Slummin’ in North Atlanta

IMG00002-20091017-1913 At times, I find myself completely ill-prepared for parenting. One would think that by now, I’d have a general handle on the basic tenets of parenthood, but every now and then a new experience reminds me just how far I still have to go.

The past Saturday night was “Movie Night with Dad” at my son’s school. The gist: “Bring your blankets and flashlights and come sit out under the stars and watch the animated movie, “Space Chimps” with your kids!”

OK sure. That meant turning down Georgia Tech/Virginia Tech tickets, missing part of the Alabama/South Carolina game, and it also meant sitting outside in the cold, miserable mist for the duration, but MLI wanted to do it and I didn’t want to let him down.

So I packed Hot Chocolate, a neon glow stick, a blanket, jackets and our little lawn chairs and out we headed. Arriving at the school, instead of a crowded soccer field, instead we found a big handpainted sign: Movie Night Moved into the Cafeteria.

(so much for hoping MLI would get cold and want to go home early)

Gathering our stuff, we headed inside and found ourselves faced with a jam-packed cafeteria full of lounging parents and screaming kids. It was hot; it was crowded; and it was noisy. NOT my favorite three conditions for public events.

Determined to make the most of it, MLI and I found a spot near the middle-edge of the gym and I unpacked the chairs and got us set up…only to immediately realize we were sitting in front of a 3-foot concert speaker that started blaring Miley Cyrus tunes! AAAARRRGGH! (BTW – Would someone tell her she CAN’T sing!)

Luckily, I was able to scooch our chairs a bit over so that the speaker wasn’t directly in our ears. Thus positioned, we sat down to survey our kingdom, which consisted of a small square of hard cafeteria linoleum. I looked over at MLI and asked, “You OK buddy?” He looked up and nodded.

But you know how it is…the longer you sit somewhere, the more you notice the little details. For example, while we had eaten at home, seemingly every other parent there had brought pizza. In comparison, my hot chocolate seemed both unnecessary and meager.  Another “little” detail I discovered was that while I had pulled out the only two “lawn chairs” I had out of the dirty garage, other parents had their “Lands End” or other brand name chairs with them. Mine were dingy green with (is that a spider egg?!) “things” hanging from cobwebs off the arm handles–theirs were coordinated color schemes and heavy-duty steel tubing. Mine was Wal-Mart “on sale” pastel and theirs were “corporate branded Thank You” gifts with cup holders and monogramming.

I was truly embarrassed, both for myself and for MLI. In all fairness, this event was supposed to be outside in the dark, where little details like wouldn’t matter; but it was just another lesson in the fact that when you’re a parent, you have to be prepared for everything. Next time, I promise to step it up a notch. After having already lashed out at another parent this past week after she e-mailed everyone asking for donations for a basket (after having mentioned how she and her husband were donating a set of Golf Clubs and Falcons Tickets with sideline passes) I really need to show that I’m not a total tool.

Sorry Chipper Jones’ family. I didn’t mean to bring down the “wealth index” of the rest of the school!

On a sidenote, despite all the problems, I got a firsthand opportunity to watch how my son handles the opposite sex. About halfway through the movie, a cadre of three girls came weaving their way through the chairs and blankets. Coming to a halt in front of MLI, they all said, “Hi Ethan.” I looked over and he was hunkered down in his chair trying not to look at them. Then, one of them had the audacity to lean over and whisper into his ear! I was dying!!! It was great. I tried to get him to go with them and sit up front, but he wasn’t budging. Can’t say I blame him. I was similarly shy when I was his age. But that made the rest of the evening all worthwhile. For me anyway. For MLI, I think the unlimited Starbursts did the trick.