I suppose it was stupid of me to think that all of the self-doubt I felt would end the minute I walked across that stage during high school graduation in my cap and gown.
I was naive to think that all of my insecurities would go out the window too when my parents could no longer claim me as a dependent on their tax forms. All of my naivety and stupidity were thrown back in my face during the dreaded daily school drop off with my kids.
There we are, cars lined up, every make and model and just like the cars, there are the parents lined up, every make and model. Some of us are fancy streamlined sports cars and some of us could hide a body in our trunks. I find as I stand there some mornings, struggling to help my kids with their backpacks, that if I look up and take a longer glance around, those old familiar feelings from high school begin to creep back in.
I live in a very affluent community. Some of the cars at school drop off cost more than all three of the cars I’ve had in my LIFE put together. I find myself thinking, are these cars just for drop off? Or are these adults doing the heavy lifting of parenting in these cars? Do their seats look like hot death when they remove their car seats? Do BMWs have magnetic floor rugs that only seem to attract Goldfish crumbs and old fruit snacks like my humble car does?
Then the parents step out of their cars on nice days and I see their impossibly chiseled arms and perfectly toned stomachs and all you can think of is how you woke yourself up last night passing gas on the couch only to find you had emotionally eaten an entire family-sized box of Little Debbie Snacks. You know you did because the wrappers are now your new nightwear.
Do these parents know about Little Debbie snacks? They have stickers on their cars that say they’ve run marathons, jumped rivers, and climbed Mt. Washington, or at least their car did. They wear clothes that they purchased new, not like the ones I have that have that great worn-in look, because they have been worn-in by someone other than me and then given to Goodwill.
Then I see their hair, perfectly placed, and a travel mug of coffee… with the matching cap. How the hell did they keep the cap with the mug? I bet their socks match under their pants.
I bet they’ve never brought their child to school drop off with their underwear inside out… or without a bra on.
Then there’s the early morning chatter. The talk about trips to Martha’s Vineyard over the summer and ski trips to… does it matter? It’s a ski trip! There are mumblings about soccer practice and what snacks are the most healthy and all I can feel some days in my inside out underwear and my travel mug with the missing top, is that I’m failing. It all comes crashing down on top of me at drop off.
I feel like I’m failing. I see all of these parents around me that seem to have that knack for being normal down to a T. Me? I have the knack for being absent-minded, and I have little to no time management skills and am in a perpetual rush. These other parents are detail-oriented, have quick reaction times (they willingly take their kids skiing! They have to have quick reaction times!) and are financially sound thinkers.
I begin to wonder all kinds of things. Do these parents get their kids to eat at night without bribery? Do these parents let their kids watch a little too much TV? Have they ever had their debit card declined at a grocery store? Have they ever yelled at their kids? From this parking lot at 8 AM, with this freezing coffee in my hand and my mismatched socks, I wonder all of these things, and then I feel a tugging on my hand.
Mama, I love you.
My son is standing with his eyes closed and his little rosebud lips sticking out a mile to kiss me goodbye. Like every other area of my life, my children pull me back into what’s important.
Perspective is everything with parenting. Keeping everything in perspective is what I know I’m supposed to do, but those insecurities that have plagued me my whole life haven’t simply gone away since having kids.
But I have found ways to combat them. The first way is something I never would have thought would work… I self talk. I tell myself that my kids are happy, clean and safe. I tell myself that I’m here to drop my kids off at school safely and so are the rest of the parents here. I tell myself that there have been and always will be people better off financially than us, but that doesn’t mean that the challenges that they face with parenting aren’t any easier.
I’m not a failure. I’m not a failure because I have had challenges and continue to work through challenges. That’s what life is, isn’t it- dealing with challenges? The failure would be giving up, walking away, not trying to do my best. The failure would be me trying to conform to what I believed was “normal” and not letting my children see me for who I am, inside out underwear and all. Failure would be me teaching my children to believe that in order to feel successful, you must choose the same path as those around you.
The second way I cope is something that might be the hardest to do. I talk to the other parents and get to know them. The more you put yourself out there the more they and you can begin to realize that simply because you look different on the outside or have a different bank account total, doesn’t mean you don’t worry about your children any less or stress about day to day life any less. Most of the people I’ve talked to look so put together because they have to. They’re on their way to work right after dropping off their kids and would love to be able to dial back their wardrobe a little.
But above all, you have to tell yourself that, I am successful. My children know that I will love them no matter what challenges they may face and whatever path they chose to take with their lives.
That’s all we as parents need to do to be successful. It’s up to us to do the hard work of doing the self-talk and maybe starting conversations with those who don’t seem like us because our children are watching. Clothes, money, cars… How can we teach them that these things don’t matter if we don’t believe it ourselves?