Saturday, November 7, 2009

Jenny didn't get the memo

Editor's note: I started this last week and never finished it.

Last night week has to rank as one of the great tragedies of my wife’s short career as a parent.

No, Tate wasn’t sick or injured in any way. Nothing was lost or stolen. We’re all just fine today, except for the regret that Jenny will likely carry with her for years, I’m guessing.

Last night week Castle Mound Montessori School had their Fall Festival. Jenny told me about it a couple of days beforehand and even showed me the flyer, which described a night of games, prizes, refreshments and fellowship with the other kids and parents at the school. Pretty standard festival fare, if you ask me. Buried somewhere in the middle of the information: “Non-scary costumes optional.”

This is where I’m going to detour for a moment into a very short rant about the political correctness or racial sensitivity or religious tolerance or whatever socio-political anxiety it is that leads decision-makers at community institutions to change the names of otherwise well-known events, holidays and celebrations to generic or seasonal approximations of their former titles so as to avoid hurting as many feelings as possible. It irritates me. As a card-carrying liberal I get it, but I still roll my eyes whenever I see it happening.

My point is, this “Fall Festival” was actually a freakin’ Halloween Party. We just missed the code words embedded in the flyer that should have tipped us off – especially the part about costumes.

As we all know by now, my wife doesn't need a holiday (a real one, at least) to put Tate in a costume. The poor kid has looked like a contestant on Let's Make a Deal most of his life (by the way, did you know they were bringing that show back?). So you can imagine Jenny's shock and utter disappointment when we arrived at the Fall Festival and every kid in the building was wearing a costume.

Except Tate, that is. Tate had on his Boo shirt, which was more coincidental than anything. But in light of the occasion, it could have been mistaken for a rather pathetic attempt at costume. Jenny knew this, and her mortification was palpable.

Not that Tate noticed, of course. After being a little freaked out at first by the crowd and noise and oddly-dressed people, Tate got right into party mode and began leading us around the facility, playing games with the other kids and generally being his social self. It's funny how preschoolers just don't care about the way a person looks (or how they look themselves). Social stigmas don't exist at that age – it's only later that kids learn to be judgmental – so Tate thought nothing of playing ring toss with Boba Fett and a bottle of ketchup.

Meanwhile, Jenny begged me to let her drive home and get Tate's seal costume. I refused to let her go, mainly because I didn't want to be left alone at the party chasing after the Tot, and because by the time she made it home, found the costume, drove back, found a place to park and hiked from there to the party, It'd probably be time to leave anyway.

So we stayed for about an hour – Tate had a great time – and headed home around 7 p.m. It didn't help matters that Jenny had signed up beforehand to help clean up after the party, which meant that she had to go back to Castle Mound later and face the teachers – teachers who now thought she was terrible parent, no doubt.

So it was a missed opportunity. Not a big deal in the grand scheme of things, but still – this was like Albert Pujols whiffing on an underhanded pitch. Get 'em next year, sweetheart.