I flunked Kindergarten the first time so they are making me repeat it.
In it I detailed the ways in which I failed to be a responsible parent of a kindergartener the first time. I don't think I substantially improved. And yet I feel totally at peace with myself in this regard.
From where I sit now in the drop down desk in my sunny yellow kitchen, I can see the okra yellow reading log, on which I am supposed to date and chronicle every 20-minute reading period I do daily with Olivia, my kindergartner. It is June 14th. And it is still blank. I came up with a good system of keeping it on the fridge, down low where Olivia could reach it, and I didn't lose one the whole year. However, neither did I ever have one completed until the night before it was due; in fact, I falsified a lot of them by looking at the books on Olivia's shelf for ideas of book titles. I did read to her, as much as she wanted. But not 20 minutes a day. (I have a theory that forcing kids to be read to when they do not want to be read to and are creatively playing in their rooms makes them less likely to love books, not more likely.) And though Liv can reach her log, she didn't write on it once.
I never established a regular homework routine. And yet we did turn in her homework on time all but twice.
I never did start the habit of making the kids lunches the night before school, nor did I learn to enjoy preparing them in the morning. But I did write a catchy little song that goes "I hatey the lunchy but I make it, I make it," which I sing several mornings a week.
I didn't clean out the kids backpacks regularly. But I did train them (finally! in May!) to empty their lunch boxes and put them away every day. Almost.
I didn't always remember to pack Olivia her water bottle. And yet she has not suffered from dehydration once.
I sent Sophia to school a couple of times to buy her lunch and she didn't have money in her cafeteria account. But they let her eat anyway, and I paid it back fairly quickly.
I volunteered the classroom once a week. Kind of. I missed a whole month due to illness. I had to cancel several to go to doctor's appointments or speak at MOPS groups, and a few times I forgot to call ahead. But the reading groups seemed to continue and the teachers still smile at me and apparently don't think I'm the worst parent in the world.
All these things I have flubbed, failed at, and faked my way through and the glorious fact is that the world did not come to an end. My children are still alive and learning things. In fact, what both my girls' teachers tell me is that they are happy, confident, well-liked children; Olivia's teacher told me her love of learning has exploded this spring, despite not getting 20 minutes a day of reading (the teachers do not know this; again, I lied on the reading log).
It's wonderfully freeing to know that all the things I wish I was doing better are not actually essential to being a pretty good mom. And I'm not sure, but I think this attitude is good for my kids to observe.
Back when Sophia was in preschool, I forgot to show up to a kindergarten readiness assembly until it was almost over. I came flying through the door and the preschool director spotted me, sensed my distress and put her arm around me. "It's okay to make mistakes," she said. I was 30 years old and don't think anyone had ever said that to me; or perhaps I just never heard it. But I remember thinking "I'm glad my little girl goes to school here." And it was kind of a turning point for me. If I'm not trying to be the perfect mom, my kids are free from needing to be perfect too.
Not that I'm perfect at not trying to be perfect. I'm my own harshest critic in other ways, as just about every mother in the world is, or in my world at least.
But I've come a long way in my quest toward imperfectionism. I'm getting better at not always needing to get better.
Next year, I will have a first grader and a fourth grader. No more early childhood parenting for me. Homework is about to get crazy in fourth grade I hear. I may need to establish more routines. Perhaps next year I'll be more organized.
Or perhaps I won't. I'm looking forward to seeing how I do.