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

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.”

Ugh.

Ugh!

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.

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ABOUT BETH WOOLSEY I'm a writer. And a mess. And mouthy, brave, and strong. I believe we all belong to each other. I believe in the long way 'round. And I believe, always, in grace in the grime and wonder in the wild of a life lived off course from what was, once, a perfectly good plan.
13 comments
  1. […] used Picture Day as a way to measure my success as a mama; as though I’m saying, “Sure, I don’t have my poo together the other days, but I can pull it together for Picture Day, momrades! See??” Or, “I can send my […]

  2. Every time my toddler and I are late for something, I keep thinking, “By the time she’s ready for school, I’m sure I’ll have figured out how to get us out the door on time…” Reading this post, it’s reassuring to just take that pressure off! 🙂

  3. I feel better about not having put name tags on her uniform 🙂 Keep breathing…

  4. Find comfort in the surety that not only parents and children, but teachers, also, find themselves in the same, glorious state this time of year. Some of us – not saying who – have been known to teach all day, go to meetings after school and meet with parents. And only on the way home from our 12-hour day do we realize there is food from LAST NIGHT stuck visibly between our teeth. So much for professionalism. Tomorrow morning, we promise ourselves, we’ll find that toothbrush.

  5. so, I run a school, and it started the same day as my daughter’s school…and my kid didn’t have undies for the first day of 8th grade, she had leftovers in her lunch box, we threw a binder together in 5 minutes the night before (thank goodness my husband hoards office supplies). Did I mention that I run a school? Yeah, I don’t really hassle paretns if they don’t get their forms in on time

  6. As you all return to school, us of the year round schedule are finishing our first term. The mess doesn’t get better with time, sorry to burst the bubble! Amongst college and 60hr work weeks for me, gymnastics, ballet, girl scouts, cub scouts, boy scouts, soccer, & wrestling, I’ve bought a house that we are now renovating before we even can move in! I’ve birthdays coming up which we’ve not planned for and what the heck am I doing with 3 kids on a 3 week break?!
    Yep, you’ve plenty of company in that mess and magic!

  7. I hear you Momma!! This is what I posted to FaceBook recently:

    First day of school: Wake at 6:45 without an alarm, get dressed, take a million first day pictures of the girls, make K’s lunch (complete with grapes that are carved to look like little bunnies), chat with C about her first day of High School, Hubby drives C to school, brush K’s hair, etc. all in a leisurely, relaxed atmosphere. Drive K to school and arrive 10 minutes early.

    Second day of school: Bolt upright at 7:53, miss watching C go off to school, swear, scramble to find K’s clothes, curse the fact that she wants to wear shorts that have no matching top that fits her, curse the fact you threw away her orange socks, throw a lunch together, yank a brush through her hair and put it into a pony, give her a quick kiss and have Hubby drive her to school because she’s late and I’m still in my jammies.

    Sigh. Welcome to the rest of the school year.

  8. We had one of those escape artist teasing dogs. After many, many chases, we finally came up with a plan that worked. This dog loved going on walks, so when she escaped, one of us got her leash and, making sure she saw the leash in our hand, we’d call out WALK! and run in the OPPOSITE direction from the one she was traveling. She would then chase us, so as not to miss out on a WALK!, and we would craftily clip on the leash and walk her home. She never caught on, and life became easier.

  9. Preach. And the reminder that we are, none of us, alone is oh so very helpful.

  10. I just love reading your posts. I love your honesty. Thank you for sharing with us.

  11. Yes, mess! School started LAST week while I was away from home (bless the hubby for getting the first day of school pictures and when I checked the time stamp tonight they were HALF AN HOUR before the bus came when mine are usually as the bus is pulling up the street) and the other one started yesterday with the whole teacher dying thing and I just rounded up all the laundry from the last 10 days and it reaches half way up my standing freezer. And I had to run an extra cycle on the water softener because we have been gone so much it thinks we only use 50 gallons of water a day (hahahahaha) and didn’t refresh itself last night. All the gone means all the mess and yet I said yes when a friend needed someone to watch her 5 year old all day tomorrow which means he will be tagging along to kinder drop off and the park and an appointment and kinder pick up and hopefully that one and my 5 year old will entertain each other well tomorrow afternoon amidst the mess. 😉
    I feel like there’s a song in here somewhere about the more things change the more they stay the same. The mess is always new and different and yet always a mess.

    1. The teacher died???? That might win the award for worst first day of school ever!

  12. In the mess with you!! Just moved into our house Sunday; school started Tues amid boxes and only a mini fridge for the 5 of us and no washer or dryer yet. MESS all over the place. But also the beautiful of holding my babies and watching them forge out to new schools!! XOX Momerade!

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