The Perpetually Ill-Prepared Child


By the time my son came of an age where his activities needed to be added into the activities our family was already active in, I was at critical mass.  There was no way that I could add even a single new thing to the schedule that I had going on.  I work from home, and that occupies about three or four hours every morning.  I homeschool my kids.  I do boxing training.  I remodeled the inside of our house (myself).  Then, the afternoons are populated with swim team practice, gymnastics lessons, Girl Scouts, CCD, kids' boxing lessons, volunteering with Sew Much Comfort, and whatever else happens to hit the calender.  Thank Heavens for crock pots, because without one we'd starve.

Or eat sandwiches every day.  And cereal for dinner.

So when it became Cub Scout time while Air Force Guy was deployed, there was very little left to give.  I was absolutely adamant that my son would not be denied an activity important for social growth and college prospects because his sisters were busy fulfilling theirs.  That's not fair.  However, I just had nothing left to give.  And so for an entire year we were the family that showed up to meetings on time, but rarely in proper uniform.  Patches didn't get sewn on, memorization activities were skipped, and the poor kid didn't earn a single belt loop award that wasn't done as a pack activity.  In fact, we were all lucky if I remembered to check my son's pants before we left to make sure that his newly developed aversion to underwear wasn't being put into practice.  We attended more functions with that kid going commando than I want to admit.

I constantly used the deployment excuse, and after a few months I began to feel tremendously guilty about it.  After all, most of the pack parents worked, had multiple children they were running to various activities, and were just as exhausted as I was.  I felt like I was not only not pulling my weight, but that I was letting my son down.  He didn't get to do the hiking club, the bike club, or the ice skating activity because they all conflicted with other things.   That was not the sort of growing experience I wanted for any of my children.

When AFG came home, we made a deal that he would take over Cub Scout duties.  Not only would it relieve me of an activity that I had no time for, it would give him some much needed Dad/son time.  It partially works - when AFG is home.  But the truth is that our lifestyle doesn't lend itself to easily to these deals, and today I found myself taking my son to another Cub Scout meeting because his Dad is once again away from home.

It seems simple enough - except that when I handed the activity over to AFG, I deliberately pulled back from it myself.  As a result, things have gone a little more smoothly this year (the Pinewood Derby car actually got done), but there are still patches that aren't sewn on and belt loops that aren't being worked towards.  And today, when I had to take the boy to his meeting, there was a distinct lack of certain necessary uniform items.  Although there was underwear.  So at least there was that.

It really hit me when I was discussing the situation with another mother at the meeting.  Her son hadn't done an assigned workbook, and for once we were up to date on an assignment.  "We did it while on the plane!" I told her.  But I also didn't want to make the other mother feel like we were of those uber-capable families  that completes all Cub Scout activities, participates in three sports, volunteers at the homeless shelter four times a week, is in church choir, and manages a delicious gourmet sit-down dinner every single night.  Because we aren't.  So I added, "But then again, my son didn't manage to get completely in uniform today, either."

She answered, "No, he's didn't."

Well.  A bit rude, maybe.  It wasn't like I had pointed at her and gone, "NYAH NYAH!  Your son didn't do his workbook!"   But the truth is that I had completely forgotten to check my son's state of uniform before we left home and he was missing a few key items.  Like his scarf.  And his belt.  And socks.  I checked the underwear, but not the socks.

And I realized that being ill-prepared for certain things has become our default position at this point.  It's not just Cub Scouts, we missed the deadline to register daughter #2 for her March swim meets because I forgot to record the date change when it was announced and I didn't pay close enough attention in the meantime.  Daughter #3 has missed Girl Scout meetings that I totally forgot about.  Last week I fell asleep and slept through gymnastics on Wednesday.  And we haven't seen my son's CCD workbook since week four of the program - and I even tried to keep on top of that one!

I'm hyper-organized about many things:  bills, information, filing, pet care, household maintenance, and shopping (my lists are made in department order).  But schedules?  That was the something that had to give.  And I find myself apologizing for it constantly.

I've also found myself celebrating when activities get canceled - it's unexpected free time!  A gift!

I know I can't be the only person with this issue - I've talked to many others who report the same issues; trying to keep dog paddling forward when others manage to execute a perfect butterfly stroke across the pond.  In fact, quite a few of the families I've talked to with the same problem aren't military families at all - tight schedules certainly don't discriminate.  But somehow it adds just that more frustration when your partner is gone frequently.  I don't *like* having the kid who is perpetually tousled.  But it also is what it is.

And also, I've done the math.  Nine years until all four kids are out of the house.  I won't even be in my mid-forties by then!  It sounds like perpetual summer, if you ask me.  I plan to move to paradise.  And I plan to leave my Day Planner behind.

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