The kids and I shared our usual school commute banter as I secretly hoped there wouldn’t be any glitches: no flat tires or car crashes. I don’t usually practice catastrophizing, but this morning was different. I had burned the midnight oil and continued on “into the next day” working into the wee hours of the morning and had overslept my alarm. We left the house late, but breakfast had been accomplished and lunches were in their backpacks. Focus on the positives, I told myself as I examined my reflection in the review mirror. I hadn’t even brushed my hair, not even with my fingers. I glanced down at the far too tight “rejected by the middle schooler several years back” cross-design leggings I was wearing. Sure, they were fine to sleep in, tucked under the covers of my bed, but I obviously hadn’t taken into account the risk of rushing out the door into the wide open public air in them.
I was my best driver as I navigated the rushing vehicles, although I kept my foot firmly on the gas pedal: there was no way we could arrive late to my youngest’s school. I would have to walk her in and I was committed to staying in the car until I was safely back to my driveway, and even then, I would need to slyly head check for neighbors and dart into the house like a ninja after confirming the coast was clear.
Like magic, we made it to school on time. London was just as relieved as I was. I had told her there was no way I could be seen in public, so she would have to venture in without me if we were late. “It’s not fair to me, Mom,” she said. “That you overslept and didn’t brush your hair. Don’t make me go to the office alone, please. I’ve seen other moms in their pajamas and slippers and they go in.”
Yeah, about those moms, I thought. I’ve seen them, too. I couldn’t imagine going into public in loungewear or, worse yet, clothes that were obviously pajamas. And slippers. At least I had boots on. Although there isn’t a fashionista out there who would recommend coupling western-flair grey boots with the juvenile-print leggings I was wearing. The boots had been by the front door though, and I had been in a panic of a hurry. I had also managed to throw on a scarf to combat the chilly air. A scarf fancifies any outfit. And, if draped appropriately, covers up the fact that you aren’t wearing a bra. I looked down to make sure my scarf was draped appropriately. Yes, indeed it was. Although I wouldn’t normally combine brown and tan leopard print with black and white cross print.
London rushed from the car as my customary “I love you! Make today amazing!” sentiment chased after her. At least I didn’t end up being one of the moms who had to leave their car in questionable garb for the whole world of other parents to see. I turned up the tunes as I drove back home and sighed as the anxiety left my body. Still a clean record of awesomeness, I smirked.
I turned the corner and heard something slide across the backseat. As I glanced over my shoulder, a game changer caught my eyes: London had forgotten her violin, and strings class was the first class of the day.
“Well, that’s just too bad,” I thought. “She’ll just have to suffer the consequences.”
I could see the disappointing realization wash over her face. I could see her uncomfortably and self-consciously sitting among the other students, eyes flickering about in shame. She was such a responsible kid, and my morning chaos had thrown her off. But I had to put my heart strings aside, because I was not in a position to rectify the situation. It was one day out of her life. And, really, only about an hour of discomfort.
But I couldn’t get those sweet eyes of hers looking sad and ashamed out of my line of vision, no matter how I blinked, no matter how loud I turned up the music, no matter how much I told myself to get on with my day. I cursed the world and turned back toward the school. “This is going to burn,” I whispered. “Let it burn, dammit.”
I pulled the violin from the back seat, stood up tall, adjusted my scarf “just so” and walked into the school with my head held high as though I were dressed to the nines and ready to walk out on stage. I heard the strings class off to the right as I entered the school. As I peeked around the corner, hoping to catch London’s eye, I spotted her back: she was the only one sitting motionless in a sea of swaying violin players. I swallowed the lump building in my throat, assuming what was swirling through her mind, and building courage to walk into the class to get her attention. As I took my first step, the boy sitting next to her made eye contact with me and gave London a little nudge, pointing back toward me. She sprang out of her seat, eyes lighting up. “Thank you so much, Mama Bear,” she said grabbing the instrument and giving me a swift side hug. “I love you so much!”
I teared up as I walked back to the car. I thought of my sweet girl. Of how humbling being a mom continues to force me to be. I thought of all the other mamas, doing the best they can at any given moment, showing up for their kiddos in ways they never would have guessed they would be able to do before becoming a parent. That’s what women do, whether or not they are mothers: we push through fear and discomfort, we make magic happen for those around us, and we carry on with our day.
Cheers to Womanhood (and all those jammy-clad mamas!),