I’ve been watching the haloed, blurry-edged, emotion steeped photos of back to school for what feels like a month now. I’ve learned over these last four years of school that we are at the tail end of the back-to-school swing. I suppose at some moment I imagined that it would mean that I could crib from others and get my act together. The truth is that while I get the heads up that it’s coming, it doesn’t slow my schedule or change the way I conduct my life (which is really just code for: react to the things thrown at me and that I forget in the mayhem that is just-trying-to-get-by.)
Honestly? There are still days when I wake up and think, “Ok, today I really need to do this right. I am going to make myself look ‘presentable,’ start the day prepared and end it knowing I did everything I could.” Yet when I apply the lipstick reserved for special occasions, instead of seeing a reflection of readiness and grace, I see a joke. A clown really. It slows me down as I try to repair the awkward stain just south of center of my entire face. When I paint my nails? Same thing. When I plan a pitch in advance rather than just gauging my audience? Same darn thing.
We went school shopping weeks ago, we practiced reading, worked on printing, we covered the inevitability of more bullies or mean kids. This afternoon I tried to take the girls for a last summer hurrah, I knew exactly where to go. Briar has been asking all summer, brilliant! But as I began to declare exactly where we were going, the website rendered and I saw that the place was set to close in 14 minutes. FOURTEEN MINUTES. Gah! Plan B was a bounce house joint at the mall. Memorable in a way I didn’t intend.
A part of me wants to wake up tomorrow and take the shots in front of the door that you redo year after year, but I know we’ll have a different door next year, or I’ll forget which door to use. Or, truthfully, the picture won’t do it for me. Despite the fact that I can’t seem to stop gauging my effectiveness against other mothers, other chroniclers, I can’t ever get satisfaction from doing it that way. The one time I tried to do a cohesive party theme, the memories endured in the patch of fun we offered in the unbranded, unregulated, do-it-your-own-way cupcake decorating, not the heavily art directed “party table.”
Tomorrow we open the doors to 3rd and 1st grade, then Monday Pre-K comes to life. I bathed the girls tonight and asked them to pick out clothes. They have new bags and fresh supplies, but Briar’s hair was cut in the tub tonight. We decided at the last minute to let them give the bus another try because they really, really want to. Despite having written all the dates in a leather-bound book and wanting to have my head in the game, I feel like my legs are the beaters on a hand-turned egg beater and someone else is cranking the handle.
I’m trying to be ok with that, trying to believe that the girls won’t come home this year and say, “You aren’t like the home room moms,” or “Why don’t you ever have things planned before the day comes?”
Going back to school always makes me feel a bit like I don’t know everything I am supposed to know and it really, really hurts.
Tagged: working mom
I relate to a lot of this. Especially the lipstick! I always feel like a little kid playing dress up. Like I’m way too young to do that. When will I grow into lipstick? I doubt ever, at this point. As for keeping track of the moments, I think everybody does it their own way. I know I’m hugely enriched from reading what you record here. Thank you for that. xox
You know what is so great about your comment, Lindsey? I see you as incredibly put together. Effortless. Funny how hard we always are on ourselves, no?
I never paint my nails and don’t own lipstick – lipgloss is about as fancy as it gets or even better the tinted chapstick! I cut Lukas’ hair the day before school started. Oprah says “comparison is an act of violence to oneself” so listen to Mother Oprah and take the pics wherever and don’t stress about it. He goes to pm kindergarten so I know I am in for it next year when we have the morning rush!
If I were the tattooing type, I would tattoo that Oprah pearl where I could read it. Frequently.
I was caught the other day with the realization that I was as nervous, or more nervous, about back to school as my girls. That feeling of not knowing what you need to know — the worst, especially when you are convinced that others are in the know and you are left out. We are all in this together, it is remembering that that gets me through on the roughest days.
Adore you, Kristin.
I think someday your girls will look back with a flush of pride that their mom was not like the other mothers. My mom was definitely not like the other mothers and you know what? She rocked. Stand tall today…lipstick is overrated.
Standing taller, thank you!
You are the mom to your own girls. Not anyone else’s girls.
If you promise to tell that to yourself today, I’ll promise to tell it to myself.
Maybe if we both say it loud enough we’ll believe it.
Palm spit, pinky swear and nervous shudder.
Ah, I can’t imagine anything but your girls being in love with you.
All my posts this week have been in the same vein as this one here: am I enough for my boys? do they see how i care, even if the outside may not show that?
We want so much for them, how can they not feel our hearts bleed over this?
Too dramatic? I don’t think so. Because that’s what it feels like.
Love you dearly, lady.
Oh, yes. Yes, yes. The thing that gets me the most is that the thing they are going to remember, that one memory they pet when everything feels like it’s going wrong, it’s going to be the thing we never expected—the store bought cupcakes you dropped off barely managing not to curse as your period leaked through your slacks on the way to a meeting you were unprepared for…
Shoot, was that one just me?
Love you, lady! I can relate to so much of this. In the end, I firmly believe that what our kiddos will remember and hold in their hearts & memories is the love that we consistently show and the time we consistently invested. Now, I just need to keep reminding myself of this fact. *wink*
You are awesome. You are enough. Shower them with love & listening & your time. They will remember.
Thank you, my mom-heart neosporin, you are.
Embrace who you are and through that your children will learn and appreciate that individuality is more valuable.
Words to live by.
Love this. I am so not good at being a planful mom. I rarely have an agenda that I stick to. I tend to figure everything out on the fly. Sometimes I like this – feels more fun and spontaneous – and sometimes I wonder if I got my act together a bit more would I be a better parent? Or at least save myself some headaches. I always love your posts because you articulate motherhood and your love for your kids in such a thoughtful way. They are lucky!
I suppose if we ever started doubting some of our decisions it would be an odd kind of auto-pilot, no?
From what I can tell–you are doing it perfectly right. It is so hard to not measure ourselves against some impossible standard. Know that to your daughters–you are perfect. Your their mom and that is all that matters.
Their mom, indeed.
I can really relate to this. The one consolation I can offer to you is that your children will grow up and all the things you worry about now will seem trivial. When you talk about their childhood, they will remember all the fun, quirky times and will think they are great.
There were holidays where I had to throw things together the night before (popping popcorn and stringing cranberries to decorate a Christmas tree because I couldn’t find the box of decorations after a move) and those are the ones that stand out the most for them (both are in college).
You are so right.
We are demonstrating to our kids that it’s okay to be themselves because we’re okay with being ourselves. We, and our plans and their outcomes, are imperfect, and yet we are happy and successful and fulfilled nonetheless. (Perhaps even more so than those who appear to have it all together.)
Yup, I need to work on not being so apologetic about not doing it someone else’s way. Thanks you for the reset.
When my mom came to my son’s Christmas program at his school last year, she looked around and said, “It’s just like I remember. All the kids look darling and all the moms have wet hair.” I think that’s so true, and we are all in the same boat here. Just dropped off my little guys for their second day, and left my two-year-old in tears. Lipstick or not, I am a wreck.
A beautiful wreck.
Don’t get too hung up on the Stepford Mom approach to motherhood – too many “shoulds” are bad for your mental health, you only need a few of them:
You should love your children with every particle of your being.
You should share as much laughter with your children as possible, even when – or maybe especially when – that laughter is at your expense.
You should sneak in as many mama hugs & smooches as possible, because they grow up at an astoundingly rapid rate (as in, I have one headed for college in a year, and I’d swear she was just born a few blinks ago).
That’s just about all that matters. The rest is fluff, filler, extraneous BS and it’s not what your children will remember in the coming years or when it’s their turn to parent. So hang in there, fasten your seatbelt, and enjoy the sometimes bumpy ride.
Thanks for acknowledging it’s a bumpy ride. I think we fool ourselves into thinking it can be all perfect and smooth and sweet.
Hi! New reader and commenter here.
I think that every mother that has ever existed has compared herself to other mothers, probably even the Virgin Mary herself.
What I try to remember when I fall into that comparison trap – when I see that perfectly put together Mom drop off her kids at school before heading off to yoga, while I, on the other hand, am wearing a jacket in August because I still haven’t put on my bra – what I try to remember then, is that underneath it all, every mother is screwed up in her own beautiful way.
I mess up all of the time, but my kids know who I really am. I bet yours do, too.
Promise to comment again? You made my day with your candor.
…the kids went back to school?
You are a punk, Magee. A punk. Love you.
Y’know there are days when I am SO glad Al Gore hadn’t invented the internet when my kids were little. If I had to compare myself at that time, anxiety ridden, borderline agoraphobic, without a clue, to other mothers – I would have come out so badly. When I read your blog, and hear the stories, see your photos, and read about your self-doubt, I am forever amazed. Sometimes I think the availability of all this information makes people more insecure, because you see so many people living WONDERFUL, AMAZING, INCREDIBLE lives when most are doing their best to just get along. You are doing GREAT! And your kids will be hard pressed to compare you unfavorably with anyone!
Love this post. I look forward to reading your blog each update. We juggle, we jump through hoops, we jaunt through days balancing children and work commitments like a server with one too many plates on her tray.
We show up and we try. That is all we can do.
Being behind on my blog reading can be such a good thing. I needed to read this. I think the day I accomplish readiness and grace I may fall over and die from the shock. I’m just glad I’m not the only. I’m starting to think it’s really EVERYONE… and some people just pretend better than others.
And this year… I lost my mind. I agreed to be Ana’s class mom (which is really not hard). Then, I was asked to be co-leader for Zoe’s Brownie troop. THEN, I somehow ended up being Zoe’s class mom. I’m going to get a lot of practice pretending to be prepared and with it. I’m starting to think I better go back to work so people will stop asking me to do these things.