August 15, 2018. The date I figured I had two weeks to get my act together for the annual “return to school” march. Embracing this time of year as a signal of new starts, growth and development for my kids and the chance to restart, I had forgotten what else comes at this time. STRESS. CHAOS. Trying to embrace it vs. battle it. I am not alone in my mom “wins” and “fails”.
This year my boys are once again in separate schools and with that comes the continued complexity of different schedules including different days off. My youngest started kindergarten and let’s just say, the get to know me kindergarten craft didn’t get done by last Friday(insert mom fail). When picking him up at school, I embraced him into a hug and asked how his day was. “Mom, you didn’t send in my get to know me bag.” GULP. Heck, I didn’t even know what he was referring to. But alas, there it was, sitting on the counter. I thought it was done in school! It seems I am not alone. After polling my friends, a few other brave parents shared their back to school “fails” so I decided to compile a list in the hopes we could all see how much we’ve in common!
- I dropped my daughter off without shoes. I thought they were in the car but then they weren’t. With no time to go back home before work, she waited in the main office at school until my husband could bring a pair to her. GULP.
- Day 1 of being a high school parent! Apparently I missed the previous email about signing a technology agreement in order for my son to get his chrome book. Did so so much to make sure my son himself was prepared – that I neglected to do what I needed to for him.
- I was not there to get my daughter off the bus after her first day of kindergarten! She had to stay on the bus and go back to school where I had to pick her up at the office. I had the wrong time to be there; I was home, baking cookies for her, but they wouldn’t let her off the bus. She still remembers it. And my heart breaks every time I remember that she held her tears and disappointment until I hugged her in the school office that afternoon. It was an epic fail, but I’m hoping after 7 years I’ve made up for it.
- I had my daughter’s physical form all set in August. Sounds like a success. No, a fail when you can’t find it on day one of school. I put it in her old backpack and she threw it away. Can’t attend school without proof of a physical that year….
- My son was reading at the school mass and I had watched him and listened to him practice for days. Only to show up too late due to work to miss the “live” event.
- I didn’t realize there was a completely new/different uniform for middle school. Can you say, “one of these things is not like the other.”
- I showed up to my third born’s kindergarten meet the teacher night at 4:30 PM wondering why there was no one in the parking lot. There was no one in the parking lot because it started at noon. At least we can laugh about it…when the mom got a message about her friend needing support in picking up her kids the following day, she joked, “No thanks, considering you forgot when to show up to your son’s kindergarten back to school event…” That was probably my favorite response. Of course her friend was kidding but it’s what the mom needed in that moment. It highlighted utter acceptance that we as parents don’t get it ALL right ALL the time. And that’s OK.
Pain in the face of a parent who feels like one single incidence of missing an event, forgetting a shoe or jacket or even what seems to be forgetting a simple form is all too familiar. But why out of all the good we do accomplish, meetings that are made on time, lunches that are packed with love, breakfasts that are made, clothing that is laundered, new shoes that fit, do we hang our parent hat on that one fail? Is there something innate that makes us think we cannot be a good parent unless we are perfect?
A few years back I wasn’t well. My sons were both under the age of 6 and I knew mom was going to have some fails. But yet I was not ready to hand them over to another mom. So I would rather have anticipated those fails than allowed someone else to handle them. Why? Well, because that in of itself was a failure to me. Webster Dictionary defines the terms as follows:
Definition of fail
failed; failing; fails
1a : to lose strength : weaken
1b : to fade or die away
1c : to stop functioning normally
2a : to fall short
2b : to be or become absent or inadequate
2c : to be unsuccessful
Ah! Weak and inadequate resonates with what I think is unacceptable. But are the small skips in the perfect parent checklist really fails? Or are they just slips from the overload of constant expectations of perfection? Think about it. There are very few in this world that have never achieved anything less than a perfect score on EVERY single test they have taken. Parenting is a test you cannot study for. If you took a test you hadn’t even cracked a book open for and achieved an “A” or even a “B” you would be applauding yourself. Yet, here we are, as parents, knocking ourselves for getting tripped up from time to time when there is no coursebook on parenting.
So I will ask you to consider this. The next time you feel like you’ve had a gigantic fail, if your child is too young to know the difference, let it go. If they are old enough to understand, use the above analogy and then tell them you are not perfect. Give them the heads up that you are likely to have another mom fail soon.