by Becky Vawter Herren
When I just had one kid, it was unicorns and butterflies. Now that I have four, it's like completing a marathon with your shoelaces tied together.
When my first kid started kindergarten, I was totally on my game. After all, she had gone to Montessori preschool for years. Long before school started, we had the new backpack and matching lunchbox, new outfits, matching shoes, and every item on the school supply list. We were GOOD. Even when I changed her from a bus rider to a walker (meaning I drove to school, parked, and walked around to the back door to meet her at the bell) because she didn't get to ride the bus with her best friend, our neighbor, we were good. See, we lived at an intersection, and his address was technically on a different street so he had to ride a different bus, and that was not going to work for my kindergarten snowflake. So I drove to school every day to pick her up. Keep in mind her baby sister was born halfway through the school year, so I was toting a newborn around half the day, to and from school, so I could be the BEST MOM EVER. Lunches were thought out beforehand, carefully shopped for, and lovingly packed the night before. Hello Kitty sandwich cutout? Of course. Grapes cut into quarters? Surely. Organic, dye-free yogurt? You bet.
Read more: When You're A Week Late and Middle-Aged
Fast forward many years and two more snowflakes later. We are in a different city, and the school we send them to is 30 minutes away. Two different buildings (three last year, because of the way the grades shake out) and two different start and ending times. Also, the toddler is now in Mom's Morning Out two mornings a week, with a completely different start and end time, different building, as well as one more backpack and lunchbox to pack. My mornings have changed through the years. I didn't drink coffee until my oldest was a toddler. Now, I can't imagine school life without it. When my alarm goes off at an ungodly hour, the first thing I do is stumble to the kitchen to punch the on button on the coffee maker. Hours before, it has been preloaded with magic grounds and fairy water that will transport me to a functional reality at 5:30 a.m. If I find myself out of coffee at 10 p.m. the night before, my poor, wonderful husband ferries to the store without complaint to get my fix. After all, he has seen me without it. It isn't pretty.
Lunch packing has changed, as well. Gone are the days of pre-cut, cute sandwiches. Now it's an assembly line of turkey slices on bread, folded over and shoved into baggies. Kids are supposed to have fruit, right?
Hmmm. I see two apples that aren’t too wrinkled. I can make that stretch three ways.
Wash, slice, shove into baggies. Thank the good Lord in heaven for whoever created the giant drawstring baggies of individual chip bags in the variety pack. Open, reach, grab, stuff into each lunch box. Done. One of my snowflakes once asked for a note in her lunchbox because her friend got one every day. That lasted two days. And I think the note consisted of a big heart, crafted two minutes before it was go time.
7 a.m. is Go Time. This is an absolute. In order to get to school on time, this is the last possible moment we can leave the driveway. Around 6:45, one of my eyelids starts twitching. Lunch? Check. Clothes? Check. Hair? Check. Shoes? Damn. Shoes! Where is that other sandal? I swear it was here two seconds ago. 6:59: found it under the couch. Ziploc baggies of Life cereal for all and off we go.
Homework. Oh no. First snowflake's homework was done immediately after school, accompanied by a wholesome organic snack and PBS cartoons. Now, we are sometimes lucky to squeeze it out as I roll up on two wheels at drop-off right before the bell rings, right after we turn down Beastie Boys' "She's Crafty." As seat belts are being unclicked, I'm telling everyone LOUDLY to cram everything into their backpacks and get OUT. Car line is sacred. If you hold it up, you can be blackballed. Well, potentially. I've never been brave enough to defy car line etiquette. Pull up, GET OUT. NOW.
I tell myself, because I have to, that all of this will make them resilient. All I know is it makes me a mess. And, if I leave my coffee at the house, watch out.
Becky Vawter Herren is a dentist, wife, and mom of four humans. She attempts to keep all those balls in the air on a daily basis. She also pretends to like exercise, but would rather take a nap. She and her family live in Southeast Kentucky.