Here’s to All the Last-Minute Moms and Dads out there!

I — we — don’t mean to do it. Sometimes the events, the appointments, the important dates just sort of sneak up when we’re busiest. And at some times of the year, it’s a shitstorm of sneakiness: medical appointments blending with birthday parties and end-of-year school trips, impending in-law visits and changing work schedules and due dates for tasks. Thank heaven for the alarm on my phone — but if only I would remember to put everything into it . . .

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So here’s to the parental grapevine, and those moms I know who keep their phones handy. I appreciate the stress relief of the jokes, the shared moments, and I’m eternally grateful for the loan of last-minute supplies like bug spray. I may have known about Tuesday’s Pond Study trip since Friday, but somehow, we skipped out on gathering what he needs until about an hour ago. The kid’s got the clothes and the water bottles covered. It’s the bug spray that has me concerned. The voracious local insect hordes love him as much as they love me, so for the kid to go out in the marsh and pond areas gathering samples, he’s going to need to be virtually soaked in something that will keep them bastards off him. I’ve got Skin-so-Soft, but I know he’ll need something stronger, plus maybe a netted hat. Thank heaven that I’ve got friends . . . We’ve nailed the bug spray for tomorrow, and I should be able to get him a netted hat in the morning from the local bait shop.

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Here’s to keeping to a budget, and knowing where to shop for the little things. Although I forgot about the Pond Study tomorrow, I remembered at 3:50 that he had a birthday party to go to at 4:30, and made it to the pet store and back again with plenty of time to wrap the mini decorative beta fish tank I picked up there for $16.99 (I had to get a new bulb for the lizard’s tank anyway, so I was fortunate in killing two birds with one stone!), find him a card from the stash I keep in a shelf under a side table, and drop him off. Had I remembered the damned Pond Study trip, that would have been a good time to keep going to CanTire and get the rest of the stuff he needs . . . but I went home and napped until he had to be picked up again at 5:55 and taken to karate, to do his last training session before his grading tomorrow. Shit, that means I have to make sure the camera battery is charged, too.

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Here’s to making lists (even if we don’t look at them or stick to them or even know where they went to). The act of making the list itself is important. It’s like tying the string around the finger. The brain knows something’s up, even if that thing is still a little distant for a while. Alarms on the phone are better. Sadly, alarms can also be turned off and completely forgotten.

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Here’s to charging the phone! The alarm will only go off if the damned thing has power.

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Here’s to taking care of business right awayMy nine-year-old daughter is annoyingly good at this. She will pack her bags a week before a scheduled visit with the grandparents, or a sleepover with a friend. She insists on shopping for birthday presents the day she gets the invitation. Last week, Bridget brought home a form about Safe-Swim training being provided through her school, but we still had to get a new swimsuit on the quick, because I didn’t move on finding her stuff as soon as she told me. Procrastination, my old enemy . . . we meet again and again and again.

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Here’s to finding out the absolute last final due dates. The good news for ordering school photos is that these days, if you miss the school order deadline, you can still order online through the photography studio for up to a month after the end of school! I know, because I had to search for the info today having not yet ordered the spring prints for either of my children, particularly the one about to graduate from middle school . . .

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So here’s to all the last-minute parents out there, whether you’re single or attached, foster or grand — I raise my coffee to you. We always swear that the next time we know about an event, we’ll be fully prepared. We’ll store extra presents in the closet and spare wrapping paper and tape where we can easily find it. We’ll go out as soon as we get the field trip permission form (damn, I still have to sign that for the Pond Study) and get the kid’s supplies ready days in advance. We won’t be out cruising the streets at 10 pm at night, trying to find an open store that actually has the stuff that we need.

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Here’s to getting creative, when we have to be. And the crazy ideas we get, trying to make do on short notice. I was contemplating buying a hanging mosquito screen door thingy, to cut into a hat-cover for the boy, but I’m holding out hope for the bait shop in the morning.

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Here’s to getting up on time, after staying up late trying to get the things done that couldn’t be done while the kids were still awake.

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Here’s to double-duty, for those who have to keep straight multiple lists and children and schedules and appointments. There’s a set of things to do at home, and a set to do at work. Sometime’s it’s just a nightmare of juggling timetables and rides, and it’s hard to avoid the blame game.

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Here’s to avoiding the blame game. It doesn’t do any good to get mad when time is short and supplies are missing. We can talk about the mistakes later. If the clock is ticking and something is missed, we problem-solving parents know how to hustle — and kids learn how to cope. That doesn’t necessarily mean subjecting my son to slow torture by mosquito hell — if we can’t get everything he’s going to need, he’ll have to miss out on the experience. I know one perspective is to allot the responsibility to the boy: Some parents might blame their child who’s old enough to know the deal for not stepping up to the plate and taking care of business. But I extend that to myself for not providing a better role model or insisting that he get the job done. I’m the parent. It’s up to me to set the example and the tone. Blame can paralyze, though. Blame doesn’t get things done. Guilt’s a motivator, sure, but blame wastes time. Do the mea culpa part after the kid’s on the bus with a full backpack and bug spray.

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(deep breath)

Here’s to you, last-minute running, caffeine-loaded, sleep-deprived moms and dads and guardians. This one’s for you.

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