I don’t want my kids to miss out on anything, and that is why I volunteered to help with the Israel table at multicultural night. I was sure I could handle this school program despite working seven days a week and caring for three kids, while in the middle of declaring bankruptcy, looking for a new home, and little league season. No problem!
I learned two things from multicultural night. First, many cultures consume pork. To my dismay, the boys managed to find every table distributing samples of this delicacy that they termed special chicken.
But more importantly, I discovered something about myself. I have limits as a divorced mom. I simply can’t do it all. And trying to be everything for our kids does not make up for the pain that our divorce has caused them—it just makes me irritable, tired, and unhappy.
Everything seemed under control in the beginning. I had been in communication with the other mom running our table for a couple of weeks. I would bring hummus and pita and arrive early to help her decorate and man the table. She would bring latkes and applesauce and a Hebrew writing activity. That was the plan, anyway.
So the day of the event I ran to the grocery store during my lunch hour and purchased my items. Then after work, I went to grab our toddler from daycare as usual. As I was pulling out of the parking lot, however, I heard a terrible noise coming from under my minivan that I would later learn was my heat shield dragging on the ground. I drove home, put the hummus in the refrigerator, and set off for the mechanic.
The mechanic said the wait would be long, but he graciously offered the two of us a ride to the elementary school so we wouldn’t have to walk the three miles. I’d have to find all of us a ride back to the mechanic after the event, but I didn’t think this would be too difficult. I’ve befriended a few parents at birthday parties. Surely, I would run into someone who would be willing to drive us to collect the car before they closed the shop for the evening.
And then I got to the Israel table and realized my glaring error: The hummus was in the refrigerator. I had failed my children, the other mom, and the State of Israel. There was no time for me to walk home and get it. Besides, I was wearing heels, a choice I was already regretting after spending most of the day on my feet.
The fashion show began. Our twins donned their sashes across their chests while waving their Israeli flags. I snapped a picture. The toddler ran chaotically around the school telling everyone who would listen that he was The Flash. I started to worry—is our youngest starved for attention? Could it be a behavioral problem? Is this another consequence of the divorce? But I couldn’t allow those thoughts to distract me…I had to focus on finding a ride. So I made a mental note to shelf the concern for later.
Finally, the children were given their passports and sent on their way to learn about the 65 countries represented throughout the building. Flash and I headed to Italy at his insistence.
Then, he found a table of balloons and the night took another detour.
The instant the bright green balloon touched my lips, my mouth began to tingle. I gagged—the taste was revolting. I grabbed my youngest and ran to flush out my mouth in the bathroom. Then, I noticed that he was having a similar allergic reaction. His eye was red and swelling. We scrubbed ourselves and tried to eliminate the taste by rinsing with sweet tea from Thailand.
Envisioning an evening in the emergency room, I decided it was time to head home. There was no chance of getting to the mechanic at this point. So I rounded up the other two boys, explained our situation, and braced for their hysterical protests. They weren’t ready to leave and they didn’t want to walk home.
Ten minutes into our trek, I sat down on a curb to assess the blisters on my feet and feel sorry for myself. We still needed baths, and they had to call their father for their evening talk. I had backpacks to unpack, laundry to start, and lunches to prepare. Oh, and of course, I still had to figure out a way to the mechanic in the morning without being late to work.
Right then and there, with a stream of cars passing the four of us on the street and my tongue now noticeably enlarged, I vowed I would not continue this madness. I would no longer take on additional responsibilities.
Multicultural night broke me.
Fishing for a kind, supportive word, I turned to the boys and asked them if they had enjoyed the evening. My son looked up at me, a sense of alarm on his face, and responded, “Are you going to make us eat the hummus?”