And the Winner is…

She’d written the short story, titled Danger in the Permarquette River, and re-copied it, twice, to hand it in for her school assignment. Then her teacher sent home a note about the Paris English Young Author’s Fiction Festival, encouraging students to submit their stories to the city-wide competition.
I typed it in to the computer, resisting any urge to change a word here or there, to improve the syntax. I made a few suggestions for edits, most of which she rejected – and I honored this because it was, after all, her story.
I followed carefully the explicit submission directions: Short-pants’ name shouldn’t appear on any page of the story; certain information had to be in the body of the email message to which the story was attached, the subject line of the email had to be titled in a specific way so the entry would be received and noted. All the details confirmed, I hit send, checked off that box and moved on to the next thing.

This is how I live, checking off a box and moving on to the next one. That particular week, just like this last one, was jammed with too many apparently important and urgent tasks. That was the same week as the Spelling Bee, competition that Short-pants was also keen to enter. (Incidentally, she graciously accepted the news when we learned that she did not advance to the final round.) I also remember that I was getting ready to go somewhere, which always adds an extra layer of stress. Preparing to go away, but also preparing to be gone; organizing things at home so they operate as they should in my absence. Then there’s the delicate management of personal appointments. De-facto always rolls his eyes when I have one of my “how am I going to get it all done?” meltdowns, pointing out to me I might be less pressed if I wasn’t also fitting in a haircut, a facial, wax and pedicure. He’ll never understand how, at my age, these things are not luxurious indulgences but rather critical acts of maintenance; an investment in my our future.

Though this week only the most essential grooming made the schedule; a haircut put me in good stead to go on yet another trip. I know I’m lucky to travel as I do, but sometimes I’m too overloaded to appreciate it. Saturday we go to India for a work assignment, after which De-facto and I will stay on for just a few days for some much needed R&R alone, as a couple.

When the email landed in my box informing me that Short-pants was a finalist in the young author’s writing competition, my inner peacock preened for her. The message said that she was among the finalists in her grade level, without indicating exactly which award. Did she win? Second place? One of who-knows-how-many honorable mentions? I don’t know. I just know she won something. I know that this awards program is a 2-hour engagement on a Friday evening, at rush hour, on the opposite side of the city, on the eve of a trip that I am barely ready to take and we leave at the crack of dawn the next day. Of course then Short-pants’ theater teacher sent home a note about how her rehearsal will run later on this very Friday, to prepare for their end-of-year spectacle. (Oh, June, the month of something every night: a performance, a recital, parent-teacher meeting, end-of-school-party.) Not to mention that Ricky and Lucy, who I haven’t seen in more than three weeks, invited us for a potluck dinner in our courtyard, all of this happening on the same Friday night. Tonight.

I suppose this isn’t the right spirit. I know you all don’t want another rant about how busy I am and what a pain in the ass it is to juggle everything. You all juggle a lot too. We all do.

But that’s the point. We’re all jugging a lot: our work, our families, our friends. We’re overloaded with information to ingest, there are more activities to engage with than ever before and who can fault any of us for trying to take advantage of all of them? In this day in age, especially with most mother and fathers multi-tasking, we’re all up to our ears. It makes the surprise element of this event seem more insulting than intriguing.

So the question is: do I arrange for Short-pants to get out of her rehearsal early, dash away with her, squeeze into the metro to get to the 16th arrondissement in time to watch a probably more than 2-hour ceremony honoring a bunch of children I’ve never met in my life, so that she can receive her award in person and have the experience of having a small crowd give her grand applause her as she approaches the podium? What if we schlep through all that only to hear them call out her name, in a string of others, as an honorable mention?

I remember when I was in school, receiving a letter to attend an awards ceremony like this, not knowing exactly what prize would be mine, arriving with a few anticipatory butterflies. What I found out later that night is that my parents knew all along what prize I was winning. They’d received a different letter, so they’d be sure to attend. I wish I could get that letter now. I fished for it, writing back to the organizers and explaining how we might not be able to attend. No hints were given to inspire our attendance. Perhaps that is a sign.

Every other parent who’s organizing their nutty schedule this Friday night is probably going through the same machinations. If we all knew the outcome, well, then only the win, place and show winners would probably turn up. So much for that grand applause.

So what do I do? Buck up and make the trek to the far western side of Paris so that Short-pants can accept her award, whatever it is, and cheerfully celebrate the success of other children while supporting the art of writing at the primary school level? Or do I blow it off, give myself a break and take it easy the night before we leave, calmly packing my valise, hanging out in the courtyard with my family and my neighbors, savoring this summer’s first bottle of rosé?

What would you do?

9 Responses to “And the Winner is…”

  • Caroline Fraley Says:

    Several thoughts went through my mind reading this piece. And I struggled to express them – took me back in time through a series of situations with Arthur – until I thought, well, this is really the dilemna between mind and heart, duty and love. We want it all but what is it that we really need, now? What would I do? Because of where I am today, I would choose according to how I felt, what my heart, intuition would be telling me – and accept that my mind may try to wage war against my choice. And that might be fun to observe until the arrival of peace.

  • Betty Shamas Says:

    I know I would “Schlep” with her across town……:) safe travels and let us know “the prize”….

  • Kunyi Says:

    OOOh – that’s a hard one. I’m remembering two things at once – one is reading a study result saying that what kids really want is for their parents to be less tired and more relaxed. The other is how i felt when i was about 8 or 9 at the end of a ballet recital when my parents didn’t show up backstage, and the let-down (remarkable that this stays with me at 50 – at heart, am I still an 8-year old in a 50 year old body?)

    I think I would look to your daughter, and what you know of her. I think my own kids put up with, rather than enjoyed, traipsing to recitals, competitions, etc. If I had bothered to ask them I would have saved myself a lot of schlepping. And still, children are so different. I would do it if I knew it were really important to her. And, it’s also good for little ones to learn that their mama’s and papa’s have needs too. Perhaps it would suit her better to have fun with her beloved family (immediate and extended) rather than schlep and be schlepped.

    I don’t think it will harm your beloved daughter at all if you cut yourself and your family some slack and stay home – if that’s what you choose to do. When I can remember, I ask myself whether I can do something with “grace” – in my reaction is always the answer.

  • Elandryl Says:

    Hard choice…

    If it was me, well, I would choose the first. I remember how sad was when my parents were not showing up in moments like those, incredibly boring for everybody, apart from the expectating kids.

    I’m on a move constantly, have no kids so far (keep tellng myself I’m too young even if that’s not entirely true) and if it’s sometimes hard now, can’t imagine with a family. Good luck with your choice whatever will be!

  • Cyndi Says:

    My initial reaction was to make the trek. However, upon reflection, I came up with an alternative solution. For me, the biggest thing to do would be to celebrate her success. It doesn’t matter if she won honorable mention or first place, the fact is- she was a finalist. If I went to the event and it was a bore, and she thought it was a bore, then the night would be a bore (and I would have ended up annoyed). So- I probably would have gone to the outdoor picnic but done something to celebrate her winning with the family and friends(I eat chocolate cake to celebrate everything!). I would have also printed copies of her story to do a book signing with all of the guests at the outdoor party.

  • Tracy Weisman Says:

    I know it is not an easy decision, but I would go. They care, even if they don’t say so. And soon…sooner than you will want in hindsight…you will be wondering where the time went and she will be gone. But I do feel your pain of too-muchness.

  • Santafelee Says:

    Ask Short-pants if she can wait to find out exactly what her story came in as and ask her if she might rather celebrate the finalist status with a reading, book signing and cake among family and friends at home…that seemed like a great idea… or make that trip to the other side of Paris!!!!???
    Good grief – it could well have happened already!
    Let me know the outcome….

  • Marinera Says:

    what did you do in the end? 🙂

    • MDBlogs Says:

      In the end, we stayed home. Short-pants’ friend’s mother sent us an SMS from the event, to let us know that she had won 3rd place! We made a big fuss and toasted her and celebrated her as much as we could. Of course, then I felt a bit bad that we hadn’t gone, but I also know sometimes I don’t have to be super-mom, and that night I needed to stay close to home. Because Short-pants is the amazing soul that she is, I think she really understood.

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