I forgot to pick up my 10 year-old son Maddux from school on Tuesday and when I finally remembered and arrived, at about 3:55, he stood there on the edge of the sidewalk at Baldwyn Middle School, stone-faced, blankly staring at the southern sky. He never made eye contact with me as he opened the door and threw his backpack into the passenger-side floorboard with more vigor than usual.
“Sorry about that,” I said.
“S’all right,” he replied.
“Well, how was your day otherwise?”
It really was not that big of a deal, I thought – 45 minutes – and, in fact, I had noticed that he was not alone there on the sidewalk. There were three or four others who also waited for their rides to arrive. I felt pretty good that, at least, I wasn’t the LAST parent to pick up their child.
Unfortunately, I later learned that the rest of the group that stood there had all been in after-school detention. So, as it turned out, I actually WAS the last one to pick up a “non-incarcerated” child at BMS on Tuesday. There’s no way around it; I’ll go ahead and own that.
A so-called friend consoled me Wednesday morning.
“Don’t worry about it, Clark. He probably picked up some great skills – how to shoot dice, use a switchblade – something he’ll need later on.”
I was happy to have given my so-called friend such enjoyment.
I always tell my four sons this: “I am RIGHT 98% of the time. So if you do EXACTLY what I say, you will also be RIGHT 98% of the time. If, however, you try to pick and choose that rare moment when I am wrong, the laws of probability insure that you will be WRONG more than 2% of the time.” They usually stare at me, stone-faced, when I say that. Yet I have heard them repeat it when they did not think I was listening. They know.
I dropped Maddux off at Art 108 late Tuesday afternoon where his mother was teaching an after-school art class to 1st-graders. It was there that the tale of my mild and inconsequential error grew to legendary proportions, so much so that, before I knew it, it was a community topic on social media.
Now, Maddux is the perfect genetic mixture of his mother and me. He stood there Tuesday on that sidewalk and REFUSED to admit to any teacher or administrator that there could possibly be anything wrong. He NEVER considered walking the twenty feet to the office and calling to see if anyone was coming to get him. To do that would have been to admit defeat, to admit that something was out of his control. He gets that from me. And although that characteristic may need to be tempered with a little reasoning over time, I’m proud he’s got it.
Maddux’s mother, the lovely and talented Rothann, is smart, funny, artistic, and conscientious. She also is gifted in prodding – EXCESSIVELY – for the salacious details of any event, and before Maddux left Art 108 on Tuesday afternoon, she had used her gift to stir her half of the genes present in our 10 year-old to a boiling lather. So stirred, the pair of them bounced “Can you BELIEVE he did that?” comments back and forth, apparently for hours, until their woe-filled exchange culminated with a Facebook post that included pictures of Maddux both saddened and outraged.
There, my so-called friends could weigh in on the matter. Nice.
I scrolled through the ensuing line of commentary, which essentially established my place among the most villainous and inept fathers in recorded history. I was dejected to find not one statement sympathetic to my point of view.
Couldn’t someone have said, “Hey, can’t you actually see Clark’s office from the middle school? What is it, maybe 300 yards? ”
Or “Didn’t the fall of the Roman empire begin in the first place, not with debauchery, but when Roman dads started having to pick up their Roman kids at Forum Elementary School?”
Yet I got nothing.
So I’ll close this topic for the time being, admittedly errant and guilty, but still slightly perturbed at the lack of sympathy shown for the devil by his so-called friends.