At the beginning of each school year, I decide that this is the year things will be different. I’m going to be organized. I’m going to be on top of everything. I’m going to make sure my children are well nourished and send them off every day with lovingly packed, nutritionally balanced lunches. I do pretty well, for about four weeks. But then my children ask why can’t they have hot lunch like their friends? I give in once or twice. By week six, my children have fully transformed into hot lunch kids. My mom guilt nags at me that I should be making them well-rounded meals cut into cute shapes and put into fancy containers. But my fatigue level reminds me they love school lunch and they’ll eat it without complaining, so why mess with a good thing?
You see, I’m a hot mess mom. I wish I was a Pinterest mom, a PTA mom. A soccer or a dance mom. But we don’t do consistent extracurricular activities so I can’t adopt any of those labels. So for now I’m just the messy mom. I’m self-aware enough to know this, and I’ve almost made my peace with it. And I know that most, if not all parents struggle in some shape or form, and the seemingly put-together parents are possibly just hiding it better than I do.
Most school days begin with this mental check list before we head out the door: Lunches, backpacks, water bottles, school laptops, work bag, both children, my coffee. And it’s repeated during the car ride just in case. (It has absolutely happened that a child has gotten out of the car and suddenly exclaimed their backpack was still sitting at the back door. At least it was entertainment for the children, who squealed in delight while their cursing mother made a fast U-turn back toward the house.)
If I can make it to school with all supplies in tow the first time, I’m feeling fairly proud of myself. But as I have come to learn, parenting is a path too often filled with surprises. One hurried morning I opened the car door for my then five year old daughter and she jumped out looking shockingly unkempt.
“Why didn’t you tell me I forgot to brush your hair?!” I yelled.
“I don’t know,” she shrugged.
I’m really not sure what else I expected her to say. It was, of course, my job to remember that I needed to groom her (because’s she only 5 years old) and make sure she got dressed. Otherwise my children would probably just roll out of bed and get straight into the car.
I raked through her tangles with my fingers as best I could and sent her on her way, shaking my head at what horror would fill her teachers that day as they bestowed their eyes upon my mess of a child. Surely they would pity her. Sadly, this has happened to me now on several occasions, and I’m anxiously awaiting the day she can brush her own hair.
My other favorite pastime is simply forgetting to feed my children. This isn’t intentional, of course. But between packing their belongings and mine for the day, I have been known to forget to ask them what they wanted to eat for breakfast. Of course neither child has any concept of time when they are playing first thing in the morning, nor apparently are the rumblings in their stomachs enough of a prompt to ask me for food. So when it’s time to load up the car and I hear “But what about breakfast?” I don’t even know what to think. I feel awful, I feel irritable, and I feel grateful for the pre-packaged foods that come to my rescue.
Even if I can make it through a day where my children are fed and clean, there’s still the topic of homework, which makes me feel frantic and disorganized. Don’t even get me started on school projects. I think it’s finally safe to laugh about the time I pulled a packet from my kindergartener’s backpack 15 minutes before we were supposed to leave for school. For several days it went unnoticed, buried underneath her artwork and letter of the day sheets. Her teacher wanted them to write three pages — yes, three — about what they did over spring break. Now this child of mine took an hour just to eat four bites of dinner, so surely you can imagine the stress I immediately felt trying to imagine this getting done in 10 minutes. She did what she could. I’ve since become a staunch supporter of no homework for young kids!
Most days I feel like I am just surviving. I see parents all around me who make it look so naturally easy. I keep telling myself it’s only what I see on the outside and I don’t know the whole picture. But I also can’t change who I am. I hope this school year will be different but let’s face it, it will probably be more of the same. One thing for sure, though — my daughter's hair will always be on point, because this mom now keeps a brush in the car at all times.
Chandi Kelsey is a wife and mother two and she had her family live in the metro Detroit area. She works as a physical therapist and in her spare time enjoys reading, baking and writing in her blog mommingonfumes.com.