So it took me a while to write about this, and in total honesty, I’ve been putting it off. I’m actually still a bit ashamed about this one, but my pledge has always been to share even my most humiliating moments with you, so cherish it and share it with those who will benefit from its equaling power.
(Deep breath. Here we go.)
August 23, 2016, 8:01 am
It is a beautiful summer morning, and I’m snuggling comfortably in my bed. In fact, this is the last day of summer vacation. The last day of constant bickering, the last day of sleeping in, the last day of having my 5 kiddos all to myself! I quietly admit to myself that I will miss them when they start school again.
Emotions, which bring both sorrow and glee together in one big hormone pot pie, swirl around in my one-step-beyond-comatose body. I’m also relishing in the simple fact that I don’t have to get up if I don’t want to. In fact, I might not. I will probably just tell the kids to grab some bowls and dry cereal and eat on the living room floor while they watch some mindless cartoons. I can vacuum the floor in a couple weeks. Heck, they can get the baby up too! She’s old enough to eat cereal. She might spill it all over, but she can just eat it off the (relatively) clean floor.
I haven’t heard from even the youngest three this morning. They are usually the first ones up yelling for “ceweal” or saying they are “hungwy.” This must be God’s gift to me for all my hard work this summer. One last day to sleep in. I have really perfected my sleeping-in craft over the summer. Even my kids are well accustomed to dawdling in the morning.
Tonight, we are scheduled to go to the school’s orientation. The supplies for each of the older kiddos has been packed in their backpacks waiting by the door for over a week. I am really on top of it this year! I feel relaxed and somewhat euphoric thinking about how I have survived the summer. I managed them all over these past 3 months: I tutored 3 of them, I baseballed one of them, I family vacationed with all of them, and I even managed to sunscreen and bathe most of them! Between all this and my ingenious dry cereal in the living room idea, I probably deserve an award! I psychologically pat myself on the back and look forward to afternoons of one or two young napping children and quiet. This is gonna be great!
My phone’s text message notification goes off.
I note the time and think about how tomorrow, I will have been up for an hour and a half already. I figure it’s my mom or sister. I grab my phone, hopeful to look at some pics of my adorable nieces and nephews, or maybe a shot of mom and dad enjoying breakfast on the beach. Nope, it’s my good friend Michelle.
Michelle has always been a bit of a mentor for me and a very generous person. She is texting to see if she can meet me, as she has some clothes from her youngest son to pass along to my eldest. It’s a group text to both me and my husband, who is in the garage getting ready to leave for work.
It reads, “I’m swinging by the school now. Can one of you meet me?” Before I can answer, my husband responds and I watch as the following plays out on my messaging app:
Husband: St. Pats starts tomorrow. Sorry.
Michelle: Hahaha! Your poor children! Have another!!
Husband: I can stop by the house tonight after orientation if you like.
Michelle: Ha! I am here….
Where are you parked?…..
I am in front of Methodist church….
Husband: Confused. We are at home. Kids start school on Wednesday.
Michelle: No they don’t. Seriously- I have to get to work.
(20 second pause….)
Cue husband arriving in the bedroom where I left my euphoric, self praising, slumber somewhere around, “Where are you parked,” to search the school’s webpage. Bart walks in somewhere around, “Ooooooh… sugar loving donkey!!!!!!!!!!!! TODAY IS THE FIRST DAY!!!!!!!!” At least that’s what I think I said.
I immediately start yelling, repeatedly, “Today’s the first day!!!! Today’s the first day!!!! Today’s the first day!!!! How can this happen? Today’s the first day!!” like some kind of crazed broken record. Meanwhile, my husband does his infamous finger run/pull through his hair with both hands, and says things like, “I don’t know, I don’t KNOW!!!!” and other locutions I can’t retype here.
I start to cry. Bart walks out to the living room to call Michelle and shamefully explain why we weren’t joking, but we really aren’t at the school. I manage to pull myself together enough to wake up my second oldest, Evelyn, and explain that mommy messed up and today is the first day. I need her to jump up and put some school clothes on because school started about 10 minutes ago.
It is at this confusing, awkward, mortifying mommy moment, that I go to get my eldest up and when I don’t find him in his bed, I realize something even worse!!! HE ISN’T EVEN HOME!!! He spent the night at his cousin’s house last night!!! You know an-end-of-summer hoorah! Super fun idea if it wasn’t on the eve of THE FIRST DAY OF SCHOOL! I forgot because I always forget when one of my kids sleeps somewhere else. I’m even known for looking for them in their bed in the morning and having a moment of panic when I don’t see them. Now I’m guilty of forgetting the first day AND where my child is.
I start to seriously wonder if parts of my brain have been oozing out of my ear while I sleep. I stick my fingers in to check and notice no crust or fluid. Curious. Maybe it’s those creepy earwig bugs. You know why they call them earwigs, don’t you? Creepy little devil bugs made me forget stuff! I knew I couldn’t trust them from the first time I saw those pincers and heard they had the word “ear” in their name.
I pick up the phone, while I pull on some clothes that I hope will look something like I didn’t just roll out of bed. My sister-in-law answers, and I explain my mommy fail as I try to sound like I haven’t been sobbing my brains out.
(Ahh haa… that’s where my brains went! I really need to stop crying so much.)
Because my SIL is awesome, and also a mother of five, she saves her laughing for the next time I will see her. She sounds sympathetic and understanding while she hands the phone to my eldest, Martin.
“Martin, mom messed up. The first day of school is today, not tomorrow. I’m so sorry.”
“WHAT? REALLY? Oh no. What are we gonna do!?!?”
Before answering, I silently think to myself, the exact opposite of what I was thinking in my bed this morning during my euphoric self tribute: I don’t know… I’m dumb. I’m worse than dumb. I’m a laughable, senseless, air headed, loser who is too incompetent to be your mother! People talk to me all the time. I see their mouths moving, I nod, but I don’t know what they are saying! I drive to your school often, and when I get there I realize I was headed to the grocery store, or I go to the grocery store when I’m supposed to be at the doctor! I have lost my car in almost every parking lot in this town! When I’m late getting you from school it’s usually because I forgot about you, but I don’t want you to feel unloved so I blame it on your baby sister and say she pooped her pants right before I had to leave. I went to look for you in your bed this morning because I forgot you weren’t here!?! Did you know there are bugs eating my brain?!? You should probably replace me with someone more qualified and with less brain oozing going on.
Instead, I try to sound like I’m not sniveling and snotting all over myself, and I say “Well, I can come and get you, but by the time I drive out there and back, get you ready, and get you to school, it will be almost lunch time and today is an early out. Or you can stay, and miss the first day. I’m so sorry buddy. I know you have been nervous about starting 5th grade.”
“Don’t cry, Mom. It’s okay. I will stay here. It’s not a big deal. I can just go tomorrow. We never do anything on the first day anyway.”
My sob-cloaking trickery is obviously out of practice. Ashamed of my mistake and my lack of emotional self control, I surrender and let my kid comfort me. “Okay buddy. Have a good day. I love you!”
“Love you too, Mom. It’s okay. Bye.”
There’s something about my kids trying to comfort me that pulls at the string that connects my stomach, heart and tear reflex. You know the one. If my kids comfort me, or I have to watch them try to be brave, I’m a salty puddle before I can finish telling them I love them. I’m also crying because I’m realizing how big my 10 year old has gotten while I had my back turned.
By the time I compose myself and walk from the bedroom to the car, my stellar 7 year old is smiling and ready for her first day. I try to clear the bloodshot from my eyes as I drive her to school, but I sob and blow my nose on the way in and out of the front office and up to her room.
Her classmates all cheer, “Evelyn’s here!” when she arrives at her room. I silently tell myself, “Well no other kid got that kind of welcome on their first day, so there’s that, and she’s really only 25 minutes late! Never mind the child you didn’t bring in at all!!”
The Icing on the Cake?
There is one thing I have failed to mention yet about this whole ordeal. The part that puts the shame in my shameful. The reason I slinked my way past the principal’s office, so as not to make eye contact and affirm my humiliation. A couple months prior to this mishap, I was appointed President of our School Board. Yes, ladies and gentlemen, have a chuckle at my expense! I am not only the mom who forgot the first day of school, I’m the School Board President who forgot the first day of school! You know, the lady who has heard the date for the first day of school in every meeting for the last six months!?!
In my defense, there was a misdated flyer for school orientation in our registration packet. Add that to the lackadaisical “who cares what day/date it is” attitude of summer, and the fact that I completely ignored the CAPITAL LETTER SUBJECT of the email the office sent notifying parents of the mistake on the flyer, and you get the embarrassed blubbering snotty mess that left the school defeated that day!
Now that the dust has settled on what is sure to go down as an epic folktale in this family, I not only mustered the courage to share my story and laugh at myself, I’ve learned a few things: You shouldn’t change your calendar based on one flyer, earwigs don’t actually eat your brain, and my husband should never rely on me for dates. (All my friends know this, I know this, it’s always been this way, but now we are certain beyond a shadow of a doubt, Bart is the only reliable date keeper in this relationship.) I’m okay with this. It’s safer that way.
I’ve also realized something even more important: there is so much beauty to be found in our mistakes!
The most rewarding thing I’ve learned from all of this, is that when we make mistakes as parents, and we admit those mistakes to our children, we offer them the opportunity to show us their best selves!
My son comforted me…I’m raising a stand up young man.
My daughter got ready in record speed…I’m raising an efficient young women.
Both my children easily forgave me for my mistake…I’m raising loving, empathetic people.
What more affirmation could a mother possibly need!?! This kind of beauty in the darkness is the reason I started this blog.
But that’s what God intended for us to do with our trials. To find the joy in them! This quote from the first chapter of James, verses 2-4 spells it out for us.
My brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of any kind, consider it nothing but joy, because you know the testing of your faith produces endurance; and let endurance have its full effect, so that you may be mature and complete, lacking in nothing.
JOY? Oh, I’ve found the joy all right! As I told my story, my friends hemmed an hawed and as they laughed I started to chuckle too.
ENDURANCE? I got that too, sister. When you make a big doozy like this to start off the year, all the other mistakes pale in comparison. I’m feeling pretty good about where the rest of the year can go now. Nowhere but up, baby!
MATURE? Yup, I’m totally mature! Just ask my husband.
In all seriousness, sharing this has grown, or rather, “matured” me into someone I can only be with God by my side…
a mother who is “lacking in nothing.”
I mean it! I’m not tooting my own horn!
I’m just saying that with Jesus I can forget the first day of school, yell at my kids, say a curse word in front of them, miss a game, forget a concert, or worse, and it won’t matter!
He will fill in my gaps and I WILL LACK NOTHING!
YOU lack nothing!
Jesus has given us a beautiful gift. Take it!
It doesn’t matter how big or small your mistake, Jesus loves you like you love those beautiful kids, and He doesn’t filter whom He forgives, nor does He run out of grace to show you the beauty that can come from your mistakes. So share your story of chaos, create confidence, and inspire some grace among your people. You never know when your ugly story will spread some unexpected joy of it’s own!