Be There or Be Square

When I was in 5th grade, I had a Perfect Attendance record at my elementary school, not just for the semester or even for the year. We're talking Sarah Matlock called up during End of the Year Assembly in recognition of Perfect Attendance every year since Kindergarten. Other kids were recognized too, of course, but man, was I proud of that.

Also in 5th grade, my youngest sibling -and only sister- was born. We had two brothers between us, my dad was probably a month or two into his latest job at a convenience store or construction work, and my mom was working at the US Post Office (insert triumphant trumpet music here). Everything seemed stellar. Who needs baby dolls or Barbies when there's a real baby in the house? I loved that baby.

I remember going to one of my brother's baseball games that summer and some kindly stranger asking, "Is she yours?" (did I mention I was 11? I wonder about people sometimes...) to which I replied without hesitation, "Yes!" Of course she was mine. Okay, okay. Maybe not "mine" in the sense that I birthed her per say, but she belonged to me. I bathed her, fed her, took naps with her, played and sang and watched Barney all day long with her. But I'm getting ahead of myself.

Back to 5th grade, second semester. Perfect attendance. For 6 years. Enter: baby sister.

Suddenly, my mom finds herself in need some emergency child care services. Every adult she knows has to work, and since the school year is almost over anway; hey, Sarah could do it! She can stay home in the mornings, only miss a half day of school, and no one has to be paid anything.
All I could say was, "Goodbye Perfect Attendance Record."

It was all down hill from there. I don't know that I ever made it a full school year again with perfect attendance. And once college started, and professors practically told us to skip class three times a semester, I was history. Now, I'm working full time, and not only do I get 2 weeks of skip days, I also get paid for them. I guess, in a way, my mom taught me a pretty valuable lesson: Keeping your word, and showing up every day as promised, is unneccesary and pretty dumb. You'll get more for doing less.

11 years later. May 2009.

My baby sister isn't so much of a baby anymore. Almost ready for Jr. High, she's wearing lip gloss and playing on Facebook and texting and downloading music and... it's an awesome and terrible thing to watch someone grow up, really, when you think about it.

I had just graduated from college, back home for a week or two before my summer job started. I woke up one morning, we'll go with Wednesday, and my little, baby sister was still in bed. At 9:30am. Not at school. I ask my nanna (how she ended up raising this child is a story for another day) why Hannah wasn't at school, and was told, "Oh, she didn't want to go. It was Track and Field Day."

Track and Field Day is a 5th & 6th grade tradition in my hometown. All of the elementary schools get together on the high school track and ... well, field, of course. They compete in relays, races, field events, softball throws, high jump, and so on. Everybody gets a tshirt and a chance to check out their soon-to-be Jr. High companions from around the county. In fact, I met one of my best friends to this day at 5th & 6th grade Track and Field Day.

Hannah, my sister, will be the first to admit that she's not the most athletic little thing, and espcially not at that point in time. So it makes sense that she would be anxious about participating and maybe feel some trepidation. These sensations, however, are not qualifying reasons to miss a day of school.

I fought that girl tooth and nail for a good 45 minutes that morning. I physically had to pull her out of bed. At one point, she locked herself in the bathroom. I hollered and pounded on that door and bodily moved her about the house to get her ready for school. In the midst of this, I did offer to let her use my brand new water bottle for her troubles. Through all of this, my worn out nanna just wants peace (she's been raising kids for over 40 years now) and keeps saying, "Sarah, it's fine. If she doesn't want to go, don't make her go." So I just keep saying, "It's is NOT okay for a 5th grader to just decide they don't want to go to school. If she can make that call now, imagine what she'll be like in a few years. Nope. She's going. Even if I have to make her."

When I dropped Hannah off at the high school track, she was almost smiling at me again. I walked her over to her teacher, and apologized for being late. He checked his clipboard and motioned her over to some event or other. All of her little friends came racing up and asking her where she'd been and did she want them to help her get her tshirt and sign it, and off they went.

She got off the bus that afternoon in an official commemorative tee, signed all over in black sharpie. She thanked me for the use of my water bottle and handed it back to me.
She was smiling.

Maybe I didn't serve her well to drag her off to school that day, and completely contradicting the life lesson my mom taught me all those years ago about being where you're supposed to be... but I like to think I did. She faced something that intimidated and scared her, and conquered it. She fulfilled her obligation as a student to be at school. She made some great memories with her little friends. She learned not to mess with her older sister when she really means business (which may be the greatest lesson of all, if you want the truth). She's in Jr. High now. As far as I know, 6th grade Track & Field Day went off without a hitch, or an absence on her attendance record. :)

Sarah :: Plucky in Love

Sarah, aka "Plucky", blogs on the reg, unless she's on vacation or there's a Pretty Little Liars marathon or she's mulling over the implications of the phrase "on fleek." She can't live without iced coffee, a portable phone charger, or equal pay. Say hello!

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