“I’m exhausted. We need to get to sleep now,” Dan said. It was 9:30pm last Thursday.
“What a tiring night,” I chimed in, throwing things from the bed to the floor, swallowing two Advil to stop the pounding headache, and eagerly anticipating sleep — hopefully more than the 6.5 hours we seemed to be getting these days.
Why were we unusually cranky and tired? We had just returned from our first high school back to school night, where we had the chance to walk – and run – in our boys’ shoes.
But before I share the details of that, let’s rewind to earlier that evening. We were trying to quickly get through dinner so we could be at the school on time. Dan was in a good mood, chatting away, but I had mentally and physically hit a wall after a long week, and it was hard to concentrate. Dan was talking about something related to Mexico – at least I thought he was – but Ryan kept interrupting with questions every few minutes.
“They found one that was the link between reptiles and birds,” Dan said.
“Found what in Mexico?” I asked, half listening.
“An avian dinosaur…and it was in China,” he replied.
Huh? When did we start talking about dinosaurs and China? Clearly I had lost track of the conversation a while back.
I went upstairs to replace my sandals with boots, since it was cooler outside by that point, and decided to lie down for a few minutes.
“Shouldn’t we go?” Dan yelled up the stairs after some time.
“Coming!” I called back weakly. I was in serious danger of falling asleep in a class. If that happens, maybe I’ll get a parent detention. Is that a thing? And if so, can you sleep during detention? It sounded heavenly.
Ryan was playing wii and Jordan was on his phone when we left. “We should really get you guys exercising more,” I suggested. “Look at the neighbors, always tossing a ball outside.”
“I’m tired,” Ryan said. “I don’t want to exercise.”
“We need our down time,” Jordan agreed.
From there, our night began.
7:00 — Once we arrived at the performing arts center (referred to as PAC) for the obligatory introductory speeches and were handed maps of the school, I suddenly woke up. I realized we were all the way on one side of the school and according to the map, we had minutes to get to homeroom, which was on the opposite side and up a flight of stairs. From homeroom, Dan and I would be splitting up and each following a different boy’s schedule. Each class was eight minutes, with five minutes in between to get to the next class.
7:20 — The bell rang. “We have to jet,” I said to Dan.
But there would be no jetting. We got into the hall and encountered a wall to wall traffic jam of people. Waving to other parents we knew, we made our way down the hall in a painfully slow manner.
“This is ridiculous. Why doesn’t anyone move?” I complained.
“It’s like this every year,” one of the parents said.
By the time the hall finally cleared, we still had half the school to get through in order to find the boys’ homeroom.
“Come on!” I called to Dan, who was really lagging behind.
“I’m tired,” he grumbled. “Where did your second wind come from?”
“We’re late. Can’t you go any faster?” I was power walking through the gym and up stairs.
Grunts and various choice words came from behind me.
7:35 — Finally, we reached homeroom and collapsed into two seats. We saw a couple we hadn’t talked to in awhile and hugged hello.
“I didn’t know the boys were in homeroom together!” I said.
“Homeroom? This is first period,” the mom said.
What?? We quickly found their homeroom teacher, got their schedules and started sprinting toward the next class. I was going to Jordan’s English class and Dan to science for Ryan.
7:40 –– I made it right on time to English and found a seat next to a couple I knew well from middle school theater.
“This is crazy!” I said to the mom, catching my breath. I was regretting my decision to put on cute boots. Sneakers would have made this much easier.
“Imagine the kids doing this all day with their 10 pound backpacks,” she said. “They don’t ever go to their lockers.”
Jordan had told me this. He said he doesn’t have time, especially since his locker is nowhere near any of his classes.
7:48 — After English, I went down the hall and the stairs to Spanish and texted Jordan about the insanity of how big the school is and how impressed I was that he gets anywhere on time. My wrist had buzzed by that point signaling I hit 10,000 steps for the day.
8:01 — From Spanish, I went all the way back to PAC for chorus. At that point, I could have used a bathroom break but I’d probably end up missing half of the next class if I went looking for a ladies room. In chorus, I sat next to a dad who told me gleefully this was his last back to school night. His child was a senior. I told him it was my first at this school.
“Sorry to hear that,” he said sincerely. “It’ll be over soon, though, and then you don’t have to think about it again until next year.”
8:14 — After chorus, it was back in the other direction to social studies. I was sweating a little and decided I should have taken five minutes to change after work because the long sleeve blouse I had on was not very conducive to all this movement. No wonder my boys wear t-shirts well into Fall.
(Side note: Yes, in between all this running around, the teachers did share a little about themselves and the curriculum!)
8:28 — I saw Dan in the hall as I was walking from social studies to math.
“Where do I go?” he asked. “I’m lost,” he said.
He showed me Ryan’s schedule, which indicated he had social studies next and the same teacher as Jordan. However, Ryan had written a different room number on his schedule than Jordan did. Thinking it was probably a mistake, I showed Dan Jordan’s room number and sent him on his way.
8:32 — My phone buzzed as soon as Jordan’s math teacher began talking. It was Dan with rapid fire texts:
“Ugh. ok, so Ryan’s social studies teacher is not there, where do I go?”
So lost. I’m just in the hall”
I texted back, “Maybe Ryan had the correct room after all. Try that one.”
My phone buzzed – Dan again with lots of texts:
“He is not there”
“Another teacher is”
“I have no idea where I am”
“I’m outside the PAC”
“I guess I’ll wait”
“Till 6th period”
“I’ve never felt more lost”
I had missed most of what the math teacher said.
“Trying to listen,” I texted back. “Will meet you at the front when this is over.” I put my phone away.
8:40 — Off to science. My phone buzzed again as I was walking – this time, with a notification from Fitbit. Overachiever. You have exceeded your step goal by 2500 steps.
8:53 — Back to PAC for the last class of the day, theater, where I knew several parents.
“I saw Dan in the hall having a mini meltdown,” one of them joked. It turns out Dan never found Ryan’s last period class, either.
Hmmm… Dan’s ability to find his way around while tired needs a little work if we ever make it on The Amazing Race. (Random side note: Whenever I watch the final episode of an Amazing Race season, I picture us on it one day running to the finish line as the first place winners.)
When the bell rang, I rushed out of the theater to find Dan. He looked a little worse for wear, but was relieved to see me.
“Next year, maybe we can just stay together and do one of the schedules,” he suggested.
During the car ride home, we marveled at Ryan’s ability to seamlessly navigate the school despite how overwhelming it probably is for him with all of those people. And how hard it must be for both of them to carry heavy book bags all day. Not to mention all of those different teachers and subjects. Of course we had experienced their schedule on steroids as the boys don’t change classes every eight minutes, but the evening did give me a small taste of what it’s like to be in their shoes. My second wind was gone. I felt a headache coming on, and the week officially had caught up with me.
“That. Was. Exhausting.” I said to Jordan when we got home. “Look,” I showed him my fit bit. “I’m at almost 15,000 steps!”
“Now you see how much walking I do,” he replied. “So when you think I’m not exercising, remember tonight.”