*Click.* The sound the infant car seat makes as it locks into the car seat base. I get the baby securely in his spot in the mini van, climb into the driver’s seat and let out a big exhale. I just dropped off my two big kids for their first day of preschool, and it went....pretty well! We were only a few minutes late, I did only a minimal amount of yelling as we scrambled out of the house, and no one, myself included, cried when we did good-bye hugs. This was my third year in a row doing first day of school drop off, so I guess I know the ropes by now.
When I entered the school this morning with my motley crew, Johnny leading the way, me with the infant car seat hanging in the crook of my elbow, and Trixie holding onto my other hand while bringing up the rear, I heard one of the teachers call out after we had passed by, “there’s the Super Mom!”
I felt flattered by her comment, but also humbled. I am so not Super Mom. I lose my patience and yell, I tune out my kids while scrolling through Instagram. I let them watch stupid cartoons on Netflix and I bribe them with marshmallows and freezie pops. I may have looked like I can do it all as I bursted through the school doors this morning with my three children in tow, but I can’t. I do the things that need to be done, and I try to do them the best that I can. But doing it all? I don’t do that. I’m not sure that any mom does.
I had not planned on sending my kids to preschool. Especially not as three-year-olds. I thought that preschool was a thing lazy parents wasted their money on. I thought I could, and should, single handedly provide everything they would need at home, by myself. I was even considering homeschooling for the older grades. Johnny changed all of those expectations with his hearing loss diagnosis and major speech delay. He was almost three and had only a handful of words in his vocabulary. Try as I might, I just was not able to give him the language training he needed.
We found a preschool for deaf and hard of hearing children and enrolled Johnny a couple months before his third birthday. It was an incredibly hard transition. We both cried every day for the first week. I knew he needed to be at this school but I felt so terrible and guilty for sending him. Eventually we both got used to it, and as time passed we even learned to love it Not only was he talking for the first time ever, he was making friends, learning preschool skills, and learning to be “a better human” as I like to call it. Things like sharing, staying in his seat at meals, staying with the group on the playground, and following rules. And I was getting a break. Toddlers are draining. Toddlers with special needs consume all of your brain space. Having Johnny in school allowed me time to catch my breath, time to bond with then baby Trixie, and I was learning parenting tips, and techniques to help Johnny with his speech at home.
At first I felt guilty about how much I enjoyed the break that school gave me. And I felt annoyed that I didn't automatically know all of these things I was learning with Johnny in school. I was his mom. I was supposed to know what's best for him. I was supposed to be able to provide for his needs myself. Putting my child in school felt like admitting defeat.
It doesn't feel that way anymore. I don't remember when the shift came about, but I know it didn't take long. Once I saw that my child was thriving at school I stopped feeling bad about sending him there. Once I realized how much more energy I had for my child in the afternoons and evenings, and on the weekends, I stopped feeling guilty for enjoying a little break from caring for him each day. I realized that having great resources to help me raise my kids is a good thing, not something to be ashamed of. Having Johnny, and now Trixie, in school really has been the best thing for our family.
All of this is to say, you don't have to be a Super Mom to be the mom your kids need. Being a good parent isn't about being able to do it all on your own, it's about doing what's best for your child and your family. That may be homeschooling, it may be traditional schooling, it may be work and daycare, it may be lots of time with grandparents. THERE IS MORE THAN ONE WAY TO DO THIS AND THAT'S OK! If you're doing what your kids need you to do then don't feel bad if it's not the way someone else is doing it, or it's not the way you originally envisioned it. And it's ok to ask for help a long the way. No one was meant to go at this parenting thing all on their own.
And if I sometimes look like a Super Mom, it's only because I have a Super Husband and Super Friends and my kids have Super Grandparents and go to a Super School with Super Teachers.