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Even when your heart stops, the clock keeps ticking

“How much longer?!” My 7 year-old whines, even though we’ve only just arrived.

I check the car clock. 5:17pm. “Any minute now,” I say, watching a smattering of kids emerge from the Middle School gym doors.

We are right on time, actually ahead of schedule since I usually receive my 12 year-old’s ‘pick me up’ call at around 5:20pm. Tonight is one of those nights where the clock is ticking harder and faster than Marisa Tomei’s from My Cousin Vinny, although unless you’re over 40 you probably won’t know anything about that.

Basically, I need to pick up my 9 year-old from Hebrew School by 6pm, drop the 12 year-old off, and then shoot over to the 9 year-old’s basketball game from 6:30-7:30pm. Then the 12 year-old gets picked up at 8:10pm and goes straight to his basketball game from 8:30-930pm, but by then my husband has taken over and I’m home with the younger ones running in different circles.

“This is taking forever!” My little one grumbles. I don’t begrudge him. As the youngest, he’s a semi-hostile member of Team Mommy, we who schlep and spectate.


Where is he? Usually he’s out by now. I had hoped to let them eat at Smashburger, but now it’ll probably be a car picnic in the Temple parking lot. Annoying. I send him a quick text. “Outside waiting.”


The girls basketball and boys wrestling teams also let out and there is a steady stream of sweaty young teens. I squint to see if there’s anyone I know, but it is dusk and all I can make out is that they are all dressed inappropriately for winter.


An uncomfortable thought creeps into my head. Typically, between finishing classes at 3:10pm and heading to the gym, he sends me a quick text “Going to volleyball”, but today he didn’t check in.


“I’m soooo hungry!” My 7 year-old complains over and over but it folds into my rising anxiety.


A few familiar looking boys come out. I open my window to ask if they’ve seen my son, but they are engaged with each other and I am embarrassed to interrupt and embarrass my son by being the crazy mom which I am totally being.


He’s barely even late, I scold myself. What is wrong with my brain?!


It is growing dark. The parking lot slows to an unsettling quiet. Kids still fill the gym anteroom waiting for their rides but the heavy doors swing open on slower intervals, like when you put the window washers on low.


Why didn’t he text earlier? Why hasn’t he texted now? I call but it goes to his voicemail, which isn’t even set up. I call again. And again.


My neck strains to see inside the school. My hand grips the door handle ready to jump out. Where? Where?


There. Right there. Smile sweet as melted sugar and posture relaxed as a lazy bear, he saunters over. Of course. I breathe. Of course.

“Finally!” My youngest huffs, “I’m soo hungry!”

“Sorry, mama,” he says, throwing himself and his over-sized backpack into the car. “Practice ran a little late and then I forgot my book.”


I tousle his hair and warmly chastise him about not checking in as I simultaneously throw the car in gear and set off to Smashburger, the pickups, drop offs and all the rest, more keenly aware than ever that every minute counts.













About Ice Scream Mama

Mama to 3 boys, wife to Mr. Baseball and daughter of a sad man. I have a double scoop every day.

39 responses »

  1. I’d say you handled it really well. If it were me, I’d be at the principal’s office tapping at the microphone and blasting the PA system. 🙂

  2. Alisa I went through this with Tom once (he was meeting for me in one place and I was in another, and I didn’t have my phone) and I am pretty sure I aged 10 years. Wonderful piece, glad you all are safe and sound!

  3. Funny how each one of those minutes feels like an eternity when your imagination kicks into overdrive.

  4. Right? I feel the same way waiting at pickup. LOVE this!

  5. That is such an awful feeling! I like the way you paced this with the time!

  6. I’m getting ready to Google smashburger! It sounds so good. And I hate those moments, where horrible scenarios are running through my head. It’s the most excrutiating part of motherhood for me.

    • Ha! It may just be over here. Really just made to order, slightly better fast food burger joint. It’s easy when we’re in between schlepping. And the brain goes where it goes and damn it’s annoying. Stupid brain. 😉

  7. You know you’re a mom when in the course of 10 minutes of waiting for your kid your mind runs the gamut of mild annoyance to trying to remember anything about a loose serial killer being mentioned on last night’s news. I think my husband would have the sense to stop at mild annoyance. Great post!

  8. hellooo ask his friends next time, i totally would have ! actually i can’t believe you waited 13 minutes, i would have been searching after 5 !

  9. Waiting on girls is even worse. I wonder how they would feel if we were a tad late for pick up! Great post! ~Elle

  10. My girlfriend had this happen a few months ago and was texting to her son who was ignoring her across the parking lot “I SEE YOU!!!!” – She didn’t realize that she had actually texted me and I was getting dressed in my closet. We’re still laughing about that one.

  11. Whew! You nailed the suspense portion of the evening! Glad all is well!

  12. Oh my lord, that’s an all too familiar panic! You are definitely not alone in the crazy Mama car pool when the kids forget to text and they run those precious seconds late. I felt every second of those shoulder tightening minutes with you, and I’m relieved at the outcome.

  13. Yes, yes, YES. Let a Minion, or even Wolf, be a bit late, and my brain tries to kill me with a stroke or heart attack, imaginging all sorts of horrors.

    And I know Smashburger…Do I behold a fellow Canadian?

  14. When the minutes seem like hours it it pure torture. Can you imagine how our parents felt..without the constant connection of cell phones?

  15. It’s funny how our perception of time changes depending on the situation. Eleven minutes – too long to worry about a child, too short to truly savor ice cream.

  16. The little one only added to your anxiety I’m sure.

  17. This is funny when it’s over, and oh my, when you’re in the middle of it!

  18. That is the worst feeling. I know that crazy train of panic so well, and once you get on, getting off is absolutely impossible.


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