Do you ever wonder what your kids will remember?

by renegademama

I am often the mom who forgets whatever it is I was supposed to do. The activity. The paperwork. The change in regular scheduling. The thing the kid was supposed to bring to school: a stuffed animal, for example.

This is not because I’m a “hot mess mom.” I don’t even know exactly what that means, but I am not a mess. I just suck at this.

I’m not flighty or air-headed, bouncing around all WHAT IS HAPPENING WHERE AM I OMGGGGGGG. My feet are on the ground, but I struggle, that’s for sure, and I forget a lot of things.

In my defense, there are a lot of fucking things to remember. Why are there so many things to remember?

And sometimes my tiny mistakes seem to quadruple in frequency and I find myself buried beneath a sense of my own failure, though I know I’m not really failing my children, my community, or myself.

I’m not a mess. But I’ll never be the mom who is uniformly on top of her game. I put things in my calendar then forget to check my calendar. I RSVP then forget the next day. Of course, I’m also working hard on my writing career. But even when I was a stay-at-home-mom, I gotta level with ya, sometimes all this kid shit STILL wasn’t first on my list of Critically Important Things, and I don’t feel guilty about that. Does that make me evil? A bad mother? No, it does not.

It makes me imperfect, and me.

 

Lately I’ve been struggling again with serious insomnia. It’s been five years now, but last week it went batshit and decided it would obliterate all sleep except for about 3 hours each night. I was crumbling. I woke with pain across my eyes and cheekbones in a zombie-like fog that wore off around 3pm, only to be replaced by a frantic exhaustion that I knew would never be soothed.

And my god is it heavy.

And so, I was messing up a lot. Forgetting a lot. Showing up late. Barely making it to this or that. And yet, at the same time, I’m writing my book and a screenplay and this blog and running writing workshops.

But I’m not a mess. I’m not in the air.

I am fucking tired though. And I sorta suck at this.

 

I volunteer in Georgia’s kindergarten on June 5 because it’s the last chance I’ll get this year. I volunteer for a last time even though I only did it two other times this year, and planned on doing it so many more times. I feel sad I didn’t do it more. Every week, there was more work, more sick kids, more sick me, and I didn’t do it like I planned I would.

I scramble to sign up for one last day and wonder where our year went. I get there and watch her on the floor, legs crossed, on her circle, looking up at her teacher. I try to burn the image into my mind. She turns around and waves, “Hi, mama!” she says under her breath, her little kindergarten fist and blonde head. Sitting there I remember our little co-op preschool, the way she always wanted to play “Sneaky Snacky Squirrel.” I remember how annoying those kids were.

I glance at my phone and wonder if I’ll have time to finish that writing project.

I’m grateful I get to go to her classroom at all, volunteer at all. When I worked in an office, I don’t think I even knew parents were allowed to volunteer in classrooms.

The next day, she’s supposed to bring a stuffed animal to school. We arrive on campus and I’m happy we’re not late. As soon as we pull up, I see one of her classmates with a stuffed animal. I put my hand on George’s shoulder and ask, “Oh no, honey, today is the day you’re supposed to bring a stuffed animal!”

Her face sinks, “Yes.” They are going to create a habitat for them, out of boxes. That even sounds fun to me. She told me about it the day before. How could I forget? God damnit. I WAS JUST HERE TALKING ABOUT IT WITH THE TEACHER WHAT IS WRONG WITH ME.

“Maybe we have one in the car,” I say, figuring what are the chances we don’t have a fucking stuffed animal in this giant SUV full of every other item known by humankind.

But of course, we happened to do our bi-annual cleaning just a few days before. I’m kidding. We totally clean tri-annually.

There’s nothing. I can’t believe it. I look down at her and imagine saying, “Sorry, my love, but you’ll just have to not have one.” I imagine her sitting there without one. I tell myself it’s not a big deal. I KNOW it’s not that big of a deal, but in that moment in front of that school and child, I couldn’t take one more tiny failure. I felt my voice cracking. The exhaustion of my life seemed to plant itself across my shoulders and heart: Every irritated time I snapped or yelled at them, returning moments later to apologize, explain I acted badly. Every missed birthday party and every time they’ve been the kid whose mom forgot. I knew I had been blowing it lately, and I was so tired, I almost cried right there in the damn parking lot. I knew I was making a big deal out of this, but I didn’t care. I refused to do it again.

“Go to class, George, and I’ll be right back with a stuffed animal. I promise.”

She beamed. I promised again and my lip may have quivered. I patted her head and felt remarkably pathetic.

My plan was to race to the grocery store down the road and hope for the best. It’s one of those fancy stores that sells triple-cream brie and bamboo cutting boards and homemade bread, but I was thinking maybe they’d have something in the balloon section.

They didn’t. I paced the store wondering what the fuck I was going to do. The baby aisle had a giraffe rattle. I considered it. Nope. I couldn’t. Too baby-ish. She’d get made fun of. But now I really couldn’t give up. I promised the kid, but I was running out of time. I decided I’d get a cup of coffee and race to Target, but I didn’t know if I’d even be back to her in time to do the activity.

As I was getting my coffee, I happened to glance down the aisle that leads to the back of the store, and on the clearance rack, happened to see the fuzzy top of some sort of stuffed animal. I think I actually said, “Oh thank god” out loud.

When I got there, I realized they were the leftover Mother’s Day bears. One said “I love you mom.” I considered it since she can’t read anyway. The other one didn’t say anything but was the most hideous shade of hot pink I’d ever seen in my life. Who the fuck makes a fluorescent pink bear with a rose? It was awful. Truly hideous.

But I knew it would work, and I bought it. It was $4.11.

 

When I peeked my head in the door, Georgia happened to be sitting at a table right near me. Her face burst into dimples when she saw me, and morphed into full on ecstasy when I held the pink bear out to her. “I LOVE IT!”

She hugged it. She showed her teacher. She was damn near bouncing.

As I left, I smiled, and thought, “Well, it was supposed to be a zoo animal of some sort – since it was a lesson on habitat – but George got a neon pink bear with a rose, and damn was she happy. You did good, Janelle.”

 

I felt restored by the slightly pathetic act. It was my tiny revolution, my refusal to give up. We do our best for our kids, and sometimes our best is a clearance-rack pink bear 30 minutes late.

I wonder if my kids will remember the pink bear or if they’ll remember the birthday party I forgot.

I think they’ll remember the bear.

They’ll remember all the clearance-rack bears you give them, too, the face of a mother who keeps showing up, even if she’s not just right, and it’s almost too late. They’ll remember the mother who even removed the tags before she handed it to her.

I see you out there, doing the best with what you have, every damn day, and watching the kids race past, while you wonder if it’s enough and what they’ll remember.

They’ll remember the bear.

It’s us who have to learn that it’s enough.

I think we can do that too, if we watch them closely, and learn. Love is love is love. Even in tardy fluorescent pink.

 

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more stuff I shouldn't have said out loud:

37 Comments | Posted in I HAVE NO IDEA WHAT I'M DOING HERE. | June 16, 2016
  • Rachel Romano

    Thank you. I needed this so much today.

  • Sherry

    I love you. You are my neon pink bear. (Because I can’t spell fluorescent… Oh, autocorrect can!)

  • Stacy Calderon

    My daughter turned me on to your blog and I love reading your entries. Life happens and we as parents adapt and help our children learn how to do that shit also. At the end of the day all that really counts is that your children know that they are loved. With every one of your post I realize that I wasn’t perfect, but I was the best mom for my babies.

  • Diane

    I am still showing up for performances…..and my baby is 53.
    Much more mature tone on this piece, Janelle maybe because Kindergarten is major. The next hurdle will be when Ava drives away in the car and you realize you are no longer in control or basically needed.

  • Megan

    Goodness, there must be something in my eye. Springtime allergies, or something. Thank you for this!

    • Jenifer Amazing Davidson

      Yup spring allergies here too …. where’s the kleenex

  • Kyla Whitwell

    This is me. Oh how this is me… every damned day, lady. Thank you <3

  • Gail

    God I hope they remember the “bears”. Because I am grasping these days. Yay.

    • Emily

      They’ll keep the bears forever, and as they get older, they’ll remember the forgetting, and their hearts will break a little bit–for you, because they’ll think about how terrible you must’ve felt, and how you didn’t need to because they were so happy in the end. And it’s in the bears *and* the forgetting where they really know how much you love them.

  • Chenay Pointer-Bueltel

    You’re doing wonderfully, Janelle, and you know it! Thanks for writing down the words that so many of us think and need to read.

  • Jennifer Schartz

    I love this! Thanks for the validation!!

  • Annie

    This made me cry in my car. I’m sitting here, after work, after spending all day with kids that aren’t my own, and my baby sister went into the house without me because I’m having that moment where I just can’t get out of the car and so I read your update and now I’m crying, so thanks for that.

  • Carolyn

    Thank Janelle,
    This made me tear up…you are so very good at letting us feel good even though we screw up…my kids are in their late 20’s now and I also wonder what they remember and I love it when they tell me…The best is that they do not tell me I screwed up even though I know I did!!!

  • Larissa

    I hope so. I so hope they remember the bear. Thank you for these words of yours. Now if I could just stop crying here in my office and stop being so afraid of the next failure; learn its enough. I pray there are more bear moments than failures. Thanks again for the support. Your words, your blog, truly help.

  • Csmith

    I hope they remember the bear, but if they remember only the forgotten party I think it will be with affection. “Do you remember how mom always forgot birthday parties”, as they reminisce with each other.
    We are way harder on ourselves than our kids will ever be. I used to carry around huge loads of guilt about the one thing out of a hundred that I forgot or messed up. Then 4 years ago, after my son was born, my blood pressure rose so quickly and so high that I began to have mini-strokes. Now my short term memory is shot, sometimes I forget entire conversations or events. I try hard, I have lots of systems in place to help me remember what I’ve done and what I need to do. But, if something slips through the cracks I don’t let it bother me at all. When a kid exasperatedly reminds me of something for the 5th time I just tell them, “I’m lucky I even remember your name kid”, and I mean it. I feel so incredibly grateful to just be here with and for them at all.

  • Oana

    Is it wrong that I’m sniffling on the head of my sleeping almost-two-year-old while reading this on my phone?

  • Patty

    I wish our kids had classes together…. we would rule (in a half assed way, of course!)

  • Ilja

    My mom asked me a couple of times about things she did and didn’t do and which made her feel guilty towards me. I didn’t remember anything from those situations, all I remember is I had a great childhood with a loving mom. Poor her. Hope this helps you all too.

  • AJ

    “Love is love is love is love…” So good to see that in your piece. Such an important message. I hope more people use it, and live by it, for our children’s sake.

  • Rose

    ” there are a lot of fucking things to remember. Why are there so many things to remember?” This! OMG yes this I want to make this into a t shirt and a mug and a bumper sticker and…….
    <3

  • Katie

    This, this is what I needed tonight. Thank you.

  • Another Rachel

    That is a truly hideous bear!!! And a truly beautiful child 🙂

    I hate this expectation of “perfection”.
    Who invented it?
    Who decided this is the ideal?
    Who put this single file queue of nastiness onto the glorious riot of colour that is womanhood?

    ….well they can fuck right off!!!

  • Penelope

    This whole post felt so familiar I thought I was going to throw up. Then I cried. The resonance of your words ‘Every irritated time I snapped or yelled at them, returning moments later to apologize, explain I acted badly’ – even though I only have one kid I still do this every day. Working freelance and having to fit it in around school hours is so damn hard, and I feel like I completely suck at motherhood. But this week I went to the thrift store looking for anything that we could use for a ringmaster’s costume for circus dress-up day at school the next day, and I found a kid’s three-piece suit complete with white shirt, only one size too big. Pure luck – and my kid got an award for best costume in his class. For once I felt like a success in the crazy parental admin that I was so not prepared for. It was a fluke, but I’ll take it.

  • Amy

    Janelle, This is ME…every goddamn day! I’ll be 40 next week, and I really thought I’d have it together by now. I mean, MY Mom had it together at my age…or DID she? Hugs to you and your beautiful family <3 Thank you once again for making me push those feelings of inadequacy aside, even if only for a few moments.

  • Glenna

    My friend’s mom died when she was 7 and has only one memory of her. I’ll be honest…when I heard that I was hopeful I could become supermom and my kids would not remember the yelling mom of their preschool years…but then I became the yelling mom of their school years. I am the mom who forgets to read the school notes and writes stuff in the agenda, to never be looked at again. I know I’m not perfect, but I think I’m doing ok. Thanks for this today. (Made me cry again!)

  • Kerry

    Crying at work. AHH! I’m equal parts feeling sorry for myself and feeling very thankful. I’m rolling in self-pity because there is not one single person in my circle who would understand this. Not a single other human I could share this with and say “This!! This is me!” They’d just look at me like I’m nuts.

    But you’re out there feeling this way, and that makes me very thankful. Based on the responses there are even more other people out there feeling the same way. So this is my grateful shout into the void.

  • Kerry

    There must be something wrong with me because I kind of love that bear. At least it looks snuggly – not hard and cheap like some stuffed animals. Anyway, not the point at all, but I think that bear has a lot of personality.

  • Jen

    Thank you for this, and for all the lovely responses. It helps to know I’m not alone!

  • Mark Goodson

    Wow. This hit me RIGHT where I’m at. I’m not one to troll for site views, but please read my latest because it is this exact theme! With Orlando, I’ve been wondering (with my toddler) when those memories will start to matter to them.
    http://www.markgoodson.com/Orlando

  • Denise B

    Why are there so many bears to bring to school? And days when we are all dressing like scarecrows? And today we are bring egg cartons! I know, I know, there are some fun, enthusiastic, not tired educators out there. I love what you do for our family, but damn, people, we are on the run on a normal day. We are going to a sport and a haircut and the pharmacy with our evenings, we are not just coming home to huge expanses of time for collecting items and fun food preparation. I don’t mean this as a complaint, really I don’t, I’m passionate about what I do too – and I love that you make my kids happy. It’s more of an excuse, really, when you see me cry a little when I’ve forgotten about the special day again, and it’s sunglasses day and so I hand my expensive, lovely sunglasses to my 5 year-old and just say goodbye forever to them.

  • Joodz

    I am the mom who forgot stuff. The one who threw canned fruit and graham crackers in a bag and called it lunch. They all grew up and they still love me. Kids are weird.

  • Kathleen Hamilton

    My now-38 yr. old daughter remembers that I used to make her wear ugly shoes. I remind her she had more shoes than Imelda Marcos, none of which were ugly, but that’s what she remembers.

  • Amy

    That bear is perfect! AND I’m crying. But because of me, not you. You get me and my life and you don’t even know me. I’ve been reading for four years and you SO get my life. Hugs to you, and I hope your insomnia goes away very quickly. No sleep IS torture.

  • Krista hastings!

    Thank you! Thats all I have time to say…. Though there is so much more!!!
    Thank you!

  • Michelle

    I read this as I finished filling out my 3 kids’ kindergarten forms for this September, thinking, “Oh, God, I can barely keep my own shit straight, nevermind THREE MORE PEOPLE’S.” Thank you for this. May they remember the bear. And the hugs. And the love. And the imperfection–because how else will they learn to be resilient, compassionate humans?

  • Melissa

    That is the same bear my boys gave me for Mother’s Day!!!! Just kidding! But how funny would that have been!? Love you Janelle, your writing is the only thing worth getting into the Internet these days for:) thank you!

  • HR

    Hopefully we’re lucky enough to grow up and know and love our parents as human, as whole imperfect people and to understand their experience as well as our own.

    When I was growing up, my more vivid memories were of my mom yelling, forgetting to pick me up, not grasping the urgency of things I regarded as extremely important (Halloween costumes, diorama supplies, etc.), not of the bears. Just because I noticed them more at the time- at 5 years old, I couldn’t have understood that it took any special effort for my mom to drop off a forgotten lunch at school or surprise me with a new winter coat I had mentioned I liked, but you know that it sucks to get yelled at or that you wish you weren’t the last one, again, waiting at the bus stop to get picked up.

    But now I process those “bad” memories now with my adult brain and understanding of emotions, anxiety, personhood, the amount of time it takes to DO EVERYTHING, and of my mother herself. I’m not a 6 year old remembering that last week my mom got SO MAD my brother and I wouldn’t stop fighting that she turned the car around. I’m a 30 year old remembering how my mom had to do everything, how she was constantly with us, imagining how exhausting we must have been sometimes and how alone and frustrated she must have been in moments like that and I am so grateful for everything she did, and I tell her, and luckily it still seems to mean something now, even though it feels like I’m 15 years late.