I was at a community event earlier this week. Having lived here for 18 years, I knew many people. I expected this. What I didn’t count on was that I would run into people who knew my daughter, Kerri, but had no idea Kris existed.
I ran into a former PTO mate, Amy. I hadn’t seen her in years.
“How’s your son doing? I just saw that article in the newspaper about him.” The local paper had recently run a nice story about Andrew attending a prestigious music school.
“He’s doing really good. He’s only been there less than 2 weeks but it seems to be going fine.” Most of my conversations were about Andy and college these days.
“That’s great! I’m just a little confused. In the article he mentions that his brothers were in band. But I distinctly remember you having a daughter. You have a daughter, right?” This woman had every right to be confused. And although our children were not the same ages, they were all in school together from Kindergarten to Senior Year. Her youngest was in her last year of high school, a year younger than Andy. She knew darn well I had a daughter.
Okay, so here I was, in the middle of a crowd of people. Many of them knew exactly who I was. Some knew about Kris. Some didn’t know my children at all. And some knew me as only having boys.
It wasn’t the time or place for any conversation. Besides, she was someone I rarely saw or even planned on telling about Kris.
I smiled and said, “Oh yeah,” nodding the entire time.
“But the article said his brothers. I kept thinking I must have forgotten one of your kids. Do you have 3 boys and a girl?” Her voice was hesitant and tone unsure.
I know that my smile sort of froze like it does when I get caught off guard. My head was bobbing as I said, “You know with Michael being the oldest there are people that don’t even know he exists.” Her forehead crinkled in confusion. She knew who Michael was. But I kept on smiling and acting like I was making sense. “How are your daughters?” I was NOT going there with her.
Her face cleared and she started filling me in on her children. Crisis averted.
This conversation went a little better than the one I had two weeks ago with a fellow parent, Shar, who I could have sworn knew about Kris. That encounter took place in the Back to School aisle at Target.
From across the stack of spiral notebooks, she called a friendly hello. We chatted for a few minutes about getting school supplies for college age children. In what seemed like a natural progression to her but caught me totally off guard was when she said, “But you must be used to this college stuff by now. How is Kerri doing?”
I froze. I couldn’t speak because it was a sucker punch type of surprise. I must have taken too long to speak because she looked up at me with a questioning look. I really messed up that one. “Well, yeah, no I mean yeah.” I know. Quite impressive, right? I can honestly say that I’m not sure what I said after that point. Once again, the setting wasn’t conducive to a heart to heart talk about what’s new in my middle child’s life.
Because I was caught up in last minute college shopping for Andrew, I put the conversation out of my mind and didn’t give it a second thought until the PTO Amy incident.
When I had time to compare the encounters with both Amy and Shar to others I’ve had over the past 3 years, I noticed a big difference in my response. With both Amy and Shar I was surprised but that was the extent of it. Where as in the past that surprise was accompanied by discomfort or sadness or pain, these last two times I was just caught off guard. To be completely honest, it felt good. I take it as a sign that I’ve passed another milestone.
One of the most important things I’ve learned in the last three years is that I have to celebrate every step in the right direction, no matter how small it might seem. Those baby steps add up quickly and they sure help when we encounter a few steps back. And there are always a few steps back!