My nursery shame as a no-show mom

It was the one item in the diary marked “DO NOT MISS”, scheduled for 10.30am on Thursday. What occasion merited such urgency? My children’s graduation ceremony … from nursery school.

Given that my parents did not make it to my university graduation, I was amazed to receive emails from other (more involved) parents advising me that this occasion was a special event, preceded by dinner at the school head’s home two nights before, and everyone must dress up especially for it. DVDs of the five-year-olds receiving their certificates had to be ordered and pre-paid; there was much discussion of who would bring what food to the post-graduation party in Central Park.

Guilt immediately flooded my veins. In the past few months I have, as one mother put it to me nicely, been “MIA” (Missing in Action) from school. After the fiasco of getting them into kindergarten for next year was resolved, I had concentrated on my work instead of volunteering to chaperone school field trips or watch tap-dancing performances (a good thing as it turned out, as one child got “stage fright” while another was so overtired he just sat down on stage). So I felt that missing graduation would be a sin too far.

The pre-graduation dinner didn’t go entirely without mishap. I was relieved to see there were name tabs because even though my children are in two of the four classes in the school, my non-intervention in their education might mean that no one would know who I was.

The problem, I found, as I hopefully handed round a plate of brownies, was that they all did: I’m known as the no-show mom. And the women wanted to reassure me how sweet and lively my children were, since they – and not me – had been their chaperones on field trips.

Yet despite feeling utterly ashamed, as my little cherubs processed out of the place on Thursday, I cried. I may be the school’s token useless, no-show working mother, but the nurturing environment of this little school – and the back-up of all those kind non-working mothers – has more than made up for my absence.

“Remember, you have really great boys,” one of the teachers said as she hugged me farewell. I was speechless with emotion. So next time someone says they cannot miss their child’s graduation from nursery school, you will hear no mockery from me. V

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