The Late Pass
I'm notoriously late in my personal life. Not on purpose, of course. Things just have a way of popping up that leave me running to whatever's next. I've been late for so long, that even when I'm on time or early, some people still blame me for being late. I'd actually meant to write this blog entry a number of months ago, but once again, I'm late. And in the case of the story I'm about to tell, I'm totally in the wrong as well.
My daughter is in kindergarten, and required to be at school by 8:35am. I work hard to try not to instill my bad habits in her, and so most of her first year at public school, we've gotten her up early, and made sure she made it to school on time. But one morning, finally, we were late.
If you do come late to school, there's a table that's set up that you must pass by. And there's a woman that sits at the table who yells at anyone who passes after that time, "Late pass! Parents--come get your child a late pass before they go onto class! Kids may not go to class without a pass!" (This woman is also assigned to yell in similar fashion during the lunch hour to help keep the kids moving through like large herds of cattle.) I've referred to her as the "late pass lady." She looks tough. She sounds tough. She takes no prisoners.
On this particular morning, the reason we were actually late, was because we were delayed while helping a friend in the school lobby, whose son was having a mild asthma attack. We were probably less than 50 feet away from the late-pass table as we helped watch him so his mother could find the school nurse to help out.
At 8:48, our friend took her son home, and we ventured forward towards the classroom.
"You need to get a late pass," the woman at the table said to me.
"My daughter is in kindergarten," I replied.
"She needs a late pass. Sign her name and class, sign the pass, and drop it off with the teacher."
Not an ounce of sympathy. Had she not seen what was going on just down the hall? I had the sense it would be much worse to make a scene in front of my daughter, so I took the pass.
My cheeks grew red. My face was flushed. What good was it going to do to give my kindergarten-aged daughter a late pass? As she handed me a small blue slip of paper, I felt my blood pressure rising, and was hoping this wouldn't traumatize my kid…as much as it was evidently traumatizing me.
"Mama, what is this?" My daughter asked. I explained, trying to keep calm.
As I handed the pass to her teacher, I was filled with shame. I began to worry what would happen if we got more of them. I was fearful of asking what kind of punishment came with any sort of late pass collection. For heavens sakes-this is kindergarten! If the kids are late, I'd venture to say that there's likely a good reason for it most of the time. (Kids having meltdowns, needing more sleep, parents having meltdowns-needing more sleep…)
I was determined to find a way to make sure we'd get no more late passes (in the event we were late again). I was going to have to figure out how to soften up the late-pass-lady. Of course I know this was wrong. But I couldn't take the anxiety of not knowing when we'd next be recipients.
A few days later, as we walked into school, early, I stopped at the late pass table, and mentioned to the late-pass-lady how healthy her hair always looked. What was her secret, I asked? It DID look healthy, and compared to my frizzy mess, she looked like a regular Breck girl.
"Why thank you!" she said. "My secret? I'm a hairdresser on the side. I'm happy to give you a consultation." She had a heavy Brooklyn accent.
"Uh, wow!" I said. "I had no idea. Well yes, I'm certainly in need of some hairdo help."
"I'm Francine,*" she said. "I'll give you my number, and you feel free to come see me. I work out of a chair close by on the weekends."
Me and my big mouth. I pass by Francine every single weekday. I now felt obligated to put my money where my mouth was. After all, there was no telling how many late passes I'd end up with if I acted as the conversation had never happened. Sure, my imagination may have been working on overtime, but when you've got a track record like mine, I couldn't stop myself.
Another day passed. "So--just let me know when you want to make an appointment," Francine said.
"Do you do kids cuts?" I asked.
"Sure!" she responded.
I figured I'd ask for a trim for my daughter. Give it a test run. Yes, use her as the guinea pig. Wrong. I know. Trust me, I know.
I took Jade to her salon. Francine gave her a great cut. She couldn't have been nicer. We had a lovely conversation. I heard about how Francine was a full-time stylist, but then when she became a mother, she decided to get a job at the school so she could spend more time with her kids. But now, her kids are grown up, and out of school, and she works as a hair stylist on the weekend, but she stays at our daughter's school because she loves kids. I couldn't have felt more ridiculous. This woman was lovely. Not a mean bone in her body.
I got my haircut by her two weeks later. My husband, who used to go the local barber, now also gets his hair cut by her. She's our official family hair stylist.
There have been a few days since, when we've arrived late to school. Francine told us to head on into class--not to worry about the late pass.
But, I've smiled at her and taken the passes, and I've re-learned a lesson that I originally learned back in kindergarten--don't judge a book by it's cover.
*Names have been changed to protect the innocent.
This is an original NYC Moms blog. Eden's still working to try and be on-time as much as possible.