eleventy billion tasks. This week is the first time I’ve emailed a client to say I’m going to miss a deadline.

But even better? I forgot to tell the carpool family today that it was an early release day. My friend called me at the preschool (where I was cheerfully pretending to be cheerful with preschoolers) at regular pick up time and asked where my son was.

Quick note: having a responsible adult tasked with my child’s well-being call and ask where my child is instantly liquified all my vital organs.

It took a beat or two to remember about early release days. I told her to check the office.

She called right back. He’s fine. He was in the office. Because of my intense failings as a human.
I asked her to put him on the phone.

Tiny little voice, that sounds more five than eight, greets me. “Hi, Mom.”

“Oh, bub, I’m so sorry. I completely forgot about the early day and I didn’t tell Shelly.”

“It’s okay.”

“Did you have something to do? A book to read?”

“No.” He sounds almost chipper. Regular voice, regular cadence, regular Peanut.

“Are you okay?”


He’s fine. He was fine and he is fine. I hung up and went outside to “get a broom to clean up,” by which I mean, “text Shelly my sorrow and cry painful, guilty tears.” I made it to three stores and placed two orders to arrange his soccer team’s end of the year party. I just didn’t bother with the whole “maintaining my child’s safety and sense of security” thing. Details.

Tonight during dinner, when we each talked about our favorite moment, and biggest challenge and solution, Peanut had a favorite and a challenge. Neither involved being abandoned for an hour.

Because I can let exactly nothing go until I’ve talked it to death, I asked him while we emptied the dishwasher whether he was worried in that hour in the office.

Nope. He said he knew early pickup was unusual, he knew it was Shelly’s day, and he knew she always remembers. And he knows that someone will always come.

He seems disappointingly unaffected by my massive parenting failure.


I don’t know where to go from here. Do I just, you know, carry on with life as normal? (I mean, obviously with extra efforts spent informing all childcare providers of my child’s actual schedule.) Isn’t there some sort of penance for having forgotten my child, leaving him unexpectedly and horribly in the care of trusted professionals while he waits, seemingly endlessly, for a whole hour?

Hair shirt? Self flagellation? Strained relationship that lasts until he graduates from college?


9 thoughts on “Parent-Teacher Abandonment Week

  1. As the third child, I spent a LOT of time waiting to be picked up. And as my mother’s undiagnosed hypothyroidism progressed and her memory got worse, there were times she just . . . forgot. Like, almost entirely. I remember more than once waiting with my soccer coach or whoever for my mom to come, long after everyone else was gone and it was starting to get dark. And this was before cell phones, so there wasn’t much to do except either continue to wait, or have my coach take me home. That did happen once or twice, and try to imagine THAT panic on the part of my mom: arriving 45 minutes late to pick me up at the soccer field and finding no one there, wondering the whole time she sped home if I would be there when she got there.

    Never particularly bothered me, though. I was always with another adult I trusted, so I figured everything would be okay.

    So what I’m saying is, you may self-flagellate all you wish (and I know my own mother did), but your son is probably totally cool and forgot about it already.

  2. A penny dropped for me when I was 27 years old and in therapy (marriage break up)–talking through the pain of the ending relationship brought up some stuff from childhood. So I went to my mom and said, “you remember that time when…well, it’s haunted me all my life.” To clarify, this wasn’t a blaming moment. My mother stopped her chopping of vegetables (or maybe she didn’t stop, maybe this is how I dream it happened) and she said, “No. No I don’t remember.” After I picked myself up off the floor from shock…I went on with my life, but I always thought that one day, when my kids were 27, they would tell me about a pivotal moment in their lives and I wouldn’t know what they were talking about. I would ask them if they were sure that really happened because I didn’t remember it at all. I would think ‘this’ or ‘that’ would be the thing that haunted their dreams. That time I so terribly failed as a mother. That time I lost my temper. And I would be wrong. What I’m getting at is the weird ways our mothering works out, I guess. Where we put efforts in and where we don’t–we can’t predict what’s going to stick and what’s going to be the stuff of nightmares. This thought has been a (somewhat quirky) comfort to me and through the years I have made jokes about my kids going into therapy when they’re 27 and…well the punchline is that my daughter turned 28 and somehow it didn’t happen. Somehow we all lived to tell the tale.

    • That is honestly the worst part of parenting. They’re going to retain and allow to fester something I’ve forgotten to beat myself up about. Or they’re going to retain and nurture only joyful memories and I’ll have wasted all this guilt.

      If only we could get the therapy transcripts in advance.

  3. I was always being left places as a kid. Sometimes deliberately (at the airport, when at the age of 7 I flew alone for the first time; in the pub, also at the age of 7 – it was an eventful year – to join in with a youth music jam session) and sometimes accidentally (after choir, after orchestra, after school…). I credit those experiences with my independence now. I love my family, and I enjoy going back to visit them, but when I reached 18 there wasn’t the slightest question of my staying at home. I already knew I could take care of myself.

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