I have doubted my quality as a mother at least daily for the past 16 years, 4 months, and 29 days. The baby years were hard with the diapers and breast feeding and pumping and up all hours of the night. Then came the toddler years. I broke into cold sweats perseverating over the grape I didn’t cut into fourths or the outlet I left uncovered because frankly, I was too tired to get up and find another one of those nail-breaking plastic things.
These doubts churn to the surface every September, with the return of yellow school buses, brown bag lunches and math quizzes. It’s back to school in the Meyer household and I chuckle to recall the motherhood aspirations of my younger self. I would dream of the days when the children would leave for school, faces bright and bellies full of nutritious breakfasts hand-prepared by their laughing mom.
I never dreamed the day would come when I would need a Hazmat suit to enter my 14 year-old son’s room to shake him awake. I didn’t know that earbuds went on before shoes or socks. I had no idea that my right quad would be disproportionately larger from the non-existent brake I would repeatedly slam while my sixteen year-old learned to drive. None of their bigger “stuff” really occurred to me in those days.
Somehow the imagined blissful peace of kids in school has been replaced by the reality of my bleary-eyed guzzling of steaming coffee. Their “nutritious, home-made breakfasts” are often lobbed at them from across the kitchen as they sulk out the door with barely a growl. Their shining faces now have pimples–a painful reminder of the hormone-driven adults they are morphing into.
“Wow. Lady,” you might be saying. “If I were you, I would just quit right now. You really, really suck.” Well there is this other thing….
My little Hadley…my “I-better-have-one-more-baby-before-menopause” baby.
Hadley is nine.
She loves her shoes, her dolls, and her MOMMMMMMMMYYYYYYYY (she screeches when I walk in the door, restoring my faith in life and motherhood every time.)
They all started back to school this week. I made Sam an egg one day. I made Maisy a smoothie and let her drive an entire 4-mile trip without correcting her once (ON the same day!). That day, I was feeling pretty good. Then the braids happened.
Hadley was at a friend’s house, and came home with her hair in two perfect braids. “Mommy! Can you do my hair like this tomorrow for school?”
My heart sank.
So much for my renewed faith. Hadley had no way of knowing this, but… there are a few things I just don’t do: swim underwater, craft, or braid hair. Sadly for her (or maybe happily) TWO of my best friends, KH and DL, are tremendously crafty, board-game-playing, braiders of hair.
Suddenly, french braiding that kid’s hair became my mission. It was my moonshot (please don’t remind me that 9/10 moonshots are abandoned… I’m getting to that.)
I had her wash her hair and condition–twice. We dried it. Brushed all the knots out. Laid out our comb and bands. Got a little stool for her, and positioned myself just the proper distance behind her. While she was washing, I had binge watched half a dozen YouTube videos on braiding. I was ready.
She gave me a kind but sympathetic smile. “Oh! I really really really like it Mommy! Thank you! But…um…tomorrow, I have gym and…I think I should stick with a pony tail ok?”
I was crushed.
Once again, a motherly fail. No shining faces. No full bellies. No friggin’ braids. As she skipped out (I love that nine year-olds still skip) Hadley called back to me.
“Hey Mommy. Since we don’t have to spend so much time braiding… you think you can write a note for my lunch? You know…a really long funny one?”
Boom. Take that KH and DL. Bet your braiding-game-playing-breakfast-making selves won’t ever find a YouTube video on LUNCH-BAG-NOTE-WRITING.
Every mother sucks at something and some of us suck more than average. Don’t let those fails define you as a mother. Your quality as a mother is all in how you make your kids feel. Even if it is the moment they find that old prescription, covered in orange crayon, at the bottom of their soggy brown paper bag.