As you know, I’ve been driving a lot back and forth between Knoxville and Huntsville lately. This, in and of itself, has not been too big of a deal. Except that last week on my trip to Huntsville, I had to squeeze in a drive to Montgomery and back in one day to take Nikki to a state tech competition where she could give a presentation that won her first place at the regional level. This was something she was VERY excited about…and worked VERY hard on…so this was a VERY big deal.
Many parents were getting a hotel room in Montgomery on Friday night since we had to be at the event by 8am Saturday morning, but we are trying to curb unnecessary expenses since I am jobless so we left Huntsville at 4am Saturday morning. We also had an event associated with Donnie’s company Friday night that we did not really want to miss, so both of these things meant I was starting Saturday out on the road after 4 hours of sleep.
PLEASE KEEP THIS IN MIND LATER WHEN I TELL YOU ABOUT HOW I WAS AN ASSHOLE.
The kids slept most of the way to Montgomery and then we got into position on the balcony of the gym before 8am. What proceeded next was 3.5 hours of being crammed into uncomfortable bleachers in an overcrowded upper level of a gym (SERIOUSLY overcrowded, a fire marshall would have flipped their lid) and watching a giant screen on the bottom level (where the judging was taking place) for your kid’s number to pop up. The numbers were added to a word document, not in numerical order, and not at the end of the list. It was just basically a paragraph of numbers like so:
878 903 776 1204 882 734 1357 555 402 937 1404 834 909 1531 304 943 901 800 1456 743 865
Except add 4 times as many numbers, my brain just hurts trying to invent random numbers so I had to stop at this much.
And randomly, they would add a number. IN THE MIDDLE. So it would suddenly say:
878 903 776 1204 882 734 1357 555 402 855 937 1404 834 909 1531 304 943 901 800 1456 743 865
And if you did not notice that they add “855” in the middle and if your kid was number “855” they would not know they were next and you kept hearing them announce, “PLEASE WATCH THE SCREEN, IF YOU MISS YOUR NUMBER YOU WILL BE BOOTED TO THE END OF THE DAY.”
No one want to be in the gym one second longer, so I stared at the cursor for THREE HOURS and watched every number be added. I say three hours because that’s when they called Nikki. SOME KIDS DID NOT GET CALLED UNTIL 2PM WHICH WAS 6 HOURS OF WAITING.
Oh, and let’s don’t even get started about how they were also sending texts with the numbers but whomever was texting them wasn’t copy/pasting them from the word document and so there were typos in the texts and sometimes you got a text saying your number was called but it was a LIE.
(This happened to Nikki.)
Listen, I know these things are often run by volunteers but this was the most INSANE method I’ve ever seen of ordering kids. Give us a 2-hour window. Put the numbers in numerical order. Add the numbers at the END so you can just look up periodically and check the end. Maybe call a number out when you add it? I don’t know. There just seemed like SO MANY THINGS that could have made this less stressful.
Oh, and did I mention there was no access to food during these hours of waiting?
HOW ABOUT OPEN THE CONCESSION STAND OUTSIDE THE GYM? MAKE SOME MONEY BY SELLING DESPERATE HUNGRY PARENTS AND CHILDREN OVERPRICED CANDY BARS.
Nikki gave her presentation and then we left campus for a bit, grabbed some lunch, and had an outing before the awards which were supposed to start at “2:30 or later.”
When we got back to the gym at 2:30 there were parents whose kids STILL HAD NOT GONE. People were ordering pizza TO THE GYM to feed their families because we felt like hostages. DO NOT AVERT YOUR EYES FROM THE SCREEN.
And then the time started ticking past 2:30. They finally said they were done judging a little after 3pm so we were hoping it would not take much longer before awards. We figured that if it was going to take TOO much longer, they’d let us know. The DID let us all move to the bottom level of the gym if we wanted, which appeased the ALERT THE FIRE MARSHALL part of me that was having panic attacks in the over-crowded balcony. BUT – it was still a gym full of antsy kids and ornery parents and my kids were getting hungry again again as we itched further from lunch time. All of the snacks I brought were gone, all of the vending machines were empty. I was getting MAJORLY hangry. I was exhausted and sick of waiting and then we hit almost 4:30 – TWO HOURS AFTER AWARDS WERE SUPPOSED TO START – and I lost my cool majorly.
One more preface: I was getting very worried about driving late as I was already so exhausted. So, to get you in my head I was anxious about that, hangry, suffering from a killer caffeine headache due to a lack of diet coke, and I was trapped in a hot in the stuffy gym.
Then, Nikki did something VERY mundane and I yelled at her. IN FRONT OF HER FRIENDS. And then she got (rightfully) mad at me and I felt bad, but not the RIGHT kind of bad, so I SNAPPED AT HER AGAIN. And then she started crying and I felt terrible so I YELLED SOME MORE.
Okay, I wasn’t “yelling” really, but I was obviously pissed off and obviously raising my voice and I was basically being a giant big asshole and I actually said, “WE ARE LEAVING!” which is the dumbest and most asshole move in the world. AND SHE STARTED CRYING MORE IN FRONT OF ALL OF HER FRIENDS WHO WERE CERTAINLY THINKING I WAS THE WORST MOM IN THE WORLD.
FINALLY, the Calm, Well-Rested, Well-fed Mom inside of me punched out the Asshole Hangry Exhausted Mom and shut her up. The Calm Mom put her arm around Nikki and said, “I’m going to leave you here, even if I miss awards, because I need to go get us all food and caffeine because I’m being a terrible Mom and I’m so sorry.” I told her she was doing nothing wrong, that I was just irritable and letting everything get to me and so to resolve that it was more important that I go get us food than to stay just because I was worried about missing awards.
I came back with french fries and milkshakes for everyone, and a Diet Coke for myself, just in time for the awards to start.
On the way home I apologized profusely to the kids, explaining how I was hungry and tired and not being my best self. They were lovely and understanding and everything was fine in the end. Nikki won first place and I screamed like a crazy person and cried and while not everyone went home with a trophy, I really needed her to get one so that maybe the memories of her asshole Mom yelling at her in front of her friends for stupid shit would fade behind the memories of winning first place in her category.
It was definitely ranked way high on my list of NOT MY FINEST PARENTING MOMENTS and I really was an asshole. I’m definitely not beating myself up over it, because the circumstances were very extreme, but I also know how impactful those things can be on young children and I can’t let myself off the hook too easily because COME ON, LADY. ASSHOLE MOVE.
So, I let my kid’s know I’m human and deeply affected by hunger and exhaustion and worry. I apologized for taking all of that out on them. We actually had a wonderful day before and after that brief dissent into madness. The overall day ranked high, even if the lowest moment was OH SO VERY LOW.
Parenting is tough because we are all human and we all have our weaknesses. I feel very strongly that I need to apologize when it happens but I also let the kids know it happens to all of us. I told them I should have gotten us food as SOON as I got hungry instead of waiting. And I should have gone outside for some fresh air periodically. There were several decisions I could have made but I was worried about missing awards, and in the end what I did was way worse than missing awards, so I lost the gamble.
SELF CARE SHOULD COME FIRST, KIDS. TAKE NOTE.