During my current season of life, Mother Of School-Aged Children, fall signifies new beginnings. It’s a time filled with hope for organized calendars, healthy packed school lunches, and taking control of our lives after they’ve seemed to morph into an out-of-control frat house by August.
All things seem possible in the early fall. I plan hot breakfasts served each morning with a smile to children with equally enthusiastic attitudes. I envision making Halloween costumes that would put any Pinterest post to shame. Perhaps this year I will be the class mom for all four children, start that yoga class, give Whole30 a whirl, train for a marathon, and finish poor child number four’s neglected baby book. The possibilities of how productive and flawless this school year will be are endless and enticing.
And then October arrives. Wait. October? I still haven’t signed up for that yoga class, restocked my fridge with the 452 items needed for my new grain-free, dairy-free, fun-free lifestyle, or put on the $150 pair of running shoes I bought for the marathon. Kids are back to cereal for breakfast, just like in August. (Actually by August, they were fending for themselves, so I’m actually not sure what they were eating.) I’m already in a packed lunch rut. Just how many things can you offer up that do not have peanuts or tree nuts in them? I may or may not have said, “I do not negotiate with terrorists,” to my seven-year-old while trying to get him to do his homework.
Summertime’s bring-you-to-your-knees anarchy of play dates, no bedtime, and empty cups and chip bags left to throw themselves away has been replaced with the chaos of managing the many moving pieces of a family. By mid-October, I realize I am counting down the days to holiday break.
The other day, when I saw the first couple of weeks of Back To The Grind wear on our family, I sent a text message to my teens: “Family night tonight. Homemade pizza, games and a movie. Be home by 4:30 p.m. You can bring a friend.” We needed the reboot, the reconnect. We needed the time to acknowledge that our lives are in what seems like a constant free fall … either the frat house kind or the chained to a calendar kind. We needed to just eat pizza–maybe save Whole30 for school year 2020/2021–and be together.
Being unhurried is pretty unpopular. It implies a lack of connectedness to one’s community, a lack of support for children’s social needs. And I am a compulsive Type A offender in avoiding being unhurried.
If you combine four kids and their multiple sports and activities with my curious personality, you can see how I am always dragging the kids on some kind of “adventure.” But one of the most enjoyable moments in the last several weeks was standing around the kitchen island with youngers and my teenagers sharing stories, laughing, and having them ultimately make fun of me (How do we always end up there…?).
After over a decade at this gig, I am learning (and sometimes embracing) that slow and steady truly wins the race. I have learned that I set the pace for our family. It’s a pressure I used to resent and a responsibility I didn’t really want to own. Who wants the pressure of being the beacon of hope for an entire group of people every day? But along with that responsibility I’ve realized I have the ability to steer our family away from the rocks with pizza, or the power to find and ease the tension in the family room by helping one child realize and release their feelings.
So, moms and dads, let’s go easy on each other and ourselves. God bless all of the uber-moms and uber-dads who can do it all and not end up crying in their closet (guilty!). I’m officially steering out of that lane. I’m accepting that choosing one or two things to accomplish in a year might be just enough to satisfy the need to get something done. My accomplishment this year is taking a yoga class with a dear friend. Seriously, if I accomplish just that for an entire school year I will be #winning.
And my last share from a wannabe uber-mom in recovery is to find your people. Find that mommy mentor or daddy do-it-all who will share with you her Pinterest-fail cupcakes or his DIY basketball hoop disaster. The parent who will meet you for coffee and share with you the honest truth of fishing a Hot Wheel out of a diarrhea-filled toilet with tongs (real story, still not ready to talk about it). You will know them when you find them, and you should cherish those people when you do.
I knew I’d found my first mommy mentor when she called to check on me while I was pregnant with two other kids at home and we were on our fifth day in a row of being snowed in. She said, “Even if they post pictures on social media about baking cookies and making snow angels, all moms hate snow days. Don’t worry about it.” I knew I had found my people. If you haven’t found yours, I think you might’ve just figured out your goal for this year.