As I scroll my email account I notice there’s something new from Cleo’s teacher with the title “late arrivals” in the subject line.” “Shit,” I mutter as my heart speeds up, and I click it to open. Andy has been gone at work for the majority of the school year thus far, but we’re in the home stretch. He’ll be home in two days. I was hoping nobody would call us out before I had the chance to catch up. This month we’ve had food poisoning, stomach flu, and Huey has already been sent home with lice. I’m perpetually behind on laundry, and the car is never not running on fumes. My home keeping schedule is lost under a pile of inbox delinquents since I’m resigned now to just putting out fires. At present my bathrooms can be described as just this side of a state park campground’s at 3am.
I reply to the email, make my excuses. I tell her the big kids never make the bus, that I can’t leave them at the end of the road to wait alone because pedophiles. I explain that Huey is struggling this school year due to the loss of a few of his good friends, so it’s a process every morning to pry him away from the new kitty and into his pants.
What I don’t tell her is that our routine is coming apart at the seams, that I regularly pass out at night on top of the blankets, fully clothed, that we’re doing great if I can remember to empty the litter box, and there’s about a ninety eight percent chance there’s a load mildewing in the washer at any given time.
I’d like to say I stay up, assemble lunches, and set out the clothes, but my thyroid is all busted up because my immune system is an asshole, so more often than not I pass out, mid-story, in the top bunk. So, mornings with lunches prepped and matching socks are glorious and rare. More often I am scraping the previous day’s leftover sludge into the trash can and blowdrying underwear. Wait, nobody else does that? Too bad. I’m leaving it in. Even if we do make it to the car at the ideal time we still have the solar powered gate to contend with that craps out when it rains, and a dog who does not follow commands, so when she feels like a dally down the street at 7:57 all bets are off.
We also have a habit of missing appointments, or at least showing up late. I’m the mom who needs reminding by the teacher that I signed up to wash the class laundry even though I set alerts on alexa and my phone. On any given Saturday I’ve probably just remembered that Maeve has a piano festival scheduled for 11:17, and you’ll find me, red faced at Target scrambling to find closed toe shoes. Or we’ll be the ones at the park with the last minute gift, who’ve arrived ten minutes late to the party that isn’t till tomorrow. Have I ever told you the story about the time I got the week wrong for spring break? Showed up the following Monday, lunches packed, to find a deserted parking lot, and the penny dropped.
Huey recently had a lot of dental work done. Yes, he knocked loose his front tooth when his face met with our concrete floor, it abcessed and became painful, but he also had cavities. Things to know: His molars are crowded, he hates to have his teeth brushed, and he’s afraid of the dentist. He’s also the fourth kid, so he got screwed out of the tough enamel his older siblings inherited, and I got pregnant with him when I was still nursing his sister, so I can only speculate that my stores were depleted. That’s my mixed bag of excuses for why Huey’s teeth were jacked at his four year appointment. Know what else? I did a shitty job brushing them. I just said that out loud.
I don’t want to give you the impression that I am a walking disaster. Chances are you’ve seen me with my hair done, and I may have gifted you a pie. But Mom’s are not superheroes, there are not enough hours in the day, and we all prioritize differently. I for one, hold the ritual of afternoon tea pretty sacred. I like to do art projects with my kids, and probably spend way too many of my working hours at Michaels. I like my home to be beautiful, if not totally clean, and I place a lot of importance on keeping tradition. If there is a choice to be made between decorating a fall mantle and making jello brains, or cleaning out the fridge and pantry, it’s jello brains all the way. I also make most dinners from scratch and insist that my kiddos sit at the same table each evening to enjoy each other’s company. I use the term “enjoy” loosely.
Like most people I put the best version of myself forward on social media, and some of it really is that gorgeous. The rest of it is a real shit show, and some days we are truly mired in it. But the shit is the fertilizer that makes the rest of the stuff more vibrant. Or something else poetic. The shit is when we sit together at the end of the day and we belly laugh because Huey thought it was a real hoot that we would park a whole car in the garage once it was cleaned up. The shit is Aidan and Maeve poking fun at me over Christmas dinner, ten years from now because of that time I got mad cleaning the kitchen. I busted a whole bag of sugar on the floor, and my argument subsequently lost all legitimacy because for the next hour I was the lunatic with the red face, wielding a broom and my shoes sticking to the floor.
Today I bribed my teenager with five bucks to brush the little kid’s teeth. I did it yesterday too. Huey’s been wearing girl’s socks for a week and a half, and I bought the stuff to make banana puddings then just fed the kids Nilla Wafers instead. Your turn.