Mile 23 Is No Joke

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Has anyone noticed that there’s an unspoken, yet undeniable, timeline for just exactly how put-together a mother has to be during the school year? We all know that us moms are supposed to have our stuff together on the daily. But sustaining that “can-do!” crap for a full school year can take superhuman determination and, in my case, of course, a lot of wine. 

There’s this “my act is together” process that is, I’d imagine, a lot like running a marathon. Not that I run. But so I’ve heard. From people who run. Which, again, is not me. 

At the beginning of the race, you’re all pumped up by the cheering and the people and your inflated sense of ability, but by the end you think you’re maybe going to barf and everything hurts and your eyes are just closed - waiting for the finish line. That’s me and any given school year, in a nutshell.

It goes something like this.

End of summer: You are filled with the excitement and promise of a new school year, all rested from a summer spent sleeping in and tanned from long days at the pool. You can do anything! You are supermom! THIS will be the year you read Shakespeare to the kids before bed each night, while having long talks about their dreams and hopes, recounting our blessings, bellies filled with a nutritious meal you cooked from scratch that included at least quinoa and kale, if not both. Free range, of course. Responsibly sourced. You have standards.

Beginning of the school year: New clothes, new backpacks, sweet new haircuts, schedule all displayed and color-coded on the whiteboard. You got that shit together, sister. You ARE supermom! Planners are signed each night, homework done with care, fun, nutritionally complete lunches with sandwiches in the shape of octopi complete with kiwis for the eyes are packed each day. You are KILLING IT.

Sometime after Thanksgiving: the rosy glow of the first of the year is long gone. The calendar still has “October” on it, and the kids have played tic-tac-toe in the squares. Dinner has become pancakes or McDonald’s, because four out of five nights have some kind of kid activity and who in the hell has time to make quinoa anyway? But you tell yourself that you’ve still got it together. You are on mile 13 of a marathon, and while you’re out of breath and some things are starting to hurt, you still find the motivation to push on. You are not a quitter. 

When the holiday parties in classrooms start happening, and the SignUp Genius emails come out, you’re on that instantly, lest you end up on the hook for “197 pieces of cantaloupe, cut in the shape of reindeer” instead of the much easier, albeit coput contribution of holiday-themed paper plates. You can do this. You still have to have your act together. You can’t show weakness yet.

What follows is something that resembled October but are actually February and March. Dreary weather, cooped up kids and approximately 752 basketball games that consume an entire weekend. Your kid has to have the right color jersey on, bring a snack (“healthy please - no sugar for our boys!”) not this Saturday but the next, and there are 75 birthday parties to attend and buy gifts for. Weary, you soldier on. You slip up here and there, but hey, you’re mostly doing okay. Planners still mostly get signed, last-minute store runs for poster board are had, but overall, you’re still in the game.

So, here we are in April. Let’s call April “Mile 23.” Mile 23, my friends, is NO JOKE. In other words, everything hurts, I think I stopped breathing a while ago, there’s chafing in uncomfortable places and my brain is screaming that it’s time to stop. The wheels are starting to fall off the bus. But I can’t stop yet. It’s ONLY APRIL. 

April is April - and in case that wasn’t clear, April is NOT MAY. Only AWFUL mothers fall apart as early as APRIL. Sheesh. 

It’s not yet socially acceptable to be all like “oh - it’s the end of the school year - screw it!” I still have to at least LOOK like I’m trying, even if I’m completely depleted of any willpower at all when it comes to signing papers, going to concerts or even making sure they’re adequately and appropriately dressed when I lovingly shove them out the door. 

My octopi sandwiches have evolved into peanut butter crammed into a folded slice of bread, which when called out by my kindergartner, I declare “I’m testing you on your math. Determine the area of the sandwich and get back to me. And show your work.”

Their backpacks are tattered fragments of the cute fashion accessories they once were, and you have figured out that they are also the source of the mysterious odor. Their clothes are mismatched, too small and could double for costumes for the remake of “Annie.”

Yet we still have more class parties, two more concerts, six birthday parties, a spring showcase, a First Communion and like 40 more packed lunches (per kid) to go. 

I’m afraid to even think what I’ll be like come the end of May.

Send help.