Today, Dylan’s having a Halloween parade at school. They’re supposed to dress up as a character from a book and bring the book to school for writing and reading projects. Of course, I thought it would be awesome if Dylan dressed up like Pete the Cat, Flat Stanley, or Fly Guy so I could flex my Crafty Mama muscles. Of course, Dylan didn’t think any of those ideas were awesome at all. He’s wearing his Man of Steel costume because we have a book about Superman. (Of course.)
Anyway, the kids get to wear costumes to school, and at 1pm, they’ll parade around the school property while parents line the street and cheer. Standing in the parking lot at school in the middle of the day to watch my child run around in a Halloween costume is one of the perks of being a stay-at-home mom (or, in my case, a still-at-home mom. But make no mistake. It’s also a requirement. Let’s face it, stay-at-home moms are supposed to be at the Halloween parade.
At about 10pm on Monday night, I realized I made an appointment to bring Harry to the vet on Thursday around the same time as the Halloween parade. Unless I changed the appointment, I’d have to miss the parade. I called the vet first thing the next morning to try to change it, but I couldn’t. He was booked solid all week.
The thing is, this is a really important appointment. Mike and I are bringing Harry to our longtime beloved vet in Miami – a man with whom we’d trust our own lives – to have an open and honest conversation about Harry’s quality of life and, frankly, what the hell to do next. We have to go, which means I have to miss the parade, which is valid and rational decision. But still, I feel horrible.
I waited for the right moment to break the news, which ended up being yesterday morning in car on the way to school. Maybe it was because of sleep deprivation (Harry has us up several times each night), because I got my period (damn period!), or because I felt so guilty, but I worked myself up into a frenzy. I held back tears as I told him I wouldn’t be at the parade.
I apologized profusely. “I hate that I’m going to miss the parade,” I said, “and I’m so, so, so sorry.” Then, I scolded myself. “I can’t believe I made Harry’s appointment on the same day as your parade!” Then, I apologized again. “I’m so, so, so sorry.” Then, I promised that other moms would stand in. “I called your friends’ moms, and they’re going to cheer for you. I promise!” Then, I held back more tears.
“Are you upset?” I asked. “Are you okay?”
I was the worst mom on the planet. I wouldn’t be at the Halloween parade to catch his smile and return his wave.
Then, he giggled and asked, “Do you think people will throw candy at us at the parade?”
“Dylan, did you hear anything I said? I can’t go to the parade tomorrow and I feel terrible. Are you upset?”
“No, I’m fine,” he said. “It’s okay, Mommy. Really.” And then, “There’s a lot of traffic this morning, isn’t there?”
He’s fine. It’s okay. Really. There’s a lot of traffic.
I’ve been every kind of mom on the Guilt Spectrum. I’ve walked out the front door without looking back only to lose my breath when it hit me that I had the audacity to do it. I’ve held back tears in meetings at the thought of someone else soothing my child. I’ve snapped my baby to my chest on a day off to meet an unexpected deadline. I’ve yelled, “I WILL do a puzzle with you, but NOT until I respond to this email!” I’ve sat at a desk and wondered, What the hell am I doing? I’ve quit because my mental health was at stake. I’ve missed bedtimes and felt horrible. I’ve wished I could miss bedtimes and felt horrible. I’ve thought to myself, What a waste of my talent and potential. And now, I’ve chastised myself over a parade.
Let me tell you something. Wherever we fall on the Spectrum – and the possibilities are infinite – we’re all capable of feeling guilt – from the ordinary to the extraordinary and from the regular to the ridiculous. It’s our Kryptonite. We all feel bad whether we can go, should go, would go, or wish we could but can’t go to the Halloween parade. Do you know what else? We’re all good moms. And here’s the kicker. The kids are just fine.