When Expectation Meets Reality
My feed is flooded this week with sweet back to school pictures of all your precious babies, either dawning their masks and ready to tackle a familiar setting in an unfamiliar way or rocking their comfiest joggers with their workstation conveniently within walking distance to their new ‘cafeteria’…and everything in between! I too was ready for those pictures – I had outfits picked, the morning menu planned, and the bags by the back door ready for their departure, and then my kids woke up.
I had just spent four days flying solo in parenting, which was capped off with a four and a half-hour drive by myself from Texas with my three small, but mighty kids. Did I mention two of the three are potty training in a pandemic? I was exhausted, stressed, and over being needed...the following morning was our first day of school and our first day where mommy was going back to work full time. In my head, the morning was going to be a sweet memory filled with chocolate chip pancakes, pictures, measurements scratched on the door frame, and notes quietly tucked in lunchboxes for a midday surprise. All of the things I was able to accomplish the previous year when my oldest started pre-school. Instead, my husband had to leave an hour before normal, leaving me to attempt to get three post-quarantine, jammie and screen-addicted toddlers, up and ready for their big first day with clean clothes, full bellies and lunches packed...while also pulling myself into some assimilation of order for work. All three kids landed themselves in timeout before we even put shoes on, and it went downhill from there. The only reason I know they even ate breakfast was because it was still on their faces when we got in the car. As I buckled everyone into their seats, promising treats after school if they would just sit down and stop trying to remove every accessory, necessary or otherwise, I realized I had pretty much been either annoyed or angry since we started our morning (remember the solo parenting leading up to this? Yeah...I was over it). I felt so defeated driving them to school. It isn’t a very long drive, but long enough for me to play every poor choice we made that morning over and over again in my head. There was so much guilt over going back to work and shame over missed intentional moments. You better believe I was questioning my decision to go back to work and send them to school. By the time they were all pulled from the car COVID-style, and I sat alone in an empty minivan...well me and Poppy singing loud and proud, I was hit with the pain of not even getting a picture from their first day and the tears came.
All of my failures of the morning (and the past week) rolled down my face. All of the self-doubts about our decisions were splashing my steering wheel. Thankfully I didn't stay there. Grace upon grace upon grace, friends. We are all walking through this season in different ways. Some have loved it. Some have grieved it. Some have landed in both camps on different days. Some of you are questioning the choices you made for your family, even though when you made them, you did it knowing that was the best choice you could possibly make. We've all had to adjust and make changes and decisions in ways that don't make sense and create very little room for peace. But we are being given the opportunity to extend grace to each other and ourselves and I pray we're all learning to receive it too.
Nothing about this season (and really nothing about motherhood) has been easy. But if we look back at this time and we’ve learned a little bit more about how to be grace-filled parents and humans, then I would call that a win for 2020…and let’s face it, 2020 could use a win.
Pictures may not have happened 'before', but here's the 'after' proof that we all survived our first day, and not too worse for wear.