Last minute ‘planning’ drives this mom crazy

Lori Clinch

Are We There Yet?

Last Wednesday morning I looked at the calendar and jumped for joy. For there in the midst of our color-coded schedules, obligations and car pools was an empty day.

The date almost leapt from the page and it was as bright and free as I could ever have hoped. It took me back to the days when the whole family could be found on the premises; to a time when kids showed up for dinner, parents were smiling and when meal time consisted of more than passing cheeseburgers and Cokes to the back seat of the car.

I was so excited that I couldn’t stand it. I had visions of what our family would look like if we were all at home. I pictured us gathered round the kitchen table or perhaps outside on the deck. I would soak up the sun and drink lemonade while my husband stood at the grill. The kids would toss a Frisbee to the dog, birds would sing and laughter would fill the air as Norman Rockwell painted the moment from afar.

With a spring in my step and a smile on my face, I went to the grocery store like any fool who thought she could plan a family meal would do, and bought all the fixins for a lovely evening feast.

As I was pushing my loaded-up cart out of the store and singing my own little rendition of “Freedom,” one of my little dears called me on my cell to announce that he had to do something after school and that I shouldn’t pick him up until four.

Well-ell! I was looking at a cart that was full of ice-cream, frozen french fries, frozen green beans, milk, cheese, and low- fat creamer and it was 3 stinking 15.

I felt my night slipping from my grasp, but I held fast to the hope that I could still pull it off. I bit my tongue and fought the urge to bite his head off and turned on my heel to go back into the store to buy ice for the ice cream. Meanwhile, my little dear continued talking. “Oh,” he said as if we were communicating on a good wavelength, “and I have to ring the bells in the fall concert tonight.”

Fall concert? What the heck is a fall concert? How long have we had fall concerts? And why is my ever-loving sports fanatic of a kid ringing bells there? We’re not bell ringers, we’re basketball shooters, baseball catchers and football players. Anything and everything that our family does involves officials, umpires and a big No. 1 finger that I can wave proudly at the opposing team. The Clinches don’t ring bells. Not that we wouldn’t want to be bell ringers, or that there’s anything wrong with people who ring them. It’s just that we’ve never been much into clanging chimes, and I couldn’t imagine that this here night would be the night to start.

Now please don’t take me wrong. I believe in expanding one’s horizons. I believe that music is a catalyst for brain development. I believe that music has remarkable power to affect neural activity and that harmony is an almost universal language of mood, emotion and all of that stuff. In fact, you’d be hard pressed to find a woman who enjoys standing on a mound of laundry and singing out her own rendition of R-E-S-P-E-C-T more than I do.

However, I don’t think that music should involve us in a fall concert that happens to fall on the one night that a woman had to be at home with her family grilling hand-pattied burgers and posing for Norman.

It just isn’t right.

“Mom,” I heard in the midst of my mental outrage, “Mom, are you there? Mom, you’re not talking to me! Earth to Mom!”

“Huey,” I said in a voice that was reminiscent of the devil, “how long have you known about the fall concert?”

“Just today.”

“Do you mean to tell me that you’ve been ringing bells for an entire scholastic quarter and never heard of a fall concert?”

“Yeah, I mean, no, I mean I knew about the fall concert. I just didn’t think to tell you about it until just now.”

I’ve calmed down a bit now. I’ve taken deep breaths, relaxed and can even talk in a sane and normal tone. But as sure as I live and breathe I tell you this, the second our lives slow down and I get a minute, I’m gonna ring that kid’s bell like nobody’s business.

Lori Clinch is the mother of four sons and the author of the book “Are We There Yet?” You can reach her at