It’s about 9:35am on the first day of school when I hear my phone ring. As I pick it up I glance down at the screen and see one word which strikes fear in any mother’s heart, the name of my child’s elementary school.
“This is Christy,” I say as I pick up the call.
“This is K from the elementary school.”
I should preface before writing anymore that my 1st grader woke up in the middle of the night before and threw up. Not the kind of throw up caused by a stomach bug, or so I thought, but the kind caused by “the night before the first day of school” jitters.
“Yes.” I say as my heart rises into my esophagus.
“Well, Wesley didn’t even make it until 10am. He threw up all over himself and the classroom.”
I, of course, race to the car, hop in, barely remembering to throw on flip flops in my panic to get out of the house and I speed (just enough over the speed limit to not get pulled over) to the school.
As the car races forward my thoughts echo that same sentiment. I recount the morning. My sweet son, who ended kindergarten on such a high note and who was so excited to return to school, was one big hot mess. “I (sob) just (sob) don’t want (sob) to go (sob).”
The words I spoke to him come back to me like a bad aftertaste,
“You’re just nervous,”
“You’ll do great.”
“I’m sure your seat will be right next to one of your buddies.”
In my spectacular effort to convince him and myself that we were doing the right thing by hustling him out the door,I failed to notice the ever so subtle shade of white/ green that was creeping into his face. Nerves I thought, it’s normal for the perfect storm of apprehension and fear of the unknown to mix with a touch of stress and result in minor indigestion, right?
Not right. Nothing like the sobering sight of your boy in the office holding a puke bag, shoes covered in his own vomit, looking up at you with the saddest eyes you ever seen in your life to fully convince you have committed one of the most atrocious #momfails EVER.
He threw up on the carpet, during circle/ reading time, sitting criss-cross apple sauce, ALL over himself. Did I mention this was on the first day of school?
As we drive home I go through my spiel which I have already rehearsed on the short drive there, attempting to convince him, but more so me that everything will be okay, “Well buddy, that certainly made for a very exciting first day of school. At least you will have a really good story about the first day of first grade. And, you know, now the worst thing that will probably ever happen to you at school has happened and you survived it. You might just be the most brave and courageous little boy I know.”
He nods. I fight back tears. It’s just really awful. What else can I say?
Other than now, a few weeks into school he is great, hasn’t looked back, is LOVING every second of first grade. Me, on the other hand? I’m still pretty traumatized. I will need counseling. I might never forgive myself. I wish I were joking.
Boy, we mothers are hard on ourselves, aren’t we?
Do you remember when you got your first baby home from the hospital how totally and utterly horrified and scared out of your mind you were? Did you think, “What am I doing with this very tiny and fragile human? Why did anyone in his or her right mind think I was competent enough to care for him/ her? Isn’t there some kind of weeklong test I need to pass under the scrupulous oversight of the nurses before the baby is released?
Can you recall that moment you grabbed your baby out of the back seat of the car only to find their little head bent sideways in the car seat at an ungodly awkward angle. They were peacefully asleep while you nearly had to be hospitalized from heart pains due to a minor panic attack.
Remember when your three month old rolled off of something or unto something dangerous because you forgot they were semi mobile now? That soother you gave him covered in dog hair? The socks that cut of circulation? The time you forgot your child in the car (for literally one minute) but you were sure it was actually an hour?
Yes these are all things that actually happened to me. Oh, and there so many more we just don’t have time for in this short blog post
Do you remember the guilt? The shame? The utter disgust with yourself? The questions about whether or not you are fit to be a mother? You know, all the things we feel on a daily basis.
We put a lot of pressure on ourselves. Sometimes we put a lot of pressure on each other. And sometimes we put a lot of pressure on each other unknowingly.
Like the time I purchased store-bought Valentines and attached one meager piece of candy, probably stale because it came from the Dollar Store, and then I made the mistake of going on Facebook. My feed was littered with all kinds of Pinterest inspired homemade mini cupcakes with heart sprinkles made from scratch on a plate constructed from personally harvested paper from a South American rainforest with the post reading, “Look what I made for Timmy. Everything from scratch and 100 percent biodegradable. Happy Valentines Day”
Wow. I suck.
And no, it is no longer a, “Happy Valentines Day.” Thanks a lot.
Now, don’t hear me wrong. I have a well-worn Pinterest account myself and have been known to go a little over the top. My mom and once spent 6 hours constructing a legit cave out of brown paper complete with cob webs, spiders, and rats for my son’s Indian Jones Party. I’m sure my shenanigans have been a source of guilt in other mother’s lives too.
So why do we feel like we have to win every battle? Why do we feel compelled to be good at everything from managing household accounts to electrical work to baking? Let me just set the record straight right here right now. WE DON”T HAVE TO BE PERFECT. Because you know what, in the eyes of our children we probably already are. When you are six, your mother and father can literally do no wrong (of course, we know that they can). But there is this strange and beautiful and innocent awe-like wonder children feel towards their parents. In reality, they don’t need 3D birthday cakes or elaborate sensory play activity rotations at quiet time. They don’t need to be enrolled in every after school activity or for you to take out a second mortgage so they can be in a different camp every week of the summer. It’s actually quite simple. They need a place to call home, with parents that love them, who listen and pay attention, and who genuinely care. That’s it. That’s all.
Can we make a pact fellow mothers? Can we judge less and encourage more? Can we put less pressure on ourselves? Can we strive for perfection but be okay with failure every once and a while? And, can we promise to post pictures and share not only the good and “kumbaya” moments (which are wonderful and demand to be shared) but the ugly and messy ones too? To be honest, there is nothing I like better than when one of my fellow moms in the trenches captures a picture of cereal all over the floor or crayon markings on the wall. That probably sounds terrible and I promise I’m not trying to revel in your misfortune. I swear I’m not gloating over your #momfail #mommightlosehermindmoments it just when you are brave enough to share I confess my life feels more normal. It reminds me that I’m not the only one who struggles, whose kids are acting like characters straight out of a horror flick.
So here’s what I propose: if you are reading this right now because you are on social media. Let’s rock it Jimmy Fallon and The Tonight Show style and start hasht-tagging our #momfail moments. Let’s get it all out in the open and air out some dirty laundry. Let’s allow our failures to remind our fellow moms that they are not alone. Let’s breath a collective sigh of relief because everything will be okay. There is more than enough grace to cover over the holes in our parenting. At least, that’s what I choose to believe EVERY SINGLE DAY.
“My grace is enough; it’s all you need.
My strength comes into its own in your weakness.”
– 2 Corinthians 12:9 MSG