It’s Too Damn Early

March 31st, 2022

We just had our teacher conferences. They had the kids do self-assessments. Per Eliza, her strength at school is “climbing” and the thing she needs help with is “some of the harder holds.”

Phoebe told the teacher her strength is “hamburgers.” The teacher asks me with a straight face, “Do you know what she means by that?”

No, I don’t know what she means by that! My daughters are a particular combination of my genes and Jon’s, and that makes them weird and inscrutable, but also, fastidious. This morning, Eliza decided to reorganize this bathroom drawer:


It took her about 15 minutes to wind those ribbons up so tightly. No, she did not want any advice or help, and no, she was not willing to settle for anything less than perfect. There were actually three ribbons, but Phoebe came along and unwound one. It was a terrible scene, and yes, we were late for school again.

Right around the time the school district completely eliminated virtually all COVID protocol, including contact tracing and mandatory masks, we got letters in the mail perfunctorily informing us of how many times we’ve been late to or absent from school this year. 

As a parent who has been a consummate rule-follower with keeping my kids home every time they’ve had a sniffle, I felt a little disenfranchised by the timing of this shaming letter, even though the sensible side of me knows it’s a form letter they have to send out. 

I kept imagining the conversations I would have with the social services person who would eventually come to my door to assess my family’s inability to get to school on time, if at all. 

I pictured her sitting in the corner, taking notes, while I scrambled around threatening Phoebe to get out of bed and watching Eliza melt down over a ribbon that won’t wrap right. I pictured her watching me trip over the line of boots and backpacks in front of the door because we do not have a mudroom in this old house. I pictured her following me out to the car and watching me slam on the brakes 15 times before leaving the driveway. Someone forgot to close the front door. Someone forgot her stuffy. Someone has to pee. Someone forgot to wear shoes. Someone has everything, but they just dropped it all on the floor of the car, including the breakfast, and it’s everywhere. (This is why I had a mouse living in my car BTW.) Someone can’t get her three-point-harness to buckle over her particularly bulky outfit today.

Some days, I don’t even try to be on time. I message the teacher and inform her, “We are going to be very late.”

When I got that letter from the principal, I also fantasized about unloading on him because frankly, school starts too damn early! I have no idea whose decision that was, though — probably not his. And honestly, I have friends who wake up at 5am to exercise, so the least I could do is try to drop my daughters off by 8am, right?


For a few days, we were actually on time for school. But we’re back to our normal rhythm now, and I suspect this won’t change for the next 10+ years. Ideally, their abominable attendance record won’t hold my kids back from furthering their education. They are going to be pro rock climbers anyway.

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One Response to “It’s Too Damn Early”

  1. Asher says:

    I’m reading back through these installments of your writing and they are so good, quipped, funny and precisely the kind of parental angst that is inescapable. No matter what. I can’t stop reading them and yet I feel like each little essay you have written has me cornered in the corner parenting has already cornered me in.

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