Leave it to the first day of school to bring out the filthy liars in the motherhood community. I guess the scent of newly sharpened number two pencils, the aroma of brand new nylon Jansport backpacks and the essence of Johnson & Johnson Strawberry Sensation Detangling spray somehow manifests itself into a chemical cloud that permeates the nasal passages of all moms with school age children. The potent chemical combo must then travel to the brain cortex and trigger a nervous system response that manifests itself in grown, should know better females, telling great big whooping fibs for a 12 hour period.
We all know what the biggest back-to-school is fib is don’t we? It’s the mother of all fibs. It’s when we share to anyone who will listen, but most especially other moms that our guts are being ripped out, our souls are being shattered, we’re grieving, we are in the deepest, darkest pit of despair because school is starting and we’re bereft imagining a world in which we can not spend every waking hour with the magnificent beings that shoved their way of out of our loins.
Yeah, I get it. The first day of school is emotional. Every year is a milestone. Your kids are getting older. You’re getting older. You’re anxious and maybe a little worried because you want your children to have the most wonderful first day. I’m right there with you. What irritates me is the mompocrisy of women who use this day to over-share that they are “just dying inside” because they’ll miss their kids so much. It’s like a contest and the winner to Best Mom goes to whoever is wailing the most about school starting.
I admit I’m on the other side of that statement. Way on the other side. When my alarm goes off on the first day of school I spring out of bed and do, at the very least, a 60 second happy dance that is so exuberant it scares the dogs and causes the dining room chandelier to swing violently to and fro. I then skip to each child’s room and wake them up with this little song (loosely sung to the tune of Camp Town Races)
“Get up, Get up, Right Away cause Mommy’s happy school starts today.
Hurry, hurry and get dressed Lord knows I crave an empty nest.
Don’t worry about me, be sure to sign up for loads of free extra curricular activities.”
After I see them off to their respective schools. I get back in my mercifully empty car, bow my head in silence and thank the gods of parenting that I made it through another summer with my sanity, somewhat, in tact. I then do a deep cleansing breath, roll down all my windows, crank up the NPR, scream “yahoo” while doing multiple air high fives, and toast the new school year by sacrificing a virgin Diet Coke.
Sadly, I have found over the years that I have to hide my joy or at the very least downplay it. It seems it is bad form to celebrate your liberation from your children. To do so makes one seem (gasp!) less than mother-of -the-year material. I started out this first day of school by being very well-behaved. Inside the privacy of my own home I didn’t conceal my back-to-school bliss. I figured my kids were used to it but I was respectful of their need for some summer closure.
I gave my son a moment alone with two besties – iPad and X-Box. He had a tearful farewell. I told him not to worry about leaving his “friends” unattended for 7 plus hours each day. I promised to go in and dust them every morning and to throw his video game controllers on the floor at least twice around lunchtime so they would still feel right at home. My daughter got choked up when she blew a kiss to the TV remote and thanked it for an amazing summer. I promised her I would light a candle in honor of the Disney Channel. With that done I loaded up and did the drop off and bye-bye.
So far, so good, until I attended a “Mom Coffee” comprised of moms from a wide swath of the neighborhood. Some I knew, others I had never seen before. Unfortunately the mom meet and greet sat me off from the get go. I tried, I swear I did. I smiled, I nodded, I made my “you are so right” parent face, but after 20 minutes I snapped.
I couldn’t take another mother blabbing and using a kleenex as her must have back-to-school accessory to emphasis how sad she was summer was over and her “little munchkins” wouldn’t be with her. Because here’s the deal – the mom doing the most award-winning interruption of “I love my kids more than you because I miss them already” was a total fake. Her two kids when not enjoying back-to-back sessions of two-week sleep away summer camp or at their grandparents for an extended stay were at my house driving me crazy and I don’t even have children their age. Trust me, I think I saw her kids more than she did.
This is when I trumped the weepy moms fibs with a bigger, better one of my own. I told this group that it was really too bad they were so upset that school had begun because I had seen a recent study, somewhere, that had shown that moms who are the most sad about school starting are the ones that didn’t spend enough quality time in meaningful engagement with their children over the summer and thus their guilt manifests itself into a debilitating, chronic back-to-school remorse.
Cue the crap storm. Moms got enraged! Kleenex were flung to the floor and women began to defend their summer schedules and suggest “how dare I question their parenting.”
“Goodness,” I said, (in my best Barney Fife married Miss Goodie Two Shoes voice), “calm down I didn’t write the study, I just saw it and to be perfectly honest I loved it. It validated my parenting philosophy because every year I’m thrilled when school starts.” (And now to toss some hand grenades into the crap storm I add this zinger.) “I’m glad to know it’s because according to scientific research I’m doing an incredible job as a parent.”
Oh-My-God I committed the cardinal Mom Sin I proclaimed that I was better than all these ticked off moms. Even worse, I credited science for the shout out. (So it was made up science, big deal and who’s to say someone out there isn’t really doing a study like that?) Every mom knows that you can’t just announce that you’re kicking butt in the Olympic sport of momdom.
You and a group of friends can boast amongst yourselves how superior you are to other moms but under no circumstances can you proclaim to the world-at-large that you’re a better mom than the mom or moms standing right in front in you. These weepy women, in no way, wanted someone like me to “out mom” them. In their world I wasn’t even a contender. But, thanks to the Gift of Fib” I had yanked their chain, hard. Score! (Not that I thought I was a better mom. Maybe a mom whose head wasn’t up her ass, but better – well, who really knows?)
As I was enjoying their somewhat suppressed fury the “discussion” took a turn for the worse when one mom wanted to know where I saw the study. “I don’t remember,” I said thoughtfully. “It was some on-line science journal my husband reads.”
Good save, I’m thinking. People will believe my husband reads heavy-duty science stuff, but no one could see me devoting hours to bettering my brain with esoteric journals. To make it sound even more credible I added, “I’ll text him and try to find the link for you.”
One Rhodes scholar piped up, “Are you sure it wasn’t junk science?”
“No,” I quickly replied. “ It was an International Pediatric Educational thing.”
I knew it was time to make my get away before someone took me up on texting my husband for additional information. I thanked my hostess, grabbed another muffin (well really one-third of a muffin since they were of the mini variety) and then went back to the cluster of moms still debating the “study” and said goodbye. I told them I had to run. I was so busy putting the finishing touches on my family’s “Our summer was so awesome were excited about school party.”
“Yeah, it’s going to be an amazing evening,” I said.
“Where did you get the idea?” one mom asked like I was incapable of thinking up one of my own.
“Oh,” I get “The Gifted and Talented Mom magazine, don’t you? It’s part of the national G.T. curriculum. You should really check it out.”
(Note: I don’t have a child in G.T.) And with that I sashayed right out the door, really working it, like I thought I was something. In truth my family would be celebrating the first day of school with pizza and cupcakes and complaining, lots of complaining about the teachers that dared to give homework their first day back but really was that any of their business? I think not.