79. Packed lunch.

“I need”, said my nine-year old son in a panicked sounding voice, “a packed lunch! And we have to get to school early! We are going to Sandton to say our poem today!”

Unlike these fine people, I have not yet mastered the art of packing a glass of milk.

Unlike these fine people, I have not yet mastered the art of packing a glass of milk.

If this sounds obscure to you, welcome to the club. I had never heard anything about a poem. Sandton is a rather large suburb near our home. But I have all of the most important qualities of an investigative journalist. Within minutes, I had pieced everything together. My son’s school was taking him and his class on a field-trip. They were going to a sister school in Sandton, where they were going to recite a Roald Dahl poem to some sort adjudicating committee. For marks. He needed to take something to eat along with him.

It all sounded terribly exciting. Or at least it would have, had he chosen to tell me about it at any point before getting into the car on the morning of the outing. We squealed off with smoking tyres to the nearest petrol station, where I dashed in and grabbed a handful of dodgy meat sticks and a packet of chips before haring off to school and getting there just as the bell went off. Crisis averted.

The drudgery of the daily school run.

The drudgery of the daily school run.

“How”, I asked, as I picked him up that afternoon, “was the outing?”

“Oh”, came the rather nonchalant reply, “It wasn’t today. It’s tomorrow.”

Right. At least this time I had some time to prepare.

I made him his packed lunch. A proper one, with far less donkey meat in it. I laid out his smartest school uniform. The special one. The one with no holes in it. I brushed his hair. With gel. A lot of gel. A lot of gel is what is required to stop my son from looking like the lead singer in a Flock of Seagulls tribute band. We left early. I didn’t have to dash anywhere. We even had time to go over the poem in the car.

I now know that this wasn't gel. He was born this way.

I now know that this wasn’t gel. He was born this way.

“How”, I asked, as I picked him up that afternoon, “was the outing?”

“Oh”, came the rather nonchalant reply, ”It wasn’t today.”

This sort of thing would drive me up the wall if I wasn’t so used to it. And not from my son. When I was in university, I spent a week studying for a very important law exam. I hardly slept. I wore out two highlighters. I was ready. For my law exam. I was, as I’m sure you can imagine, a little disappointed when I sat down in the exam room and was presented with a crisp, well thought-out English exam.

But I don't even speak English!

But I don’t even speak English!

When I was first promoted to a management position, I was psyched up and ready for my first conference. I was organised. On top of things. I arrived a twelve for my three o’clock flight. I was, as I’m sure you can imagine, a little disappointed to find that my flight had already left. At three o’clock. On the previous day.

So I don’t get too stressed when I see what’s happening to the boy. There’s something wrong with the wiring of our brains. We cannot empty them of everything but the important stuff. Whatever is there is there, drowning out the announcements and the arrangements until the last minute, when they come rushing in on a tidal wave of anxiety and adrenaline.

“Oh, god! The project I was supposed to be busy with all week is due tomorrow!”

“Oh, god! The teacher told us to dress smartly for the class photo today, and I’m wearing my sports kit!”

One of these things is not like the others.

One of these things is not like the others.

“Oh, god! I was supposed to get my folks to sign a permission slip for the outing today!”

I wish I could say that the boy was going to grow out of this. But he isn’t. It’s part of who he is. What he will do is that he will learn to cope. While others will have organisation and precision, he will develop a specialised brand of mental agility.

He’ll learn how to do a professional looking project in a night. He’ll learn how to make up a full school uniform from bits of clothing other kids have left lying around the playground. He’ll learn how to convince a teacher that his signed permission slip was eaten by wolves.

It happens all the time.

It happens all the time.

And he won’t even have to learn it for himself. Some fathers teach their sons how to fish. Or skip stones, or whistle. Not me. I’m going to teach my boy how to be in the wrong place, on the wrong day, in the wrong pants, and still have a wonderful time.

I could go on, but I hope you will excuse me. I need to go and make a packed lunch. My son is going on an outing tomorrow. He’s going to a school in Sandton to recite a Roald Dahl poem, so we can’t afford to be late.

The boy is learning that mental agility I was talking about. His plan is crude but effective. If he makes us get ready for his outing every day, on one sunny morning it will turn out to be the right day, and all will be right with the world. I couldn’t be more proud.

Well done, little man. Now let's get home and pack some more lunches.

Well done, little man. Now let’s get home and pack some more lunches.

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35 thoughts on “79. Packed lunch.

  1. Eileen says:

    Oh how wonderful for your son to have a matching parent! What a blessing.

  2. LOL. This kind of thing drives me crazy, but it does happen all the time even to those of us who like to think we’ve prepared for everything. Enjoyed!

  3. mariekeates says:

    Ah a kindred spirit! I turned up a day late for a twilight race once, all dressed up with glo sticks and everything, then wondered where everyone was and why the few people around were looking at me a little strangely. If you want to read about it check out the link http://www.fatgirlslimblog.co.uk/?p=2676

  4. Art Brûlant says:

    Still laughing and the “comments and replies” keep it rolling!

  5. A.J. Goode says:

    My son’s version of this is to tell me at 10 p.m. that he needs some kind of baked goods in the morning. I recently found out that he really doesn’t have that many school parties — he just likes sharing my cookies and brownies with his friends!

  6. Arkenaten says:

    Hilarious…and so true. You are a rare man that can cope so well.
    Most kids seem to have an innate ability to infect parents with Panic Syndrome…be it about projects, outings, school functions or PTA meetings and then fade away to watch the telly leaving the ”oldies” to do the work.
    It’s the teachers. They have no idea of how to communicate with adults so they just tell the kids and hope….
    “I told you…”
    “I gave you a note..”
    No, you bloody well DIDN’T!
    My daughter was a ruddy genius at math as a kid but one day she was swamped with homework so I offered to do her arithmetic – simple addy-ups and take aways.
    I whizzed through it and dad saved the day.
    She got 7/10 for her arithmetic and banned her father from ever helping her with homework again. She was 8. My problem was solved.

    Mine left school quite some time ago..
    Best of luck as your lighty gets older….

  7. narf77 says:

    :)…Mini Mcgyver

  8. mollytopia says:

    Beautiful and perfect, and always. This really touched me: “I’m going to teach my boy how to be in the wrong place, on the wrong day, in the wrong pants, and still have a wonderful time.” The best skills he could ever learn. Well done.

  9. Lyn says:

    I can laugh. And I do so heartily.As a grandmother of eight, I no longer have to worry about this sort of thing. It’s now my children’s turn. Do I feel like a sadist for rejoicing that it is happening to them over and over and over again? No. I laugh! 😀

    • 23thorns says:

      I’m not going to laugh, I’m going to help. my grandchildren will always know that they are welcome to pop round to granddad’s for a chat, and that they’ll never go home without a gift of some sort, even if it’s just a cup od a harmonica.

      • Lyn says:

        Oh I don’t mean laugh at my grandchildren, just my kids knowing they will now understand why I went grey so early. My grandchildren never need fear I’ll laugh at them…unless they do something funny. I help them with their school projects and pick them up from school if they don’t want to catch the bus. What is a cup of harmonica?

      • 23thorns says:

        vdamn. that was supposed to say a cup of coffee and a harmonica. in future, if i’m going to be facetious i’m going to have to do some proof reading.

  10. Marcia says:

    I’m so far behind around here, I doubt I’ll ever catch up, but somehow, I just had to see what this was about. I’m glad I did. I love “the boy.” He could be one of my own. He would have fit right in with mine, except for that part about how he was still decades away from being born when they were in school. Thanks for the laugh, 23. I can’t tell you how much I’ve missed stopping by. It won’t be long now before I have time to read to my heart’s content.

  11. ksbeth says:

    you two are the male versions of myself. once showed up for a catering gig, thought it was 12-3, actually was 3-12. dropped my sister off at the airport 24 hours early, at least we were on time. tip of the iceberg.

    • 23thorns says:

      It sounds like, whatever else is going on, you always get there early. Very early. It might be inconvenient, but it beats the hell out of doing things the other way round!

  12. This makes me wonder if you are my husband writing under a pseudonym. I have one of you and one of the smaller version as well. If you are my husband, PLEASE remember to put that photography seminar on your calendar with seven or eight reminders, because I already paid for it.

  13. As long as he develops a healthy dose of “tin-bum” to go with it he will sail through life. 😉

  14. sisteranan says:

    You are officially invited to be part of our ‘clutz sisters’ club. The trick, you see, is to botch everything up completely but carry it off with aplomb. Our motto? ‘I meant to do that.’ Our outings? Oh, we try never to be in the same place at the same time. Bad things could happen.

    • 23thorns says:

      We used to have a club like that, but it got burnt down during the AGM last year. It wasn’t a complete disaster, though; the club secretary had brought along some marshmallows…

      • sisteranan says:

        you see? we do think alike. My husband keeps asking me why i carry decade-old marshmallows in my purse, and i just smile secretively.

  15. I’m pretty sure we share the same type of wiring. Good for the little guy for developing a viable coping strategy. 🙂

  16. Hahahah Well as they say, “practice makes perfect” 🙂

  17. PinotNinja says:

    It’s always better (and more fun) to be flexible than it is to be prepared.

  18. Cheyenne says:

    Love it!

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