Next day, “Oh, yeah. I forgot them again.” Then she skips away.
This pattern went on for quite some time until I finally drew a line and said she needed to bring the text books home after school or I would have her go back and get them. Naturally when she got home the next day the familiar melody of, “oops, I left them in my desk again on accident” came singing in the entry way along with her.
With arms folded and a bright and chipper grin on my face, I said, “please go back to school and bring them home, dear.” Shock like I have never seen before registered on her face. She blinked, dropped her jaw on the floor, and then started sputtering and grabbing at excuses for why she COULD NOT run back to school and retrieve the text books, her long eye lashes fluttering all the while. Her world was in peril.
At the heart of this, Sarah lives to read. If she could use all her study time, chore time, and meal time to scuba dive through all her favorite fiction worlds, she would. Her main argument at the moment was worry about walking back to school by herself (however, we live only 2 blocks away and school was still not out for some of the other grade school students). Although I thought it would be perfectly safe if she went herself, I offered that we could all go with her if she preferred. I didn’t think her large, pleading, puppy dog eyes could grow any larger in protest, but they did.
Sarah sagged around the last step outside by our green, slightly scratched up minivan as the rest of us briskly made our way up the street.
“Come on, Sarah!” I called cheerfully.
“No, you’re embarrassing!” she huffed.
“Well, it will be a lot quicker to find the books if you could show me where they are.”
It being a new year, I had not yet been to her classroom. Realizing I didn’t even know the floor her classroom was on, she bolted straight up in horror as she envisioned her mother and horde of rambunctious siblings going from floor to floor searching for her desk among the myriad of classrooms. She started following us, although she was lagging about 30 feet behind. She kind of looked like a pouting water skier who was trying to hide from us, yet had no choice but to follow.
When we reached the school, Sarah started darting from tree to bush in an attempt to avoid looking like she was with us. She was certain we were making a scene and didn’t want to be associated. Now, you must understand, she and her sister go to an all Japanese grade school. The two of them are the only Caucasian students who attend there. This fact had little influence in convincing her everyone would inescapably assume she was part of our disheveled troupe.
At the front doors it is customary to remove one’s shoes. We quickly did this, located a teacher, and were shown promptly to Sarah’s room. She was still doing her sour puss water skier impersonation, dragging and scowling the whole way. When we finally made it to her classroom on the 2nd floor, she was relieved to find that no one was in the classroom. She zipped in, grabbed the textbook (there was supposed to be two of them, but only one was in her desk). She then recalled suddenly that her teacher had the other text book and was correcting something out of it for her. I shrugged. Oh well, at least she could use one of them for homework time. Sarah stared blankly at me and then asked if she could walk down alone after we went on ahead.
This whole “mom, you embarrass me thing” was brand new. She had never used that on me before. It isn’t like her to be so wrapped up in what other people think. Usually she is right there with the rest of us being goofy and silly each step of the way. I know this about her. So I didn’t mind offering to her that she could either walk with us or I would dance like a disco chicken all the way out to the front of the school.
My sly daughter, wanting to call my bluff, said she would be walking down alone, thank you.
Which left me no alternative but to maintain my credibility by dancing like a disco chicken all along the hallway, down the long flight of stairs, past the office area, and over to the shoes. All the kids were laughing so hard by the time we reached the shoe area that the dancing disco chicken moves had become an all family event. The stress had dissipated for Sarah too, thank goodness. Once again she was a girl who cared more about joy than social hang ups-although I was hoping not too much since I wasn’t really up for another disco chicken stroll through the cooridors the next day if she forgot her math books again.
When we got home I said, “Sarah, tomorrow, make sure you talk to your teacher and remember to bring your division math book home with you too.” And you know what? She did.
Cheerfulness, limits, and credibility…ya gotta love em’.