I only have a land line because I live 1400 miles away from anyone who matters to me, and I have really kick ass long distance. My kids' gramma decided to lose her mind get all philanthropic with it and join the Peace Corp in Africa, and my one true love moved to Costa Rica for the free mangoes and monkeys. So I have to keep a landline, but I don't have to love it.
In the rare event that my phone rings, I know with 85% certainty who will be on the line. It is always either Big Brothers, the guy I work for, one redneck mommy, or the people trying to collect the parking ticket that I just don't seem to ever be able to pay. If it's after nine, it's my sister in law and if it's while I'm gone, it's The Donor. He always calls when I'm out, or when my fat ass is sitting on the phone so I don't hear it, or when I'm, well, um, getting the bats out of the belfry, if you know what I mean. This is noteworthy only because every time I don't answer, he assumes we've all gone down in a blaze of glory and with each recurrent call, his panic grows until the entire fire department shows up at my door. Or worse, my mother in law, at my neighbor's.
Note for all of you husbands: Never get pissy with your wife and send your mother to find her and handle it for you. That woman is just waiting for a reason to get all up in your wife's grill as it is. These things tend to end not well. For anyone, mostly you.
I mention all of this only because my phone has started ringing. On an almost daily basis. The number is always the same and every time I see it, the hairs stand up on the back of my neck. I used to jump every time it popped up on the caller id. I used to panic. I thought something terrible had happened and I thanked god that I am lucky enough to be home all day, because what if I didn't get that call? What if I wasn't available? What if I couldn't save the day?
But after enough time, after getting fooled over and over again, now when I see that number I find my eyes rolling back into my head. I glare at the id box. I talk to the ceiling. I get pissy.
One shouldn't feel that way when their children's school calls.
It started out innocently enough. One day, someone had forgotten a lunch, and god forbid my over-privileged, excessively nourished children go without a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. Another day, one kid couldn't find the other kid and how could I expect a child who plays outside all day every day to be able to find his way down a straight path from the school to our house by himself? One day one kid had a headache and who in their right mind thinks a child can endure the horrors of long division with a throbbing temple?
Can you tell I'm a little jaded now?
I used to rush to the school to rescue them. I used to run into their classrooms, burst through the door, sweep them up and off to home where popsicles and Pokemon reruns awaiting them on the couch. I used to ride large white horses through the doors of the school, bearing the errant lunch or science project or class hamster and save the day. Now, I'm starting to embrace that age-old mantra, "Suck it up, fool."
They call me All. The. Time. They call when they forget their homework, they call when they want to go to Tyler's house, they call when they don't like their lunch, they call when they get invited to a birthday party six weeks from now. And every time, they call me from the school's office line, so I fucking HAVE to answer it. Because the one time I don't will be the one time my kid gets beat up on the playground and I actually *have* to fix it.
I can't imagine that these children constantly hounding the secretary for her phone is a fun way to spend her day, so I went into the office to figure out why the hell these kids seem to have unlimited access to her phone. I went in ready to tell her to knock it the fuck off, that those children and fine and she's getting played for a fool. And then I saw it. A phone. In a cubby. JUST for students.
Oh dear god in heaven, you have got to be kidding me.
When I was a kid, 8 million years ago, there was no phone. I had to be bleeding out of no less that two orifices to get to call home. If I forgot my homework, I couldn't call my mom; I had to call on a higher power. I remember standing in front of my locker in 6th grade literally praying to God that he help my homework surface. Not the most effective system for locker-organization, turns out. If I forgot my lunch, or my homework, I was scah-rewed. And I didn't forget it the next time.
I just wonder what happened between then and now that we can't, we won't, we refuse to let these kids fail occasionally. Why can't my son, who had his lunch packed for him, put in the car for him, and driven to the school with him go hungry if he cannot take .05 seconds out of his morning to put the handle in his hand before he steps out of the car? What is so terrible about making him sit at his desk over lunch and start again on the homework he not only didn't do, but left untouched on his desk in his room? Why the hell do they have a phone line for these kids to use at their discretion?
Because it works, that's why.
Because every time it rings, I answer it. Every time a sheepish voice says "I forgot...." I hop in the car and bring it to him. Every time that voice says it doesn't feel good, I go get it and bring it home. Even when I threaten them with death or worse, loss of YuGiOh cards if they dare call me one more time from that damn phone, even when I sit them down and explain consequence, responsibility and the concept of crying wolf, I still rescue them. Because, in the end, I feel like it's my job. I feel like I'm supposed to because I am a stay at home mother and so I've convinced myself that I have to be on call 24/7 for these people. And though I think it's the right choice for me, for us, I think that in this sense, I am teaching them nothing. I will never tell them to wrap their sweater around their waist and get back to science class because they were dumb enough to put their maxi-pad on upside down, and they'll keep doing it because they know they can. I will never let them go hungry at school, just because I spent 16 years hungry and I don't want them to know what that feels like, and they know it.. They know that mom is over-compensating for something and they've got her right where they want her.
And so, of course, I blame the school and the Enabling Phone when really, I just need to let them have one day in front of a locker with stained pants and a grumbling stomach and God.