I believe I have discovered THE biggest difference between life with a singleton firstborn and what it's like by the time you're on your third.
When Noah's preschool sent home announcements about parties and other special events, Jason and I would both immediately clear our calendars and charge up the camera batteries. And the backup camera batteries. I chaperoned every class trip, never missed a field day and have dozens and dozens of photos of him eating cupcakes with his classmates, none of whom I remember the names of anymore. But it was all nothing but magical preshus memories and dammit, I was going to be there for every single one of them, even if it killed me or got me fired from all the things.
The concessions started when it was Ezra's turn to start school. Usually only one of us could attend the parties or picnics, though thankfully his school never had as many as Noah's. (Or maybe it did, and I simply got lazier about checking his various backpacks and hoard-boxes for notes and missed them all.) We had an informal sliding scale of parental priority: An IEP meeting was worth both of us taking an afternoon off; a parent-teacher conference to discuss a three-year-old Ezra's fingerpainting skills probably only needed one of us there. I couldn't chaperone Noah's trip to the zoo this year — something I think he's still bent out of shape about — and I missed everybody's Valentine's Day parties but damn it, I showed up at not one, but TWO Halloween parades. At different schools AND times! Give me some credit.
And then Ike's school sent this home and I was just like ggguuuuuuuuuuuhhhhhhhhhhhh.
A toddler "graduation" parade. For two and three year olds. Around a parking lot.
Instead of being UTTERLY DELIGHTED BY THE WHIMSY OF IT ALL — all I could think about was how I was totally getting ripped off here; it's the last day of school, keep him there until noon like I done paid you for, dammit.
But of course, I went. I jumped off a conference call at 10:45 because yeah, I have to go to a graduation parade for my two year old WHO IS NOT ACTUALLY GRADUATING, HE'LL BE IN THIS EXACT SAME CLASS NEXT YEAR, PLEASE FEEL FREE TO BRING THIS UP AT MY ANNUAL PERFORMANCE REVIEW AS WELL.
I went because I didn't want Ike to be the ONE toddler there without a parent present. However, he was one of only TWO toddlers who didn't have both parents present, and one of maybe FOUR toddlers who didn't have both parents and at least one set of grandparents and maybe some aunts and uncles present. Whuuut. A lot of them dressed up for the occasion, everybody brought SLR cameras and a few people brought flowers for their little graduates.
(Buncha overachieving rookies, if you ask me.)
(Well, except for the families who had clearly brought along multiple older siblings. Those people were just...my betters.)
So there I was, by myself, with a half-charged iPhone, waiting for my non-graduating two year old to emerge from his classroom and march around a suburban church's parking lot.
He came out, looking pretty baffled, holding tightly onto a beaded rope for proper parking-lot safety...and then promptly bit it on the asphalt after about 10 feet. BABY DOWN. WE HAVE A BABY DOWN!
To his credit, he never let go of his bead (because RULES), but instead kind of...lay there like flipped-over turtle for a minute, unable to stand back up because of the death-grip he had on the rope. The kids ahead of him struggled to comprehend why the rope wasn't moving anymore and the kids behind him tried not to step on him and end up in a massive toddler pile-up.
I stood on the sidelines, unsure whether I should...intervene? Go to him? Or would that disrupt these Very Formal Graduation Proceedings too much? So I just flapped my hands and shout-whispered "IKE! IKE! STAND UP IKE!" until a teacher noticed and helped him up.
"That one's mine," I said proudly to the dad standing next to me.
He wasn't hurt in the slightest, and for a second it seemed like Ike was going to make a full recovery from the faceplant.
Aaaaaand it basically went on like that from there.
We all followed the kids around the parking lot in a Giant Parental Horde, cheering and snapping pictures and shooting video, like some kind of bizarre reverse Pied Piper scenario, while Ike bleated for me and I tried to give him smiles and thumbs up and assurances that lo, I WOULD RESCUE HIM SOON. JUST HOLD IT TOGETHER FOR LIKE, 20 MORE FEET.
His crying turned out to be contagious, and by the end of the "parade" there were at least three other children sobbing in confusion.
GOOD WORK, SON. *FISTBUMP*
It was, of course, completely hilarious, heartbreaking and mighty adorable all at the same time. I'm so glad I got to go.
Congratulations, Ike! Just think, this time next year they'll probably make you do it all over again.