This was what we put together for my Kindergartner’s ‘Student of the Week’ poster while we drove to school.
I used to clear out Party City for their birthday parties, but now I grab a cookie cake, throw in some frozen pizza, and call it day.
I don’t volunteer for my kid’s school field trips and I’ve learned to be OK with that.
• • •
My oldest started Kindergarten this year and I feel like I’m finally accepting that we are just never going to be those people with cute french braids and perfectly punctual with the die cut foam poster board in hand.
Instead, we unpack the backpacks on Monday morning to find that she has a poster due, glue stick on a family picture and have her sharpie her favorites while we drive to school.
Because of heightened educational and medical standards and social media always casting the shade, it sometimes feels like we’re in a judgmental pressure cooker that at any point will implode if you are not on point at all times.
How can we trust our parental instinct when all of the unattainable standards make you want to go fetal and use the Kids Netflix crutch all day?
My best friend sent me this hilarious piece on what parenting looks like today:
How To Be A Parent in 2018 Make sure your children’s academic, emotional, psychological, mental, spiritual, physical, nutritional, and social needs are met while being careful not to overstimulate, understimulate, improperly medicate, helicopter, or neglect them in a screen-free, processed foods-free, GMO-free, negative energy-free, plastic-free, body positive, socially conscious, egalitarian but also authoritative, nurturing but fostering of independence, gentle but not overly permissive, pesticide-free two-story, multilingual home preferably in a cul-de-sac with a backyard and 1.5 siblings spaced at least two years apart for proper development also don’t forget the coconut oil.
How To Be A Mom In Literally Every Generation Before Ours Feed them sometimes. –Bunmi Laditan
This. Is. Why. We’re. Crazy.
IT TAKES A VILLAGE
I was blessed to spend a plethora of time with a village of grandparents, aunts, and uncles, and cousins growing up. My parents were young when they had my brother and I and were thankful to have many hands to help.
Forgive the 80’s glasses look, but you get the point.
While I’m incredibly blessed with inlaws that just this weekend watched all three girls overnight, daily villages like this used to be more common. Parents had more weekday people to lean on if they needed to clean the house or go to an appointment or take a dang nap. But now, more often than not, our villages are spread across the country.
Some weekdays, parenting feels more like a house.
The only 24/7 village that exists now is online parent groups or Google searches that make you want to close your doors and hide your children rather than try to parent to all of the unrealistic standards.
WHEN I WAS A KID…
When I was in Kindergarten, it was only for half days. Now, it’s all day and half days are left in Preschool.
When I was in Kindergarten, we had a letter of the week, watched Sesame Street every day, and played on a playground. We might have cut some construction paper once. Now, they have Spanish, Religion, Computer, Gym, Music, and Art class.
When I was in Kindergarten, our homework was giving the teacher much-needed space. Now, they have a worksheet four out of five nights of the week.
Forgive the grandma lens, but seriously. I know the teachers are just trying to keep up with the ever-increasing educational goals. I know we are just trying to keep up with the test scores of people around the globe and prepare them earlier for college tests.
But, dang. They’re five years old.
ROCKING THAT MOM GUILT HARD
I have SO much respect for teachers. We absolutely love our girl’s teachers, school, and all of the administration. I honestly can’t imagine if my day involved getting my kids ready, taking them to school, spending all day teaching a room full of other people’s little ones, and then picking up mine for activities, meals, and the bedtime routine. So. Much. Respect.
At the start of the year, we are given a volunteer form and asked if we are able to help with any of the school activities – field trip chaperoning, cutting school supplies, parent-teacher council, lunchtime help, etc.
I get that it takes a village, maybe more like a city, to manage an entire school system. I really do. I’m so thankful for the many volunteers that help drive my girls on field trips or put their straw in their juice box at lunch.
Right now, though? I just can’t. Brad travels many weeks so any nighttime activities are out. Last school year, our girls were on different Preschool and PreK pickup times which, on top of having a newborn, made helping out with in-class activities a no go. This year, I can’t help over lunch because I stay at home with my two-year-old and can’t bring her. Field trips aren’t feasible because they’re over my little one’s nap and taking siblings is usually is usually frowned upon. I could cut supplies, but they honestly may look better if the Kindergarteners did.
Excuses, excuses, I know, but last year I felt the mom guilt hard. As I did the “I don’t volunteer” walk of shame to drop off their car seats so someone else could drive them, it felt like I was marked with the Scarlet Letter.
This year, I’ve learned to embrace that that’s the chapter we’re at right now. It’s not the chapter we’ll be at forever.
Someday, my littlest will start school and then I honestly can’t wait to help at lunch, in class parties, or drive on field trips to see my girls giggling with their friends. Or maybe someday Brad will travel less for work so that I’m able to plan to leave her at home with him for a bit.
That day just isn’t today.
That doesn’t make me a bad parent or a bad mom, as many school parent friends have helped me see. It just means that my priorities right now are with my baby girl and Pre-K pickups. They’re right where they need to be.
CAN I PARENT MY KID, PLEASE?
Also, when is it OK to let my kid run around outside by themselves? When can I switch their car seats around to forward facing? Can I run in and out of a gas station to pay while I keep my eyes on them? How long do you have to keep them on a booster seat if you have a tall kid? Is there an age? A height?
Gah. Shouldn’t parental discretion be worth something?
While recognizing many kids are in a much harder spot than mine and the laws are in place to ensure their safety, I have been physically, intellectually, and emotionally exhausted trying to keep up with the ever-changing standards. Word to the wise, Nebraskans: booster seat laws are changing at the start of next year. Word to the wise for all other states, check your DMV sites.
TRUST YOUR GUT
You are an expert on your own child.
I’ve had to remind myself this on some days.
On those days when I see people driving by giving me those eyes as my kids play outside while I do the dishes with the door opened to watch.
On those days when I tried dual swim lessons leading to carrying a screaming two-year-old and a crying baby to the car while we were dripping in our swimsuits with people looking at us like I killed their puppy.
On those days when I teetered with the school absence limit for trips to my girl’s grandparents in Tennessee and great-grandparents in Pennsylvania because priorities.
I just didn’t expect to have to remind myself this so often.
Parenting advice is not a new thing. Before the Internet, I’m sure there were many “do-gooders” at the store putting in their two-cents about your parenting. It just seems like it’s everywhere now and the contrasting viewpoints are drowning out our confidence as parents.
Over the past six years, on those days when so many opinions leave me feeling like a frazzled mess of a mom, I’ve learned to remember the days when I nailed it.
When we’re feeling like we can’t keep up with all of the unmeetable parenting standards, we need to remember all of the many things we’re doing right.
That time when I spent all weekend going against every uncrafty bone in my body to help Ella hot glue, paint, splatter, and nail polish fifteen toy Hatchimals to hand out to her classmates for her last week of school.
That time I spent the afternoon picking out the perfect goodies with my preschooler, labeling, and putting pipe cleaners on May Day cups for the girls to hand out to all of their friends in the neighborhood.
The fact that every night I read my girls a bedtime story.
These are the moments we should call to mind when we feel like we’re falling short.
These are the moments they see.
These are the moments they’ll remember.
While, of course, we should be aware of the laws, regulations, and recommendations that can help our children thrive, at the end of the day tackle those disapproving glances and weird looks with the confidence that you love your kids like crazy and you. are. rocking it.
As I walked to the car carrying my dripping screamers after the swim lessons that one day, some kind soul asked if she could help me buckle them in. As I lovingly held down my little bucking bronco, she helped me buckle her.
It. Takes. A Village.
Let’s stop treating parenting like it’s black and white and lift up parents we see in whatever beautiful and unique ways they are choosing to rock parenthood.
*This piece was originally published on the author's blog.