Balls were being dropped all week. I was out of town for work, and my husband was left to juggle all three kids’ many school and after-school activities. When they were young, I would leave a detailed hour-by-hour list of what needed to be done. Meals were pre-cooked, placed in Tupperware containers, and labeled. Lunches were pre-made, lined up in the refrigerator with their names on the outside, and a sweet note hidden inside.
But now my kids were teens, so I simply made sure there was a decent amount of food in the refrigerator and headed out. They were old enough to fend for themselves, and whatever went wrong, I chalked up to a “learning
experience.” After all, in a few short years, they would be leaving for college. Really, at this point in our
lives, laziness was my best parenting tool.
My youngest, Noah, was having the hardest time adjusting to my new “DIY” parenting style.
On Tuesday, he forgot his lunch. His friends bought him chips and candy, so he survived.
On Wednesday, he forgot his clothes for a band concert. My oldest son brought them up to school.
On Thursday, an important piece of homework was left on the kitchen table. One zero never kept anyone out of
On Friday, I arrived home just in time to take him to a solo band contest. He is a gifted trumpet player, and this
solo was extremely important to him.
We left early enough, but once we arrived, we realized we were at the wrong school. I dug through my e-mails to find the one with the correct address, turned the car around, and headed in the opposite direction. It was rush hour and traffic moved excruciatingly slow.
We finally arrived at the correct competition school with a few minutes to spare. As we walked in, teen after teen seemed to be wearing similar-looking clothes. Either this was a crazy coincidence, or I had missed yet another e-mail. I looked at Noah, who was wearing gym shorts, a blue Nike t-shirt, and sneakers, and said, “Noah, were you supposed to wear formal black?”
Tears streamed down his face as he realized he would never receive the coveted Exemplary Musician Award wearing clothes that could easily double as pajamas. He had practiced his solo piece diligently for months and now all his hard work didn’t matter. There was no time to go back home and change clothes.
Desperate times call for desperate measures. The reality of the situation was every teen walking out of the school was wearing the very clothes my son needed to perform. Why let a few pieces of clothing and a little pride keep him from achieving his dream?!
I shared my idea with Noah, and he gave me the “go ahead.” I walked up to a complete stranger and said,
“Excuse me. It’s ok if you say no, but my son forgot to wear his formal black, and this contest is really
important to him. Is there any way the boys could switch clothes in the bathroom?” The mom looked at me as if I was from another planet.
All the crazy thoughts ran through my head. Was this too much to ask a stranger? Am I totally embarrassing my son? Will this forever ruin his social status?
Then she smiled, chuckled a little, and said, “He would be happy to.” The boys entered the bathroom to make the
switch and exited looking as if they felt a little out of place. But, as they walked down the hall toward us, I saw
a new swagger in Noah that could only come from walking in another man’s shoes. We thanked the mom and son, jotted down their address to return the clothes and headed to the cafeteria for Noah to warm up.
Noah’s name was called, and as he walked down the hall to perform, his band director stopped him. “Noah,” he said, “That is a really nice shirt.” We looked at each other and burst out laughing!
Noah pulled it together, played his heart out in the competition, and thanks to kind strangers,received the
Exemplary Musician Award.
Before we gave the clothes back to their owner, we purchased a thank you gift card. “Mom, what do I write? I
don’t even know his name,” said Noah. “I have no clue. Just put something,” I replied.
As I dropped the clothes on the porch of the address scribbled on a gum wrapper, the gift card fell open to the
pavement. Noah had written:
“To the Guy Who Remembered His Pants, From the Guy Who Didn’t.”
Julie Hornok is an author, speaker, and autism advocate. Her work has been seen in Scary Mommy, TODAY Parenting, Love What Matters, Parenting Special Needs Magazine, and more! If you’re curious about what life is really like for families with autism, read thirty eye-opening stories from all over the world in her book, United in Autism: Finding Strength Inside the Spectrum (foreword by Dr. Temple