Two weeks ago, my oldest performed in a school-wide ceremony. Parents are not usually invited to these kinds of ceremonies, but since she was performing, I received a direct order to come watch her.
The ceremony was held in two rounds because the student body is too large for everyone to fit in the auditorium at the same time, so I was instructed to come to the first round, where my daughter actually had a line (due to the large student body, not everyone could have a line in every round of the show).
One of the greatest perks of working from home is the ability to be available to watch the girls’ performances and shows, no matter how small of a part they actually have in them. So, of course, while glowing in the halo from my sense of parental superiority as a mom who is present in her daughters’ lives, I read a message in the parents’ group text from my oldest’s class: one of the unfortunate moms who could not shake off her boss and full-time position was asking if someone would be kind enough to film her son, who had a solo in the music performance.
As it happened, her son is one of the only boys in class who I actually know, so, in an unprecedented move, I volunteered to take a video of the singer during the first round of the performance (another mom volunteered to do the same in the second round, in case he didn’t sing in the first round, with the size of the student body at school, and you know the rest).
NO GOOD DEED GOES UNPUNISHED
But, just like in any good Greek tragedy, my good deed could not go unpunished. In a matter of minutes, I received a DM from a number I did not recognize, politely asking if I could also film the performance of Ari, the beloved son of another hard-working mom. “I’ll be happy to!” I noticed my fingers typing, and before I had a chance to realize what I was doing and stop, “Ding”—the message was sent. Now what?
This might be a good time to stop for a moment and explain the situation better. We moved back home 15 months ago, to a new city, a new neighborhood, and a new school. This means that my daughters needed to get to know 30 new kids all at once, but I needed to get to know 90(!) and, if possible, their parents too—an impossible mission to even consider. When the daughter in this performance entered her new class she was already in fifth grade—the land where boys and girls live on separate planets and communicate with one another independently (or don’t communicate at all if it’s a matter of boys and girls, as I mentioned before), and they don’t need any parents’ assistance. Thus, the mom in this situation is left disconnected, unneeded, and, mostly, unfamiliar with any of her daughter’s classmates.
Anyhow, after 15 months, I recognize most of the girls in the class, and I even know the majority of their names, but the boys are a completely different story. Once I realized they were not going to be an important part of our lives, I didn’t even try to memorize their names or connect them to the stories I was hearing about so many children all at once.
Then came this sad request from a mother who was not as fortunate as I was to “be free” to be present in her son’s life, so now it had to be me.
I came to my senses a minute later and texted her quickly: “Do you know which part of the performance he’s in?” I thought that if I knew when to expect him, I could at least be able to take a wide shot of the stage and make it seem as if I meant to give his mom the full experience of the show while hiding the fact that I had no idea who to zoom in on. However, I never got a reply.
I’m guessing my nemesis had to start an important meeting with her CEO, take a cigarette break with another “enslaved” mom-friend, or maybe she just realized that her parental duties were over once she had assigned them to me, so she switched her phone to silent mode and went back to concentrating on more important things than her child’s school performance. Lucky her!
My feeling of superiority soon transformed into panic. I entered the school’s foyer and tried desperately to find a familiar face, someone who might know this “Ari” and could help me identify him at the right moment. I was hoping to find my fourth grader among the students who were waiting to enter the auditorium, but the student body in the school is too big for the number of seats in the auditorium, so they can’t all see the performance at once (did I say that already?). Damn! I realized that her class was probably going to the second round. I was feeling lost as I stared at hundreds of faces of children I didn’t recognize, still praying they could save me.
Suddenly, on the other side of the foyer, I saw one of my daughter’s friends. She had been to our house twice, so I even knew her name. I made my way toward her, moving as fast as I could with all of the children standing in my way. With a voice that sounded only slightly more panicked than the look she gave me when I showed up out of the blue in front of her, I asked, “Sarah, what does Ari look like? I need to take a video of him for his mom!”
SARAH IS A SMART GIRL
Sarah is a smart girl. I knew she was the answer to all my wishes.
“Um, I don’t know, he’s normal. He has brownish hair, a little long. Normal.”
“Sarah, I’m gonna’ need a little more than that. Does he wear glasses? Any other characteristics that might set him apart from the others?”
“Oh! He wears an earring!”
“But I don’t think you’ll be able to see it from where you’ll be sitting…”
“No, I will not see the earring.”
The confused look in her eyes indicated that I should reverse my steps quickly if I didn’t want my daughter to be singled out for her crazy mom who harasses kids in the school hallways. But, just as I was about to leave, another idea came to me.
“Do you know which part of the show he’s in?”
“Um, no, I don’t know. I think he might be with the theatre group? Or maybe the combined arts?”
“Thanks, Sarah. Good luck with the performance!”
“You’ve been in the same class for 6 years! You don’t even know his major?” I mumbled to myself as I turned back to the other side of the room.
What do I do now? Oh! Wait! I might have a class photo on my phone!
Nope. Nothing. Just a flyer for tennis group lessons one of the other mothers sent in search of a carpool for her son’s after-school activity. No class photo.
Then, just after the photos from my youngest daughter’s dance recital, were the photos I’d received from the 6th-grade families’ morning in the park last Saturday. I didn’t go myself. I sent my guy with her as our representative. Enough is enough! Do I really need to spend my Saturday mornings being nice to faces I don’t even recognize?
I guess the photographer was a parent of one of the boys, because I had a lot of boy pics and very few of the girls. For example, my daughter was in only one of the 17 that were sent.
I ran back to Sarah, who was now standing with another classmate.
“Sarah! The family morning last Saturday! Was Ari there? Is he in one of the photos?”
“Um, I didn’t go…”
“What difference does it make?” I pushed my phone in front of her, “Is he here? Do you recognize him here?” I frantically flipped through the photos on my phone.
With a shaking finger, Sarah stopped my nervous flip and pointed to a boy in one of the photos. He was a normal boy, just like she said, with brownish hair a little on the long side.
“Thanks Sarah! You’re a life saver!”
DID I SAY ARI OR ASHER?
That was it. The performance was getting ready to start, and they were asking the parents in attendance to free up the orchestra seats by going up to the balcony. The student body is large, and everyone wanted to see the performance.
As I found a seat next to the aisle to get a better view of the stage, a terrifying thought came to my mind: “Ari? Did I say Ari or Asher? Could they have both in class?”
I sent a frantic text to my guy, “Is there an Ari and an Asher in N’s class?”
“I don’t know.”
I went back to the original text from the anonymous mom. She wrote “Ari.”
Another text to my guy. “Do you know what Ari looks like?”
What did I say to Sarah? Ari or Asher? There’s a very good chance I said Asher instead of Ari! And what if they have both?
A text to N’s friend’s mom.
“Help!!! Are you here?”
I could see that she was online.
Without waiting for an answer, I sent her the photo that Sarah identified as Ari’s or Asher’s or whatever his name is, circling his figure in red and typing: “Is this Ari?”
Two excruciating minutes later, when the auditorium was full and I was worried the performance was about to begin, I got a response from ‘Rachel, Leah’s mom, 5th grade’:
“Yes, that’s him. How did you add that circle around him?”
The stress was wearing me down. What had I gotten myself into? Where did this act of kindness come from?
Meanwhile, ‘Debbie, Hannah’s mom, 5th grade’ had arrived and came to sit by my side. When she heard the brief of my morning, she turned to one of the anonymous students sitting in the row below us. Calling him by his first name, she asked if he knew what part of the show Ari was in. As it turns out, they were kids from my daughter’s class who were not in the show because they major in Art, and ‘Debbie, Hannah’s mom, 5th grade’ has been a room parent for 3 years, so she knows all the kids in the class, even the boys.
To make things even worse, it turned out that Ari was in the same part as my kid, and I had probably heard about him at least a couple of times before. The good thing was that I didn’t have to take an extra video of his part. I was also able to zoom in on my kid with no need to try and identify him among all of the other unfamiliar faces on stage. I just needed to remember to take a video of the singer who got me into this mess in the first place.
THE THIRD ACT
When the performance ended, I had 2 new texts on my phone.
“Yes, he has this cool hairdo” texted my guy, providing an accurate description that, if I had gotten it only 40 minutes earlier, could have easily enabled me to identify Ari among the sea of marine haircuts.
And: “He is performing with the Combined Arts group. He has a slight limp because he hurt himself in soccer last night, so you’ll see he walks funny in his converse shoes,”, wrote ‘???, Ari’s mom, 6th grade’.
I think it’s time for me to look for a full-time position.