Why I Cried on the First Day of School (And it Wasn’t Because I Missed Him)

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Spoiler: I was late.

I have looked forward to this day for years, and that is not an overstatement.

Today was the culmination of nearly five years of long, lonely days, where I was never actually by myself.  The two extremes were, well, extreme.  Not to say I don’t love motherhood.  (I always feel like I need to throw this disclaimer out any time I throw the mommy-life some shade.) I LOVE motherhood and I LOVE my kids. Now that that is clear, I may proceed.

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The last five years have been long. They’ve been hard. Along with the warm fuzzies, there have been feelings of doubt, inadequacy, rage (yes rage—hello tantrums!), loneliness, and even guilt. So today has been like a shining light at the end of this tunnel: free childcare education!  I mean, can I get a Halleluiah?!

So needless to say, I was pretty stoked.  I mean, I fantasized about today.  I played images in my mind of him skipping off to class in a fresh back-to-school outfit, oversized backpack bouncing along. I daydreamed about hugs goodbye and excited waves as I entrusted my firstborn to a trained, licensed individual who would now be responsible for the education and safety of my child for the majority of the day.  It was borderline mommy porn.

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One thing you should know about the Chamberlains: we are always late.  Always.  Best friend’s wedding–late. Our own wedding—late. My period 6 months later—jk that never came at all, hence our firstborn. Church with no kids—late.  Church with kids—definitely late.  You get the picture.

Knowing this about our family, I prepared.  School is no preschool joke, they take attendance and even make you get a note from the office if you are late.  This is for reals. So I prepared.  Really, I did! I made a morning routine for Gavin weeks ago and we practiced it every morning.  My husband and I ran through the morning game plan several times the night before. I made all of our lunches and labeled all the water bottles, sweaters, backpacks (etc.) and set them out ready to go.  I mean, I felt like a pretty awesome mom. Today was going to be great.

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So, you already know where this is going. I mean, can you believe I was STILL LATE?!? Can I not escape my destiny?! Is this just who I am?!

I’m sure y’all have some really great tips about how I can be more punctual and not screw up important milestones in my kids’ lives, like the first day of school.  And I am sure tomorrow I would be very receptive.  But today, I need to talk about how it made me feel.

It was soul-crushing. I kid you not, I was one (ONE!) minute late.  And the teacher, the rule-following, example-setting, consistent, teaching teacher sent me to the office.  Oh, the walk of shame! All the other parents slowly sauntered out, casually laughing about some cute thing their (on-time) kid did, carrying DSLRs undoubtedly full of adorable first-day pics in front of the classroom doors. And there I was, dragging my innocent four-year-old to the office, trying to keep my sh#t together so he doesn’t realize this isn’t just part of the experience.  And then I wait, like forever in the office, behind all the other on-time parents with their million questions.  And the office lady balks at me when I ask for a tardy slip. “We aren’t doing tardy slips today, why it’s only the first day…” Why yes, I know, but his teacher insisted. I think she is trying to teach me a lesson, and guess what, it worked.

I kissed that sweet boy goodbye at the classroom door and encouraged him to join the other kids (with responsible parents) already happily seated for morning circle time.  He was so happy, so oblivious, so perfect. And when I got to the car, I let the tears just roll on out.

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And here is where the downward mom-spiral happened.  I mean, I really let myself have it.  I was so, so, so embarrassed.  It’s bad enough I’m the youngest mom in there (hello, I’m thirty not a teenager, but still), but now I felt like the young screw-up mom who had no business having kids so young.  I mean, could I not get my act together? How hard is it to get out the door in the morning?! Sure, I have a three-month-old and only got a few hours of sleep, I tried my best, and am only human, but those are only excuses! I felt so ashamed.

And I know what you are thinking, ‘Come on, so you were a little late, no big deal.’ But to me, it was a big deal.  Remember, I have been looking forward to this day for years, and I totally dropped the ball.  If only I hadn’t worked out, or taken a few less first-day-of-school pictures (but aren’t they so cute?!), I didn’t really need under-eye concealer for the PFA meeting (I really did lol), and the list goes on.

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And here is what I want to say: at the time, I felt like the only mom who messed up this morning, and truth is, I wasn’t. I don’t know who else dropped the ball, or how, or why, and frankly, it doesn’t matter.  Because these things do happen.  We are human.  I’m not just mom, some super-human born and bred to in turn breed other humans in perfection, I am Michaela, and I’m imperfect, still figuring stuff out, a rough stone rolling. I should be nicer to myself.  I shouldn’t say unkind things (or think them) about the one person whose company I will always be in.  That goes for you too, be nice to yourself.  Maybe you didn’t screw up on that precious long-anticipated first-day-of-school morning (or maybe you did), maybe it was when the kids got home, or your spouse did something undesirable, when your boss was being a real pill or your parent was being overbearing. So you messed up, it already happened.  It can’t unhappen.  Can you do something to make it better? Then do it. I promised myself I will never be late to school again. (I probably will, but let’s not start our promises off on the wrong foot, k?) If I don’t have time to fix my hair tomorrow morning, I’ll just wear a beanie.

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I guess what I am trying to convey is that you have to find a way to live amongst the imperfection.   Yes, sometimes these shortcomings cause us pain, it’s just part of this whole life thing.  Hopefully we can remember to be kind and generous and forgiving.  I forgive myself for being late. And in the end, everything was just fine.  I showed up (early) after school to find a slightly sweaty and dirty boy beaming as he ran over to give me a hug. Turns out his day was perfect.

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Published by Michaela Chamberlain

Front-end Developer specializing in a user-friendly mobile-first approach for small businesses.

2 thoughts on “Why I Cried on the First Day of School (And it Wasn’t Because I Missed Him)

  1. You’re such an AWESOME mom!!! 💗 You don’t know how much good you do! Your kids are lucky to have you!

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