For the Mamas Who Don’t Even Have It Together at the START of the School Year

Sep 9 2015

School’s back in session now, and here’s how I know.

In the last 48 hours, I’ve lost 3 dogs, and I only own 2. I’ve dropped kids off late and one came home early, vomiting. I’ve driven away from my house barefoot and in my nightie. I’ve had way too much coffee and not near enough beer. I’ve spilled hot beverages down my front. I’ve found no clean undies; for myself or for others. And my car started making a ker-lunk, ker-lunk sound which the car repair guy told me is probably a mouse stuck in the heater.

School’s back in session now, and I know because we were organized and TOTALLY READY the night before school started, but once the morning arrived, the dog escaped. In grand, Houdini fashion, the dog escaped and went frolicking in the neighbors’ yards, and I sent the kids out to capture her, which they couldn’t do because she is swift. Swift and sneaky. Swift and sneaky and slippery, I tell you, so she teased and teased them, letting them get almost close enough, but not quite, and she had a fabulous time watching me coach kids at high volume from the porch before I gave up, raced inside, donned my tennis shoes — tennis shoes with my nightie, oo la la — and gave chase myself.

Chase her, I did, in tennies and my thin, blue nightie with too many of the front buttons undone and with the morning sun slanting gloriously through my garment, no doubt, and illuminating that which I did not wear underneath — you’re welcome, neighbors! — but I caught that dog in the end. I did! I CAUGHT THE HECK out of that dog, and I put her inside just in time for her to escape again because, “But, Mom! I had to open the door to leave the house for school.”



He “had to open the door to leave the house for school,” he said. As though we don’t know how to climb through windows at our house. As though we’re not problem solvers who can find a better way like shimmying up through the chimney we don’t have and jumping from the roof. As though leaving out the back door and scrambling over the six foot, unfinished, splintery fence and burrowing through the blackberry brambles is not an option. As though we don’t honor creative thinking like just don’t go ANYWHERE, kid, — SCREW SCHOOL — because Mommy doesn’t want to chase the dog AGAIN. 

But did he think of any of those things? Nooooo. He “had” to open the door to leave the house for school, and so we chased the dog again, and we caught her, and we were only a little bit late.

A little, teeny, tiny bit late, but everyone ended up AT school FOR THE WIN; ready and raring to go! UNSTOPPABLE! And I left for work.

Sure, I spilled coffee on my work clothes right after my car started to ker-lunk and just before an emergency stop at the car repair shop.

Still, READY, RARING TO GO, and UNSTOPPABLE-except-for-sopping-up-coffee-and-a-mouse-in-the-heater.

And then my neighbor texted to tell me to tell me the dog escaped. The other dog this time because, in our family, taking turns is important.

But READY, RARING TO GO, and UNSTOPPABLE-except-for-sopping-up-coffee-and-a-mouse-in-the-heater-and-the-Houdini-dogs, which everyone knows is practically the same thing anyway.

Yes, technicallthe school called at noon to let us know a kid who belongs to us had started vomiting and had to come home early. But otherwise we were completely unstoppable.

READY, RARING TO GO, and totes UNSTOPPABLE-except-for-sopping-up-coffee-and-a-mouse-in-the-heater-and-the-Houdini-dogs-and-the-vomity-kid.

And one high school lost my senior’s schedule and the other high school had classes misassigned for my freshman, but whatever, right?

Whatever, because we were READY, RARING TO GO, and UNSTOPPABLE. 

Except when were weren’t very ready… or really raring to go anywhere except bed… and discovered we were kind of, well, stoppable.

Which is when I realized this school year is exactly like every other school year and the chaos must mean school’s back in session.

I dropped my kids off again at school this morning. Some I drove early, while I was still barefoot and in my nightgown, hunkered down in the driver’s seat in the school drop-off lane, and praying to Jesus I wouldn’t get a flat and have to run inside where I’d be arrested for indecent exposure. And one kid I drove late, after I was dressed and ready and made up and as poised as this mommy gets.

I dropped off that last kid with his medications, which took a while in the office, and so I was in the hall when a beautiful, young friend dropped her oldest baby off for his first day of kindergarten. She was barely holding it together, a baby in one arm and a toddler holding the other, the grief of sending her son into the unknown fresh on her face, and I asked her how she was.

Sheesh — don’t you HATE that? Don’t you hate it when you’re hanging on by a shoestring and someone says, “How are you?” and “You OK?”

She burst into tears.

Of course she did, because I’m a JERK.

So I hugged her and held her for a second and made nonsensical sounds and said things like, “Oh, mama; I’m so sorry,” and then I encouraged her to sneak over to her son’s class and look in the window, even though that’s against school rules.

Truth is, I probably didn’t help her. Or at least not as much as she helped me.

Because I’ve been feeling a little ridiculous, to be honest, for not having All the Things Together these past two days. My feelings. My dogs. My ability to put clothes on my body. The kids’ schedules. God knows, “planning dinner” isn’t even on the horizon right now. And, although I haven’t lost the ability to laugh at myself, I have been quite certain other mamas would juggle this all better than me. With more poise. With more panache. With better plans.

I forgot for a minute that we’re all a beautiful mess. And I forgot how much I needed the reminder that I’m not alone mucking my way through this.

Listen, friends. I don’t know about you, but I’m realizing it’s OK to be both this year. Both/And, right? Both really, really ready for change and sort of broadsided by it all at the same time. Both eager for the next season and mourning the end of the last one. Both excited or what the future holds — reaching out to embrace it — and stunned by the hurdles I find along the way.

Both deep in the mess, yes, and also finding magic along the way.

For all you here alongside me, in the magic and the mess, I’m sending love.