Act I, sc i
[in the car, my 12 year old son and I are driving home from a wrestling match]
Me: You looked great, sweetheart. You fought really hard.
12 yo: (grunts, barely acknowledges the compliment)
Me: You looked strong…you even flipped him twice, right?
12 yo: …yeah, and then got slammed on my face.
Me: (grimacing) Oh yeah, that was hard to watch.
12 yo: It was hard to feel.
Motherhood, lately, is not playing to my skill set.
Yes, I’m an empathetic listener, a creative problem solver, I’m patient and compassionate. I even have degrees in both education and counseling. But more and more, the real parenting gold is in the
organization, the keys to success buried somewhere among piles of paperwork and my gmail account.
Yesterday, as I sat on hold with Verizon (which, by the way, requires the skill set of a hostage negotiator), I was killing time and clicking through sites for gift ideas when my phone buzzed with a text from daughter. She needed a password to sign up for a club at school. I scanned the desk, immediately overwhelmed by the piles. I had three folders with high school information, and though the folders were easy to spot (brightly colored!), the password she needed was not on any single sheet of paper stuffed inside. As I shuffled through the stacks, an email from my husband popped up on the computer. He needed an account number for a utility bill. Sitting at the desk, listening to the Verizon hold message — my God, it is impossible to get rid of a cable box — I assessed my vast organizational failings. Often, I find myself thinking none of this is what I’m good at. None of this is within my skill set. I’m doing less parenting and more general-managing. Between the schedules, the passwords, the finances, the sports, Google Classroom and the “virtual backpack”(it’s a real thing) of notices stored on the school’s website, mothering requires less face to face time and more screen time. Instead of checking in with my kids, I need to constantly check the internet and the bevy of websites that weave together their lives. If there were a job description for what I’m currently doing, it might read something like this: Family seeking a well-educated, preferably fit and perky woman who possesses expertise in the the following areas: time (micro)management, long-term planning, short-term planning, event planning, meal planning, discipline, filing, tech support, internet watchdog, inventory-keeping, purchasing, record-keeping, transportation expert, stylist, experience in inspirational speaking a plus, and some coaching responsibilities expected. Must have a phenomenal memory, be patient, be punctual yet foster independence. A driver’s license is a must and knowledge of gender politics is preferred. Of the items on that list, I can say with certainty that I have a valid driver’s license. Some days I worry that I’m only a self-driving car away from my role being outsourced to a smartphone. And maybe that would be a relief. Since there is no metric for the actual mothering portion of my existence, the physical evidence of my disorganization is the only measure of what I do right now.
With the holidays upon us and the winter sports season in full swing, there is no relief in sight. Christmas should be my time to shine! With a generous spirit, warmth and light-heartedness, I should rock this season. Alas, my daughter is now on two swim teams and, evidently, December is a big month for meets, and my son’s wrestling has ramped up…do you have any idea how many email communications and scheduling conflicts those two sports alone can generate? I’m class mother for my son’s preschool class, which seems simple enough until I’m the one responsible for reminding other parents about things that I cannot remember myself: coat drives, book drives, food donations, flu shot deadlines and a Nativity reenactment. Pinterest has created ungodly pressure to think of — and then execute — a thoughtful, handmade class gift for the teacher with each child’s input, a gift that embodies the crucial role she plays in our children’s lives as teacher, role model, and caregiver (somehow, a case of wine and a pedicure is frowned upon, but a painted chair with handprints all over it is considered appropriate — I really misjudged that one). And those cute Christmas cards that are sent out with feverish competition? They take hours and require the skills of a professional photographer, graphic designer, and calligrapher all wrapped into one — and the websites call for yet more passwords.
I can hope that my mistakes are not egregious, that passwords and account numbers can be recovered, though I must admit that the very thought of the organizational requirements for college applications in the not-so-distant-future keeps me up at night. As I write this post (one that I conceived of weeks ago but lacked the clear-mindedness to finish it), my elbows are rustling up against piles of papers and there are unopened bins of holiday decorations blockading my living room. I can’t change my skill set, though I can employ iphone reminders and keep well-organized friends in my list of contacts. And I can hope that full day schooling for my preschooler in another year will provide me with more time to organize and file — or just more time to skitter from one activity to the next with no measurable results. Maybe as my kids get older, the current job requirements for motherhood will become obsolete anyway. They will grow and, hopefully, be able to organize their own schedules, work, wardrobes, and passwords. Their needs will be replaced by skills I can actually offer, maybe even excel at: attentive listening, lively book discussion, art appreciation, good dinner companion and bringer of wine. Come to think of it, maybe I’ll find my niche later in life — maybe my skill set is more grandmother material.