I do things on a somewhat regular basis that cause me to question my qualifications for parenthood.
For example, I sometimes contribute to the truancy of my children. I’ll take them out of school early or bring them late or have them miss a day or two for last-minute beach trips or jaunts to San Francisco or pretty much no compelling reason at all.
It’s not that I think school is unimportant. Obviously not. I mean shit, I’m a grad student, clearly I don’t think it’s a complete waste of time.
It’s just that I have a hard time convincing myself that sitting in a classroom with 20 other 4th-graders is more important than a trip to the ocean with your family.
This week I pulled Ava out of school for 3 days because it was my Spring break and I felt like cruising down South to visit my best friend Claire, who I’ve known since 2nd grade. She lives in Central California, near San Luis Obispo, and we went. The husband had to work, so I took all three kids by myself, knowing that I’d be hanging with another mother, who would help me.
I felt a little guilty for taking Ava out. But I’ll be honest, it was worth it. At least I think it was. Maybe she’ll end up in therapy because her mother was a flake, but alas, nobody’s perfect.
There is something remarkable about a best friend since childhood. There is something sacred and wonderful about a person who isn’t “family” but has known you longer than most people on the planet. Family HAS to love you (well, at least in my family), but a best friend? Ah, they’re there because they want to be with you. They chose you. They don’t have to be there. But they are.
When we were 7, Claire and I played dolls and “restaurant” and Barbies in my bedroom. We had a pet bug named “Shiloh” who lived under a Monopoly hotel.
When we were 10, we busted into the neighbor’s house one boring summer afternoon, until we realized we had just done something illegal and we freaked out and bolted. When we got home we sprayed hairspray on the stucco wall of her house and lit it on fire. Both of those activities were my idea.
When we were 12, we went roller skating every Saturday and contemplated boys from afar.
When we were 13, we got dressed up and Waltzed with her younger twin cousins in her grandma’s living room, while she drank bourbon and smoked cigarettes and instructed our dance moves.
When we were 15, we stole her grandma’s Cadillac in Santa Clara and drove around.
When we were 17, we did the same but added beer.
When we were 18, we gazed into the eyes of Claire’s newborn baby and wondered what the hell had happened.
When we were 21, we drank Bloody Mary’s at 7am in Vegas.
When we were 25, we didn’t talk much, because I was drunk and lost and too full of self-hatred to reach out to the people who knew me before I was a failure.
When we were 29, I got sober and drove to her house 5 hours away and asked her to forgive me and love me again. And it became clear she had never stopped.
And now, at 32, we get together and take care of kids and talk until 2 in the morning and laugh like we did when we were 10 years old, giggling in the back of our parents’ cars, sisters who chose one another.
I guess this week I just needed my friend. Maybe Ava should have gone to school.
Then again, maybe not.