79: Hard Shoes to Fill

79: Hard Shoes to Fill

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: The Multitasking Mom's Survival Guide

Hard Shoes to Fill

If evolution really works, how come mothers only have two hands?

~Milton Berle

“Good morning, Craig,” I said to my boss as I entered the small real estate appraisal office where I worked. It was a little after nine o’clock in the morning but my boss was flexible with my start time. He knew I liked to be the one to drop off my kids at school in the mornings.

“Good morning,” he said. He grinned, looking suspiciously like the proverbial cat that swallowed the canary.

“So, did you forget something this morning?” Craig asked, the grin never leaving his face.

I looked myself over — all necessary body parts were covered. I had my purse, my keys. Okay, so I wasn’t wearing make-up, but that wasn’t anything new. Mornings were too hectic for a luxury like make-up!

“No,” I said, “I don’t think so.” He could hardly contain himself.

“Well, your son’s school called,” he said. That’s never a good way to start a conversation but I assumed it wasn’t anything serious or he wouldn’t be smiling so much.

“Yes?”

“Apparently you sent Josh to school without his shoes!” Craig could no longer hold it in and he started laughing. “How did you not notice he wasn’t wearing shoes?”

I had no answer.

“I’ll be back,” I said, walking back through the door without even stopping at my desk. I headed to my car and began retracing my way back to Josh’s school.

In my defense, my son wasn’t completely shoeless. He had socks on… and flip- flops. Not exactly barefoot, but not exactly a fashion statement either. He was so embarrassed he refused to go to class and insisted on waiting in the office until I got there with shoes.

“Hey, buddy,” I said, handing Josh his sneakers. “What happened?”

“I don’t know, Mom. I meant to put on my shoes, but I guess I forgot. I’m sorry.” I gave him a hug, sent him on his way, and began the thirty-minute trek back to work. I wondered — how was it that I sent my son to school in socks and flip-flops? What can I say? Life was hectic, shoes were forgotten and this mother didn’t notice.

I considered myself a multitasking master; I had to be as this was a very busy season of life. It was a season filled with the many activities of two school-aged children — school projects and sports, social events and scouts, among other things. I was grateful for a job that allowed me the flexibility to take them to school and to be there for after-school activities. It wasn’t a challenging job, but I was in college part-time to finish my bachelor’s degree and that provided all the challenge I could handle. Therefore, doing two things at once became second nature during this time of my life.

Did you know that Chuck E. Cheese’s, the children’s pizza and game parlor, is a great place to pay your bills? After the pizza and soda were ordered and the tokens bought, I would find a nice booth to set up shop. Notice I didn’t say a quiet booth. If I did, you would think this was a fairy tale. Then I would spread out my equipment — pens, checkbook, bills, calculator and tokens. Locking my fingers together, I would stretch them back till I heard them crack and then off to work. Pay a bill, dole out some tokens. Pay another bill, dole out more tokens. When the last token was gone and the final envelope stamped, we said goodbye to Chuck E. Cheese’s and headed home. I felt a certain amount of satisfaction for getting my bills done but I also felt a good deal poorer.

While most college students would find a quiet table at the library to study, I found that the bleachers at Little League baseball games work just as well. Thankfully, baseball is a slow-paced sport — I might never have passed my college courses if my son had played soccer. But with baseball you have a lot of down time, time spent waiting for your little player to get up to bat or make a play. While those base hits, slides home and outs are precious moments, so were the minutes squirreled away during the down time. I never went to a game without my textbooks. It was such a regular sight that the other parents would often ask, “So, what class are you taking now?”

Yes, multitasking served me well, but it was not without its glitches. This state of busyness and juggling was bound to have mishaps — like the time I went to my first college statistics class and forgot my calculator. Another student graciously offered to let me borrow her extra calculator, but considering you needed a PhD to know how to use it, it didn’t help me much.

But the agony of defeat was balanced out by the thrill of victory, like the time I received an honorable mention for a personal essay writing contest sponsored by the college. Sure, I was the oldest student at the awards ceremony, and the only one who brought her children. But there was nothing like sharing that special moment with my kids and seeing their pride when I was handed my winnings — a large volume of Roget’s Thesaurus. The size of the tome impressed my children and they figured I must have done something great to get a book that big.

I wish I could say that the day Joshua forgot his shoes was our last shoe escapade, but sadly it wasn’t. After I finished my college degree I took a corporate job. I still wanted to have the ability to be there for my kids’ after-school activities, so I chose a job that allowed me to start at six in the morning. The worst thing about six in the morning is not that it is so early, though that was not pleasant, but that it is still very dark. I often dressed in the dark so I wouldn’t wake my sleeping husband. One day while at work I noticed that I was walking with a limp. As I looked at my shoes I realized that I had grabbed two different shoes with different sized heels. Unfortunately, I had no one to call to bail me out, and embarrassed or not, I had to limp through the day.

My kids are grown now but I learned a lot during that season of life. I learned to be an accomplished multitasker. I learned to accept less than perfect outcomes. I learned to laugh at the mishaps that were bound to happen. And I learned to always check your shoes, and those of your children, before you leave the house.

~Lynne Leite

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