The day had started out great. I had packed everyone’s snacks the night before. I had had a shower, a blowout, an outfit I loved, and stuff for my study was all in my purse, next to the door. The kitchen was satisfactorily clean and we had plenty of time to get out the door. And I had a sweet stack of Christmas cards addressed and stamped in my purse. As of 8:40 am, I was feeling pretty good about life.
Until, you know, Real Life happened.
Here’s how it goes down. Once the kids are all buckled in, I forget two separate things and have to make two separate trips back to the car. One of which is for a drink for Grace, which she partially consumes in the car, but mostly spills down the front of her shirt so that when I get to her class and take her jacket off, her mint green shirt (which perfectly matched her mint green tutu) is now totally soaked through the front. Matched with the Stuff on Her Face (of mysterious origin – wasn’t there when I SCRUBBED HER CLEAN forty minutes ago), she kind of looks like a figure skater who’s had a rough night. She has an extra shirt, but the ladies are nice about it, so we leave the shirt to dry, which it does when I come back to get her – now in a sort of dusky seafoam.
On my way out I take the coat I left in class last time. So now she is prepared in case it drops 20 degrees in the next half hour.
At their two separate pick-up locations, neither Sam nor Grace are able to complete the task of Getting Through the Parking Lot with full motor functioning and can now only communicate through the whine-cry. They are too far gone to listen to my calm reprimands (why is this parking lot so quiet??) so my only goal is to get them into the car as fast as possible and then Shut. The. Door. And then drown my own misery by blasting All I Want for Christmas. Which at this point, is a giant box of wine and a quiet bathtub to drink it in.
Which maybe I can pick up tomorrow after dropping off Sam’s preschool paperwork I had forgotten this morning.
So yeah, today I was That Mom.
So I came home to give myself a pep talk. Instead of the self-critical stuff we too often do, I figured: here’s what I would say to a friend who was having a rough morning. So why shouldn’t I say it to myself?
You’re allowed to have a bad day.
You don’t have to have it together all of the time.
What happened today is not a snapshot of who you are as a mom, as a person. Sometimes you have it together, sometimes you don’t. When you do have it together, remind yourself: this too shall pass. (And thank God for the grace today.) When you don’t have it together: this too shall pass. (And thank God for the grace today.)
You can only be That Mom when other people are around, so forget the peanut gallery. And in fact when you boldly are That Mom, or That Family, you make it safe for other families to be imperfect, too.
It’s great to be punctual. It’s great to be organized. But there’s a difference between preparedness and being able to control life. Also, controlling children. No one has figured out how to do either of these things and if they have, they’re probably some kind of evil scientist and will come to a bad end.
Fight the urge to replay the scene on the drive home. Fight the urge to take out your humiliation on your kids. Do some disciplining in the privacy of your own car. Apologize if it’s in order. Catch yourself smiling at their precious hooded faces in the rearview mirror.
Separate out the humanness of “not being Supermom” with those real, heart sins. Repent of the latter and ask God for help; laugh off the rest.
Then go ahead and lavish some love on them. Lavish love on yourself. Go home and change into sweatpants. Bake muffins (from a mix). Let them watch a Mickey Christmas Special. Get on the floor and play peek-a-boo with the dishtowel that the baby just pulled down even though you keep making mental notes to move the dishtowels. Fawn over the Christmas crafts they brought home, especially the one with the traced handprint. Ponder it all in your heart. Let the dishes sit in the sink while you read The Polar Express. The cleaning will come and go, but the stuff you create and time you give them, that will last.
And sit down and write this stuff down. Because tomorrow, it will be someone else’s turn to be That Mom, and we all need a little pep talk sometimes.