The term pro forma (Latin “as a matter of form”) is a term applied to practices or documents that are done as a pure formality, or seek to satisfy the minimum requirements or to conform to a convention or doctrine.
I hate filling out forms. Therefore, I am quite bad at it.
Back before our school district became completely computerized, there were little colored cards to fill out – in triplicate – for each boy. And because so many parents are divorced or never married or have never even met, there are different spaces for absolutely everyone’s address, office phone, home phone, cell phone, fax, email, and favorite coffee shop where you might be found in case of emergency if your cell is dead or the ringer is off.
That’s just the parents.
Then there are the lines for the pediatrician (and all his/her numbers) and the dentist (ditto) and the person authorized to pick your kid up in the car line in the event no biological relatives can drive that day.
It became exceedingly tiresome to fill out these cards.
To ease the tedium, I started filling in the address line with an ink pad and a stamper. Chris and I work at home – the address is always the same! Or I would use those charity address labels that otherwise have no purpose, since nobody uses the US Mail anymore.
There was one year when I made the mistake of facing the little blue cards late at night after drinking too much of what Chris calls Mommy’s Special Juice. They quickly became an inky, smudgy, messed-up mess. Reduced to trying to make copies on our fax machine so I could start over, I succeeded only in faxing smudgey, whited-out forms to god knows where. If there is any justice in the world, they went to the fax machine of that mythical Nigerian prince.
So, bottom line, forms are not my thing. I would make a terrible bureaucrat.
I didn’t realize anyone else in the family noticed or cared about this until yesterday, when Hugh and I went for his driving test (Take Two). I had printed out the form validating that yes, he had put in at least 50 hours of driving on the road. It was all filled in properly. I had my driver’s license, we had the insurance card and the registration from the glove box (which I used to call glove compartment, but that’s another story). After waiting in a long line of cars for nearly one hour, it was finally our turn.
The examiner asked for the forms. She told me I didn’t need the 50 hour form since that had been turned in during the first driving test (parallel parking was the downfall there). I handed over the other things – she examined them – announced “your insurance expired, make another appointment,” – handed back the papers, and off we went. Again. In dismay.
On further examination, I saw that the insurance card was good up until the very day before the test. In a cell phone call, Chris said “Of course our insurance is valid, it runs from October to October, that must have been a temporary card from when we bought the Jetta in September.” We cursed, and felt cursed.
As Hugh drove disgustedly back to tennis team practice, he lectured me. Our roles were reversed. I sat, ashamed, in the passenger seat, while Hugh lambasted me for the insurance screw-up. Even in anger, he is very mature. “I know that insurance isn’t your area, but this is the kind of thing that happens too much in our family. I hate how forms aren’t filled out on time. I was always the kid who turned in his permission slip on the last possible day, or even later. And that was really embarrassing. Maybe I shouldn’t have felt embarrassed, but why can’t we just do this stuff on time?”
I pointed out that Hugh has only one more year at home and in high school, there are no field trips, so it’s not much of an issue for him any more. “Well, maybe if you change, it can help Malcolm.” Ouch.
My next defense was that no family is perfect. Perhaps the kid who turns in permission slips exactly on time is also being raised on a steady diet of Lunchables and Spaghettios. Or worse, Burger King crap served in the car while his mom drives him from lacrosse practice to music lessons.
Hugh didn’t exactly respond with “Irrelevant, your honor” but it was close. The poor kid has a point. I am awful at forms, and paperwork, and organization.
While I have resolved to reform, I am also a realist.
Can I improve on this score? Yes. Will I ever be one of those perfect moms? No.