Only a week worth of school days are left. This reality hit me right in gut, like my toddler’s bowling ball head when she is feeling particularly ornery and possibly, even, a little violent. I’m not ready for what will come after this year is over. For goodness sakes, I haven’t finished what I wanted to accomplish in this one, yet!
Somehow, though, school is wrapping up faster than the time it takes the three oldest kids to mysteriously disappear “to go poop” as soon as I need help with cleaning the kitchen or entertaining the demonic angel of a toddler. Amid all the chaos of our daily routine, I managed to lose the entire middle chunk of the school year. The black hole in my house, hostage-taker of all missing pacifiers, sippy cups, sock mates, shoes, silverware, and the like, is, with no doubt, the culprit behind this phenomena. Back again, just to mess with my head some more. Truly, I cannot recall the last 6 months. Time passed by me without so much as a wave, “hello.” It’s just gone.
As my crazy toddler grabs the glasses off of my face, I’m simultaneously doubled over in pain from her rock-solid cranium making direct contact with my lower intestines and trying to figure out how we actually made it to June already. I was almost certain the school year had just begun, a month or so ago. September, with all of its back-to-school glory, is only a dying memory.
While chasing down my glasses, I’m mentally urging myself to start reading through the stack of weekly school newsletters from my children’s teachers. Monthly principal newsletters, activity night announcements, policy change notices, informational brochures about law changes, and resource flyers for parenting classes have been overflowing out of the non-urgent inbox for quite some time. “Some time” as in the entire length of the school year. Ooopsies?
Once I retrieve my glasses from her death grip and turn on her favorite cartoon of the day, I grab a snack to busy her mischievous little hands and try to get back to my own work. I’m ready to tackle the overwhelming pile of things that have been neglected for the past eight months. It’s not very long before the pit deep inside my chest starts aching with melancholy, settling heavy on my heart.
This is the last time that I will have all of my school-aged children in one school. They’ll never be all together, again. It is my oldest child’s last year of elementary school, after all. Next year, he will be off to middle school as a tween, leaving behind the foundation of his childhood and taking with him all of the memories that he haws made along the way- the good, the bad, and the ugly.
I really wanted this year to be superbly fantastic and amazingly awesome, not just great.
My plan going in was to attend every school function possible, stay on top of the boys’ weekly agendas and their younger sister’s weekly reading folders. To turn in every medical form, information card, permission slip, and library book on time. My best laid plans always go awry, though, and it makes me feel as though I’m failing my children. Failing in my role as their mother. Failing in my duty to raise them adequately enough.
With the toddler only momentarily occupied, I set to task again, preparing to sort through the daunting pile of papers. Those resounding thoughts of failure continue to linger in my head. The looming stack of papers on the table stare at me with scornful judgment, silently tormenting the soft spot of my heart. The spot where I hide my deepest, darkest, fear. A fear many mothers know personally, all too well. The fear that I’ll never be a good enough mom and my kids will grow up to hate me. Resent me, even, because I’ve failed them.
The fear is like an accelerant for fire dumped out in the back of my head. It adds fuel to the spark of friction any run-of-the-mill event can conjure up, aiming for explosion. The fear’s harrowing reminders warn me from the sidelines that this moment could be The One which screws them up for life: the one that ends with me dressed in the standard metal-free clothing restrictions and a visitor’s pass, received only after passing the frisk, property inspection, and metal detector routine. All necessary in order to visit my child in prison, where I’ll hear for the umpteenth billion time about how it is all my fault, because I failed them as children. None of them will ever get over it. None of them will ever forgive me.
Those thoughts quickly dissolve as that bothersome toddler starts tugging at my shirt, because, she was “boring” and wanted me to “pway horsies” with her. Before she even finishes her pleading, her eyes land on the giant stack of forbidden papers piled up in front of me, lighting up with the delight of whatever troublesome shenanigans she was silently plotting. Her hands quickly grab a handful, scattering dozens more all over the floor before I could even finish my thought. “Let’s make pic-sure for my boys, mama! Pwease?”
Automatically, my mouth starts to reply with a firm “No,” but something in me hesitates for a moment. I look around at the papers covering the entire surface of the kitchen table now and swallow down the lump of bittersweet regrets that keeps bubbling up with all those sad feels. I hear myself saying, instead, ” Sure! Let’s make pictures for everyone. Let’s cut paper, too. And glue it. And paint it. We can do anything you want with this paper, my love. Anything at all.”
In this moment, I realize that I have nothing to feel guilty about. Nothing to fear. Those papers alone, no matter how high they might stack, no matter what was on them, no matter how long I waited to deal with them- did not define my role as a mother. They certainly did not define how well of a job I was doing at that, either! Those papers only hold as much power over me, as I want to give them.
So what if I wasn’t perfectly on the ball this school year? Homework got turned in 95% of the time- a new record for us! We only had 8 tardies and 4 absences the whole school year. We made it to Open House, the Halloween Bash, the Winter Music Show, one family swim night, and the End of Year Awards ceremony. We only lost two library books, compared to the five from last, and we only received phone calls home from school four times, all for kids being sick and not about behavior. Plus, we managed to keep all their grades right on track, not struggling to keep up with any areas in specific as usual. That’s like the Miracle of 34th Street, if you ask me. You are asking me…. right?
Reluctantly, I have to ask myself: “Are the kids really going to remember the couple of reading and math nights, the one school dance, and the two other swim nights we missed this school year?” More than likely, they’re not. I sure don’t remember a single school activity that I could’ve gone to and didn’t, way back when I was in elementary school, some twenty-some-odd years ago. I don’t even remember more than half of the names of my teachers, from over the years.
Judging by how easily my kids forget to flush the toilet, brush their teeth, or remember to do their homework, I think it is fair to say, they’re not in the slim group of genius kids with photographic memories who can recall, in-detail, everything that has ever happened in their life, including coming out of the womb. I also don’t think these kids will determine the greatness of their school year by my lack of knowledge on community playgroups for babies, radon testing resources, and parking lot construction during summer break. They are going to judge it by the successes we have had, the activities we did get to do, and the happy fun that we’ve had along the way.
Only that fear of failing, dumping those accelerants into the sparks of nostalgia for all the change this school year brings, is causing me so much inner turmoil. That pile of papers is simply just that- a plain old pile of papers. They’re not certificates of parenting success, licence to raise children applications or, diplomas for extraordinary parenting skills. They’re nothing like that, at all. Just paper. Colorful, bountiful, recyclable pieces of paper, perfect for me and this maniacal toddler at my side, to color pictures on for those three big kids about to end their school year. It’s about what I do do for them. Not what I don’t, can’t, or won’t.
It’s about staying true to this mom who is more than good enough, in despite of her organizational, time-crunching, and motivational shortcomings. Who is awesome in her own beautiful, unique, way. A mom who worries that her child’s future could be ruined by one missed flyer or event. The mom who cares so much, as to think, that she could actually fail her children. With a stack of unread papers, nonetheless.
That mom is definitely me, all right, and I’ll never be anything but her. I’ll always have a stack of unread papers lying around and that’s fine with me, because I am still a great mom.
A SAHM of four addicted to Coca-Cola, Kristina is on her way to insanity and beyond. With a house full of pets, a cranky hubs, and a passion for the underdog in life, she blogs for self-therapy at The Angrivated Mom. You can typically find her sneaking ice cream sundaes to satisfy her midnight munchies once the kids are in bed. At 9pm. Find her on Facebook and Twitter.
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