Parentine – (noun) A state, period, or place of isolation that includes the activity of bringing up a child as a parent, teacher, daycare worker, nurse, cook, janitor and overall provider of things.
I wanted to share this moment with my son from this morning in the hopes that it will encourage all the parents out there attempting overachievement parentine, as I like to call it to give their kids some slack and more importantly some time. Yea… you know if I’m talking to you. Don’t worry… we’re all guilty.
My 8 year old son was working on his school work with me this morning at the kitchen table and after quite a bit of grumbling, leaned his head down and said, “Mom…I’m not feeling myself.” I already knew. He had been on the verge of tears twice since starting that morning, but at the sight of his big dark eye lashes hanging over his paper and filling up with tears, I was taken aback by the amount of weight I could almost see him holding.
I looked at him and said, “Are you sad?” He nodded and started to tear up, but held it back. I often overestimate my children’s resilience in times like this. I assume they are fine because they are flexible and positive natured. Although we aren’t immune from hearing the occasional “my life is over” or “worst day ever” comments, in our big family the kids tend to roll with the punches. Ashamedly, they often hear me make comments like, “life is hard” and “it’s not about you” but in this moment, this moment that clearly required bravery, this little one was trying to hold back all the collective grief and pass it off as a show of strength.
Little did he or I know the strength this moment required wasn’t a holding back but rather a letting go. First off, let me say how proud I am of this kid for naming it. “I don’t feel myself” is a difficult thing for most adults I know to recognize, let alone to admit aloud. We could all take some lessons from my 8 year old son’s true bravery today, myself included.
Thank goodness, I had the awareness in that moment to listen rather than model again how to push back the pain. I took his hand, something I have learned is so important with my own children when I really desire to connect with what they are feeling, and we had a nice chat about how it’s okay to be sad, angry and disappointed. Mostly, I just asked him over and over again what he missed about each part of his old routine. When he stopped talking, I asked him to elaborate or tell me more about a particular game he loved playing or a friend he thought was funny. Through tears and laughter he shared things with me from “banana spys” on the playground (don’t ask), to PE (of course), to the way the classroom actually felt when you walked in. Together, we decided I would help him set up a space at home that isn’t the kitchen table so he might feel some comfort and purpose.
My favorite share was when he said he missed his teacher. I asked, “What do you miss the most about her?” He said, “Her face,” and as if that didn’t melt my heart enough I said, “Her face makes you feel happy.” He added, “Her face makes me feel smart. I just feel smarter when she is in the room.” These teachers are nothing short of miracles. Want to tug at the teacher’s hearts? Write them a note right now. Ask your kid what they miss the most about their teacher. Ask them to be specific. Send it in an email with a quick thank you. It doesn’t have to be long or elaborate, but their hearts are aching now too and helping to connect a teacher’s and a kid’s heart is a gift all it’s own. Let’s flood their inboxes.
But thanking a teacher isn’t my only mission in sharing this story. It’s the perfect summation of so much gratitude and grief that has come for so many of us as well as our kids these days with school at home. It’s overwhelming, and my guess is that, like me, parents might be trying to do it all perfectly right down to discussing their child’s feelings. Each time I got an email about how best to do this, I loaded on the guilt about the conversations I wasn’t having with them and the wasted time I had spent on Netflix and Facebook trying to “self care.”
The funny thing about guilt is it’s about me, not them. It’s self-serving. It’s about whether or not I look like a good parent, but if I heard anything today, it was a reminder to be self giving of my time when my kids need it most. Hear me clearly. When they need it most, not at every moment. The message was to be patient and watchful. Ironically, in my Catholic Christian tradition, this is just what we are being called to do in this holy week.
Just as each kid processes in their own way, they also process in their own time. For one kid, it might be over school work or during a classroom zoom this week. For another, at bedtime tonight, and for another it may be a month or even years from now. When my son and I were done he looked at me and said, “Thanks mom.” The two words every parent desires to hear from time to time. Sometimes I think it’s one of the only reasons we wipe so many boogers and clean so many rears, but it’s as rare as a zoom call without a frozen face. So I’m gonna tuck that one in my back pocket for awhile.
Whatever the timing, there is no perfect way except to offer your presence when the need does arise. Sadness comes from a feeling of loss and processing that feeling is one of the most important parts of grief. And let’s be real, we are all grieving. What I’m offering today is an invitation for you to watch and wait. Here me parents, the most important thing we can do during this quarantine isn’t the perfect balance of homeschool and work, or even making sure our pants are on during a zoom call (although this is a good idea in case you decide to stand up). It isn’t making the best meals, or turning on all the online field trips, whilst painting the kitchen or losing weight with the now free online exercise classes. It is simply a call to watch for that moment of need
School is in the full swing now and dare I say I’m kind of enjoying it. You don’t have to feel guilty for loving to leave your kids at school. Seriously. No guilt. It makes me look bad.
Having all 5 home means more fighting, more meals, more dishes, more discipline and more wackadoodle Mom. I’m not totally pessimistic though. I do, I so so so do, miss sleeping in past 7 AM, and I will admit I miss spending time with them when they are being nice and acting like perfectly mannered drone children. I’m just one of those moms that is a better person when I have some time away from my kids. Surprise!
It’s wasn’t Christmas, but on that first day, I totally danced to “It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year,” in my active wear (a.k.a. PJ’s), baseball cap (a.k.a. greasy hair cover), and yesterday’s make-up, while I watched them go to the glorious teachers, who teach the marvelous things and put the big smarts in their crazy little heads. Okay, okay – my eye holes might have leaked a little bit, or maybe it just rained on the playground on that cloudless day….on that one spot…on my face……
P.S. Mom’s who make those beautiful, first day, chalk board signs. Please stop. You are making me look bad. I tried one year but I used printer paper and a marker that was too light. The resulting picture was of my kids holding up, what looked like, a piece of blank white printer paper. They’re going to see your pictures, at your kids’ graduations and ask me why I didn’t do that. I will just have to point to their first day picture, the one with the piece of blank white paper and say, “I tried.” Or maybe I will just point to their empty baby book and shrug my shoulders.
Why School Mornings Make me Cray Cray (But just a little….mostly, I’m sort of sane…. I think.)
During school season, in the morning, I walk into my kids room and usually say in my best June Cleaver voice, something like “Wakey Wakey Eggs and Bakey! Except I don’t have time for that so just eat your cereal.” P.S. If you make eggs and bacon every morning, don’t tell me. It will have the same effect as your chalkboard sign.
So, if you haven’t guessed yet, there’s is a slight snag in my perfect back to school family picture. I little snafu, a hiccup, minor hurdle, if you will. Okay, it’s a flipping house sized boulder, but I’m gonna laugh about it and poke fun anyway cause, well, that’s what I do to stay sane. That’s right! The dreaded “Morning Routine”. Can I get an AMEN? You know exactly what I’m talking about if you have kids that attend school…. and a pulse.
In our house, there are very few moments that someone isn’t screaming or crying as though they either lost a limb or are about to cut someone else’s off. Here’s a mental picture for you because I know you’re curious. Children #1 and #2 are throwing barbs at each other to see who can make the other one mad first. Child #3 is constantly asking for something in broken record form because he’s learned if he doesn’t just obnoxiously repeat himself he won’t be heard over the other 4 (classic middle kid syndrome). Children #4 and #5 are usually crying, screaming, pooping, peeing, spilling, falling, or demanding something! And then, just as I’m about to bite into my own breakfast, which I rarely have time to eat, someone yells from the bathroom, “WIPE ME!”
The two big kids take it in stride pretty well, and they put up with a lot, but even I want to rip my eyeballs out at the noise some days, so you can’t blame them for being a bit on edge. Often, after a few minutes of thundering, one of the bigs starts screaming “BE QUIEEEET!” at the littles which only makes them cry and whine harder; the big kid who didn’t yell “Be Quiet,” then snaps at the other for snapping at the littles which in turn causes a yelling fight between the bigs. About 15% of the time that comes to blows…in other words true and utter chaos and it’s LOUD.
A Little Throwback For You. (Imagine me 25 years younger with an ugly boy haircut, no boobs to prove I’m a girl, and Spock ears cause I haven’t yet grown into my head. Pretty, isn’t it?)
Growing up, my sister, Traci, and I used to line up cereal boxes…three of them in a sort of U-shape around our bowls. That way we didn’t have to look at or talk to each other when we weren’t “awake yet.” Or maybe it was to spare ourselves the horror of seeing Spock ears and 80’s bangs, but that’s another story. This cereal tent was a great tactic, but there were only two of us. My calculations concluded that I would need 15 cereal boxes to do this with my kids and inevitably someone would be mad because they got the bran flakes box instead of the frosted wheat. Maybe I will just take those 15 boxes and create my own little fort to hide in.
Back to the Future (My all time favorite movie BTW.)
Not much has changed for me morning-wise since those days of hiding behind cereal boxes with my sister. Talking to me before I’m awake is still a dangerous practice, which is probably why the majority of my children are the same way. The apple doesn’t fall far. Am I right? I can’t blame them really. I try to imagine what it must be like to be in an almost pitch black room in a dead, and I mean D E A D sleep, have someone pry me out of my bed and sit me at a counter in the bright morning light,ask me what I want to eat and then to have someone next to me make a noise. A NOISE!? Any noise…. my eye is twitching just thinking about it. So imagine 5 little Katie’s sitting at a counter every morning waiting for breakfast. Both funny and scary.
Yes, I Have a Point (Hang in there. I just might make sense of all this yet.)
I’m not a perfect mom! The Lord knows this, you already know this, my kids certainly know this. I used to care, however, in the last few years I’ve decided that I’m okay with not being perfect. I’m okay with what anyone thinks really. They can judge or not. It really doesn’t phase me anymore. Perhaps it’s a side effect of this blog’s transparency or I’m passing some imaginary threshold as I grow closer to 40. One with a banner over it that reads, “Who gives a poop what everyone else thinks.” (Yes… I said poop. Not the other word. I’m not a monster! Most of the time.)
Quite frankly, I’m glad my kids see my mugly (messy/ugly) most days. My job is to raise them to love God and be ready for their future. They are my legacy. What better way to show them that they can’t do it alone, than to live out my mugly, loud, not enough, but forgiven, and complete with Jesus life, right in front of them.
You do You. (Not a little of them and mostly you. Just You!)
We are all a little mugly in the morning. Both in person and with our kids, but no matter what your morning routine looks like… June Cleaver, Lorelei Gilmore, Clair Huxtable, Marg Simpson, let me just put this out there. You do you!
I tell my kids this all the time. They love to point fingers, compare, and blame each other. Well, here’s a news flash that’s not actually a news flash: mom’s and other adults who, frankly, should be adulting better point fingers too. We all know plenty of “adults” who point fingers and compare. If we’re being honest with ourselves that includes us. It’s human nature, but that doesn’t me we shouldn’t try to improve.
Our kids take their cues from us. That’s where the “you do you” mentality is so helpful. A very wise mom I know once told me, “You can’t change the people around you.” You can cheer them on, you can communicate with them, even better, you can pray for them, but you CAN NOT change them. The thoughts you can change, habits you can stop, barriers you can break through, mountains you can climb are your own. As that same wise mom said, “The only person you can move is you!”
So… just do you, and if that is sometimes a mugly, loud, chaotic affair, then embrace it or change it, but don’t try to be the mom who made the chalkboard sign if you aren’t her. Your morning may be full of difficult, selfish, angry faces, but when you push through, you take difficulty and model perseverance, you take selfishness and model servant-hood and you take the anger and model love. Sometimes it isn’t as beautiful as the “June Cleaver” next door but it’s you. And whether you believe it or not it is good! You are a beautifully and wonderfully made and even in your broken morning, little lives are being changed simply because you showed up. Even in your chaotic mess… God is there!
Happy schooling everyone! And here’s to you doing you like a bad beast this week! Until next time, go share some chaos, create confidence and inspire some grace in your home.
So these are my digs. It’s where I come every week to get my creative juices flowing. I sit here……
No really, sometimes I just sit here. I often write. Sometimes I read the bible, sometimes I read self help books that I will follow religiously for tens of days. Sometimes I lose myself in a novel. Sometimes I go to my Facebook or Instagram account and scroll, scroll, scroll, scroll, scroll. You get the picture. It’s a home away from home, sort of. Big comfy chair? Check. Warm fire? check. Coffee, a.k.a. lifeblood? Check. Computer? Check. The only thing I’m missing is the husband rubbing my shoulders, and the “MOM, I NEED YOU TO WIPE MY BUTT!!!!” Actually, I don’t really miss my 5 kids or any form of butt wiping. I know. You’re surprised. The husband would be nice, but I will settle for my barista as long as she doesn’t start rubbing my shoulders. That would be weird.
I know you care so I will tell you. Rhonda, the manager, knows me by name. I’m so habitual that Rhonda notices when I don’t have my tumbler, I change tumblers, or even once, when I had a new dent in my tumbler!?! I know… right!?! She’s that good, people.
In my early caffeine days, I drank ⅓ cup cream and ⅔ coffee, but the longer I drank and the more kids I had, the less I wanted extras and the darker I wanted the coffee. I can’t afford to watch my 5 kids and waste space and time swallowing cream!?! I often think it would be more effective for me to just insert caffeine with IV, but then I wouldn’t get all the lovely coffee benefits. “Coffee benefits?” you say. Please share! Oh, I’m gonna share. In fact, I might overshare, but what’s new. Oversharing is my gift, and I will wear it like a badge!
4 Reasons Coffee Makes me a Better Parent
1 Wakeful parents don’t forget as much!
It gives me energy! Of course, this is the most common and popular reason people state for drinking coffee. It keeps me from making potentially dangerous, sleepy parenting decisions, like mistaking diaper rash cream for toothpaste (not me, but a guy I know). Nothing is worse for me, or potentially more dangerous for my family, than me leaving the house without coffee. I have been known to chug an entire cold cup of joe in speedy desperation. Have you ever tried to chug from a coffee mug? The rim is a little thick and it’s not as graceful as a water bottle or a can of soda. Inevitably, while I’m trying to full-on chug said coffee from said thick rimmed stoneware, someone pulls at my right leg, a few teaspoons worth end up missing my mouth and dripping down my neck, which I usually absorb with my shirt. I don’t wear white. Never wear white if you have children under the age of 10. If the shirt doesn’t work, I just rub it into my skin. A perfume of sorts. It probably absorbs into my skin and has the same benefit as drinking it. Like an essential oil.
2 It fights morning breath!
I use coffee to literally burn the plaque, morning breath, and left over bits of chocolate I downed in my bed after kids were asleep, out of my mouth. Yes, I’ve skipped brushing a time or two…or three. I haven’t asked my dentist if this is a good practice, but I’m pretty sure he would say it’s better than doing nothing at all, if not just so people don’t have to smell my dookie breath. Nuf said.
3 Delicious things make me happy!
I would eat pretty much anything if it said coffee on it: Ice cream? My favorite! Chocolate? Ummm…yes! Cake? Bring it on! You could make coffee flavored chips, crackers, maybe even ham!!! I’m pretty sure I would eat it. My favorite coffee things are those chocolate covered espresso beans. What prodigy came up with this!?! Essentially you are eating coffee beans, which I would do. In fact, I’m pretty sure I would just eat coffee grounds. It would be messier, and I might choke, and it might be stuck all over my teeth for the rest of the day, but other than that, I think I would enjoy it equally. I think I will talk to Barista Rhonda about serving bowls of coffee grounds. Can’t you see the black-teethed happy smiles around the place now!?! People spooning in their coffee joy for the day!?! “Would you like whip cream with that?” “Why yes… yes I would!”
That’s right…poop. By far the best coffee drinking benefit of all time. Anyone who drinks coffee regularly knows large quantities of dark coffee can really get things headed in the right direction. How do you think I got my bowels moving again after I birthed 5 poop-backer-upper, hemorrhoid causing children? Am I right or am I right? I’m so comfortable in my coffee haven, that I take a poo every time I come. I habitually use the same stall. It’s mine! I’m thinking of asking Rhonda for a plaque!
A Poo Poo Story
The other day I was headed in the direction of said poop place and I discovered someone had been there before me!?! How did I know? I’m there early, 5:30 am a.k.a guilt-free-time (when the kids are still asleep), so I usually take delight in the upright seat and blue water, knowing it has been cleaned just for me. Honestly, this is even better than home. My toilets are NOT this clean. There isn’t even a black line around the top edge of the water, dried pee around the rim, or a stray, questionable hair sitting where my back side’s about to go. On this particular day, not only did this alleged potty robber pilfer my blue water, but this commode caper had the audacity to take a number 2!!!! And leave it!!!! (Now that really felt like home, but that’s a story for another day.) Perhaps the most disturbing thing about this stinky ordeal? My coffee home potty has automatic flush. I’m just saying, if I took a poop that big in public, when I went to walk away I would be sure I heard a the rocket blast.
Seriously though, why do public toilets have to flush so loud?!? They boom and splatter like they are trying to wash down 5lbs of little smokies. It’s unnecessary. My children are afraid of them. They sit there trying to relax and do their business all the while clenched and afraid, yelling, “DON’T LET IT FLUSH!!! I wanna go out before you FLUSH IT!!!” They probably think their little bodies will go down with their business! Poor kids. No wonder there are so many small children riddled with constipation!
Bringing it Full Circle
Constipation. That’s where this blog comes full circle. Coffee shouldn’t just be for parents. We should just start giving our kids coffee in the morning. That would solve it! Works for me. Never mind the lack of common sense and medical data to back up this claim. Forget milk and OJ! Coffee needs to be a part of a balanced healthy diet. Cause I’m telling you, once you have two warm cups in your system, no fear of the flush noise is gonna hold back that tootsie roll!
Here’s hoping this brought you some belly chuckles, a little joy and some seriously good “scientific information.” Until next time, don’t be afraid to SHARE chaos, CREATE confidence, and INSPIRE some grace of your own!
In light of all this Elf on a Shelf stuff, I wanted to introduce you to our house friend…the TROLL on a shelf.
Now, before you roll your eyes at yet another tiny holiday toy that comes to life, let me first congratulate the parents who successfully pull this off. I wholeheartedly admire those energy-in-the night-parents, who create high wire walking, ice skating, mischievous marshmallow throwing acts at an hour that I am usually either snoring or watching mindless television and stuffing my face with the candy that I hid under my bed.
I’m gonna be honest though, there are a lot of us, who can’t handle the stress of elf life. I’m going to suspect even some of you who have an elf, just don’t have the energy for it, or in some cases, even wish they had never bought the thing.
So here I am again to make ya’ll feel normal. My Troll serves no purpose. None…except for the fact that I didn’t want to get rid of him from when I was a kid. Since I’m too lazy to make up fun stuff, he just moves around and hides and when the kids find him, I move him again. Let’s be honest, most of the time I forget, so some Christmases he only moves twice. The kids keep trying to turn him into an elf, but I don’t need that kind of pressure, so I insist that he’s just a Troll. I’m sure I’m scarring them for life and depriving them of some serious childhood fun!
This fluffy haired guy has been out playing with our family for 4 years now. He obviously has an affinity for reindeer, his red hair is a festive and bold fashion choice, much like his personality. He is never doing anything, just sitting in different places, kind of like what I do on Mondays. He goes from picture frame, to clock, to jar, to tree, to shelf. Always up high as my 1 year old would throw him in the potty and attempt to flush him down if she could ever reach him. He has been found in the nude on occasion, thanks to some curious children, and if you asked him, I bet he’d tell you he loves Jesus and Santa!
In tissue… BE JEALOUS!
Up high..MIC DROP!!
What I’m saying is, with all the holiday traditions flying around, it’s easy to feel like you’re a bad parent if you don’t do something or you do it but present it without a deep meaning.
Thanks to our addiction to social media, it’s unfortunately common to feel like you’ve failed because you didn’t move your elf or he’s on top of the tree AGAIN! Let me tell you, it doesn’t matter if it’s an elf, a shepherd, a creepy Troll toy, or nothing. It doesn’t matter if you move it every night, once a week, or not at all. Your family is just that, yours, which means it can have it’s own traditions tailored to your energy levels.
If you are an organized creative parent, then by all means move your elf every night! If you’re a crafty, engineering dad, then suspend that dude from the ceiling! But if you’re like me, and you’re a tired, sometimes sloppy, usually scatter-brained mama and you don’t want that tradition you heard about yesterday or you started one and afterwards discovered it was too much work, then for Pete’s sake, throw it out! Sure the kids might hem and haw for a bit, but there are other traditions your kids will have to enjoy and remember. Some that you probably don’t even realize you have created.
God chose you to be the parent of these children for a reason. You bring your own set of unique gifts to the table. Those kids are becoming all the good parts of you, and yes some of the bad, but that’s what makes them human. Perfect is boring. I love my sometime inappropriately sarcastic 10 year old and my sometimes over the top sassy 7 year old. If they were perfect, they couldn’t learn.
Let’s see what the Apostle Paul has to say about comparing ourselves to others:
“All must test their own work: then that work, rather than their neighbor’s work, will become a cause for pride. For all must carry their own loads.” Gal 6:4-5
So stop comparing your family traditions to that ones you saw yesterday on Pinterest, and make your own unique memories! Follow traditions because they make your family happy, not because you feel like you have to keep up with the latest social media feed or mommy blog. When you look at those posts, look at them in a different light. Don’t compare yourself to them. Instead thank God for that friend and for creating all of us uniquely.
Even if that means all you do is set up a nativity and wrap a few lights around a pole. I’m sure my kids will still be talking about the boring, sometimes naked Troll when they’re all grown-up, and there will most certainly be a fist fight over who gets to keep our little red nosed friend when we’re gone.
Until next time, share some chaos, create confidence, and inspire some grace of your own! Merry Christmas friends!
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, earwigsdon’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!
Soooo… lice. Admit it. Just reading the word made you cringe. And it’s not just because I put it in italics. I can make you do it again… bedbugs, chiggers, hand foot and mouth, mice, bologna cake (no? Google it. You’ll wince a little). I could go on all day, causing you to make awkward, squirmy, wincing faces at your computing device until your neighbor moves away a few feet. Oh yes. I’m that good!
First off, let me just say lice are not a sign of a dirty household, in fact, neither are bedbugs or any other abominable pest that enters your home. In fact, lice prefer clean hair and any of these annoying menaces can get into even the cleanest of homes. I’m not saying my home is clean. I’m just saying, “NO ONE IS SAFE!” See, now you can sleep easy. Right?
If you have never had lice in your home, let me give you the 411 right quick. Small bug, even smaller eggs, so small you almost need a microscope to see them. They usually, but not always, make your head itch, they are contracted by head to head contact. So really better than some pests, because most of your kids aren’t going around rubbing their heads together on a daily basis. However, there are still precautions you need to take, and if you have a germaphobe for a spouse, then their are more precautions you “need” to take.
All in all, my house has never been so clean. Thank you lice. I learned that I have a sanitizing setting on my dryer. Thank you lice. Those little nuisances can’t last 30 minutes in there, and your belongings will be so hot when you take them out you will need hot pads. Thank you lice. Having just about all my child’s belongings in bags for 10 plus days made both of us realize how little we really “need.” Thank you lice.
I had lice a couple times as a child. Although I remember the shampooing and tedious combing my poor mother endured, I was too young and carefree to trouble myself with what else was involved in eradicating this menace. I spoke to my mother, the day that all of this occurred, and do you know what she said? She said, “You know, this sort of feels like payback.” My mother, my sweet, all-around good natured, never spiteful mother. Although, I can’t say I blame her cause there was the lice vacation disaster of ‘86. Oh yea… me, my sister, my grandmother (who was vacationing with us) head lice. Away from home. Needless to say, I now truly appreciate all that nightmare entailed for my dear mom.
Let’s be honest though, for a mother, slowly and meticulously picking through your kids hair looking for eggs and bugs, not horrible. Not my idea of a good time, but I can think of worse things I’ve endured during my mothership. Hey monkeys do it. I didn’t eat the lice though. Just to clarify. On the other hand, getting my husband to pick and comb through my hair, well that was a horse of a different color. It was something close to asking a monkey to do it with mittens on. Not to mention my hair is the longest it’s been in 10 years. He did it though, and after checking the 10th or so time, he gained gracefulness and I began to trust that he was really looking. Now if that’s not love I don’t know what is.
Okay, one final public service announcement about lice and we can move on. Let me just warn you. I checked my kids head like 5 times before I found anything and the little things that I found I could remove with my finger. Everything that I read said that you wouldn’t be able to pull that off, but I could definitely pull them off (I couldn’t flick them off mind you) but I wasn’t sure of what they were until I finally found a live lie (what is singular for lice?). Let me tell you, when I saw that little bugger, I’m pretty sure my heart and breathing stopped for about 5 seconds, and I know I heard that repetitive, high-pitched, ringing note, that always plays on horror movies when something creepy shows up on the screen. Oh and BTW you are supposed to repeat treatment 7-10 days after the first treatment. I learned this the hard way and I want to keep all of the lice virgins out there from suffering the same fate. Just about the time I was going to remove aforementioned items from the large garbage bags. About 13 days after the first infestation, I saw a couple movements in my kids hair, while standing at the church book sale. Not my idea of Sunday Funday. Ya know?
If you do find yourself in a lice story, know this. You aren’t alone, you aren’t dirty (lice actually like clean hair), it will pass, and your house will be cleaner as a bonus! Until next time, share chaos, create confidence, and inspire some grace of your own!