A lot of people tell me that I am “such a great Mom”.
Most of the people who say that have never seen me in action. They see the “Pastor Shelley” part of my life, where I am whisking kids into church, all dressed up and happy to be there. They see the act of becoming InstaMom and assume that I am amazing.
What they don’t see is InstaMom at home.
At home, I am completely out of control most of the time. I have 80 things on my to-do list, and most of them are shoved over to the “to-do tomorrow” list by the end of the day. I am NOT an excellent mother. I do NOT have it all together most of the time. When I do have it all together, I forget where I put it.
Never has the “out of control” nature of my life been more obvious than a couple weeks ago. It was a regular school day, and we had sent everyone smartly off to school with all of their doo-dads and stuff that were needed, lunches packed and all of that. I was hurrying to get dressed to get to work because I had a meeting with my friend Julie, who is our Preschool Department Director. She was coming from quite a distance from her home to meet with me, with two of her daycare kids in tow, so they could play at the church while we had a meeting together. Not an easy task for her, so I wanted to honor her time.
Then I got a phone call from my eldest, saying she had left her science project at home, and she needed me to bring it to school. Normally we don’t ferry forgotten things to school, lest kids get lazy thinking their parents will always bail them out. However, this project was special (the stereotypical solar system project complete with painted Styrofoam balls) and my daughter had not been reminded by her mother to bring it, so I had pity on her.
So I thought to myself, I have time to go to the school and quickly drop off the project, then get to my meeting on time. On the way there, I realize that my phone has been left in my office the night before, but I pass it off as no big thing, since I will be there in a few minutes anyways.
I get to the school office, and the admin assistant tells me to “just go on down to her class”. That was odd. Normally there’s a procedure for going to the class, and you are never encouraged to just go to the door with something. I shrugged it off as her being all-too familiar with my husband and me, and headed off to the classroom. On the way there, I see my son, Daryn, twirling around in circles aimlessly, alone in the middle of the hallway. I stare at him in disbelief for a moment. “Where is this boy’s teacher?” I think to myself. I was going to grab him, march him back to his class and demand to know why he was unsupervised during class time.
Then his eyes caught mine. Perhaps it was the “mother glare” that he felt burning into the back of his head. He ran toward me, nearly bowling me over with his Velcro-hug. “I KNEW you would come!!” he squealed.
And there’s where it hit me.
Today was open house.
I stink at mothering.
I am horrible.
My poor boy has been waiting in the hallway for me to arrive. What if I had not been at the school to deliver a project? What if he had stood in the hallway all morning looking for his Mom? That moment would have been filed in the annals of badmotherdom for eternity.
But it wasn’t. I had been given a gift.
So I ran with it.
“Do you wanna see my work??” he asked, pulling me by the hand into his classroom.
“Of COURSE!!” I squealed, a little too excitedly. All the while I’m thinking, “I gotta get to my meeting and there’s no phone in sight.”
He ushered me proudly into the class, ensuring that everyone there saw that he was bringing in his mother. We sllloooowwwwllly walked around the room, carefully and methodically reading every word of every project. I am way too preoccupied with my lateness for a meeting to really have a good look at it. And he’s going through it very slowly.
Then it hits me. I have two other children. They are also going to want a visit to their classroom. I do a little quick math and think, if I can get 2 minutes in each of the other two classes, I can make it to my meeting about 4-5 minutes late. No big deal.
So, I hug him and excuse myself from his classroom so that I can get to my littlest boy’s class across the hall.
When I get there, I realize how awful of a mother I am. There in this bustling Kindergarten classroom is every parent of every child in the class, all busily engaged in activity centers. At one of the centers is my boy, standing alone, sorting out cards with a sad look on his face. I walk up to him and say, “And what are these cards you’re sorting, Mister?” He whirls around, and gives me a huge hug.
All is redeemed, I think to myself. No harm, no foul. I’ll explain to him that I can’t stay really long, but if he can show me all of his work in a couple of minutes, that would be great.
He says, “Great, Mommy! I have a checklist!!”
He has a checklist. For every center. We start going around to all of the centers, and he performs an activity while I watch and then he checks it off. The first one is writing our ABC’s. My son doesn’t write quickly. There are 9 other stations.
I am thinking that Julie is already composing her resignation e-mail in her mind.
Just then, I was rescued. “It’s time for our EGG DROP!!” announces the teacher, “Let’s all go outside!” I smile in relief. “WITH OUR PARENTS!” she adds.
The little guy grabs me by the hand and proudly marches me into the lineup. “Dis is my Mom,” he announces to everyone nearby. As we are walking outside, a mom turns to me and says, “I just LOVE these things, don’t you???” I wanted to punch her in the nose and I wasn’t sure why.
One little girl, who obviously had incredible deductive skills, looks up at me and asks, “Are YOU Daniel’s mom?”
“Yes, I am,” I proudly answer.
“That’s so cool.” (Like I was a fairy godmother or something.)
We march out to the backyard of the school and wait for the egg drop. Daniel asks, “Can you stay until my egg gets dropped?” Apparently the Physics teacher had challenged each class to construct an apparatus that would protect their class egg from shattering when it is dropped from the roof of the school. I think to myself, how long could it take? All he has to do is drop them from the roof. Then I can go.
Who knew a Physics teacher would have a speech? Who knew that the Kindergarten class would be the second-to-last to have their egg dropped? I waited patiently, going over in my mind who I could possibly approach to be our next Preschool Director.
Finally, the Kindergarten Class egg was dropped. The Jello-and-shredded-paper-filled apparatus worked like a charm, and we all cheered. Daniel reached up to give me a kiss, and said, “Thanks for coming, Mommy.”
I headed off around the back of the crowd, hoping to make a quick exit out to the parking lot and to the van. I could still possibly get to work and intercept Julie as she stormed across the parking lot, daycare kids in tow.
Then I saw Kaitlyn. She jumped on me in the way that an 11-year-old does, and announced to her friends that I was here. “Hi, Kaitlyn’s Mom!” one of her friends yelled.
“Can you come see my artwork?” she asked.
“OF COURSE I CAN!!” I said, trying not to sound panicked.
She ushered me off to her classroom, where there were paintings all around the room. Each child had painted the same scene, but hers was, in my mind, the most beautiful. She showed me a few things and then we left.
I dashed off to the school office and called work, then I ran to the van and squealed out of the parking lot. I was a half an hour late for my meeting now.
When I got to work, there was Julie, smiling at me from the Preschool room. Her little ones were playing happily, and she just waved off my lateness. I told her my whole story of the morning, and she just laughed. Then we had our meeting.
After she was gone, I sat at my desk and held my head in my hands. What was I doing here? I should be at home. If I were a stay-at-home Mom I would have remembered this. The kids and their projects and open-house days would be a priority for me. Instead, they are an inconvenience.
Right then and there I made a choice. No, I didn’t choose to become a stay-at-home mother. How I wish I could, since I believe it’s a high calling and a beautiful and challenging occupation. But God has not called me to do that right now, and I don’t know why.
So right then and there I drew my line in the sand. Next time, meetings get cancelled. Next time, I will make sure that open house is circled on the calendar and highlighted in orange. I will take the morning off work and be there as soon as the school doors open. I will drink in the beauty of every pencil etching, every little drawing, and every gooey project.
We pastors like to think that all of our work is eternal. After all, it’s God’s work. I have come to realize that God’s work is not just the things I do for the hundreds of kids at church. The number one priority that I have as a Pastor is to pastor the three little ones at home. What will it profit me if I raise up an incredible Children’s Ministry and lose my own children in the process?
I am also going to stop beating myself up about the “great mom” thing and put things in perspective. I am a great Mom. I am just bad at remembering open house.
My friend Julie forgave me for being late. She’s a great Mom too.