“Hon, can you take your brother to the play tonight?” I asked my middle son. I really didn’t want to go. I had work to finish up so it wouldn’t pollute my weekend.
“The elementary school play. They’re doing Treasure Island. Same as the book you’re reading.”
“Oh, yeah. Let me see if So-and-so is going.”
“Yeah, call him.”
“I can’t. He doesn’t have a phone.”
“Call the house phone.”
“Can you just text his mom?”
“Well, yeah, but if she’s at work, she won’t answer…” Even though I have been trying to eliminate myself from the equation of my sons’ social plans, I had a vested interest in this outcome. Having one of my older boys take his younger brother to the play influenced my work plans, so I sent a quick text before my son remembered, “Oh. Yeah. She is at work. I’ll call the house phone.”
“Well, if you get their voicemail, start talking. I am sure So-and-so will pick up.”
He started talking. His friend picked up, fortunately, because the fact that my son had to call instead of text was hardship enough: I didn’t know how he would have fared if he actually had to leave an entire voicemail message. They agreed to meet. So-and-so’s younger brother, who was my youngest’s age, was also going to be there.
“Great! We’ll leave here at 6:30 so you can get there in plenty of time to find each other and sit together.”
Meanwhile, So-and-so’s mom texted me back. She told me she was helping out back stage (So-and-so’s sister was in the play). She said that she was concerned that her kids would be giggly, loud, insulting, and critical; they might ruin the show for someone else; and “do you think it’s a good idea” and “are you going.” I imagined her worry extended to my kids as well, or to all four of them if they sat together, which was what they planned to do and the whole point of why we called So-and-so.
Uhm. Gee. “I wasn’t planning to go,” I texted back. The thought never even once occurred to me that my kids would be rude or disruptive.
“Boys, can I talk with you for a minute? Actually, let me just read you this. Take those headphones off, please, this’ll just take a sec.” I read the lengthy text that So-and-so’s mother sent me (it was so long it had been broken into multiple messages). “Do I need to worry about any of these things?”
“No, mom, I promise,” my youngest said with wide eyes.
But I started to anyway.
What if my kids were the only unchaperoned ones? What if other parents thought I’m the slacker mom who doesn’t supervise her kids? What if the kids actually were ill-mannered? I talked myself in and out of letting the boys go to the play by themselves for the following two hours. In the end I decided to trust my original instincts. Even though these school plays are typically amazingly staged and produced and I would have probably enjoyed it, I had other stuff to do.
On the way, I got another text from So-and-so’s mom telling me where her boys would meet mine and where she told them to sit so she would be able to find them after her backstage duties were finished. I had my older son read it out loud and then commented, “so I guess you’ll wind up sitting with So-and-so and his brother’s mom, boys.”
“That’s kind of a buzzkill, mom.”
“Uhm, Hon, do you know what that even means?”
“Yeah, they say it in Call of Duty when blah blah blah…” (I tuned out everything after Call of Duty because it is not a game I allow at my house and it seems like the older boys take special delight in reminding me that they get to play it at their dad’s house.)
“Well, that’s not the literal meaning. Please be careful who’s around when you say that. I don’t want anyone to think you’re a burnout.”
“Everyone knows I don’t do drugs, mom.”
“Everyone who knows you knows. Not everyone knows you.”
I really hoped So-and-so and his brother’s mom didn’t think I was taking advantage of her to supervise. That wasn’t the intent at all. My younger two are almost 14 and almost 10. They were going to a school function. They know how to behave at school. They know how to behave in, and even other public places. Still, I felt it was my duty to tell them as we pulled into the school driveway, “It’s okay to laugh because I bet there will be funny parts, but don’t make fun of anyone. You can make appropriate crowd noises, but don’t say anything that’s not uplifting.”
Even to me that sounded idiotic.
Why do I let other parents choices cause me to doubt my own or to insult my children with unnecessary admonitions?