by Melissa Fenton
1. I will say “no.”
I have had a child in elementary, middle, or high school for 12 straight years now. I am no longer the new, eager kindergarten mom ready and willing to throw my hand in the air to volunteer and be the homeroom parent contact, fundraising chairwoman or PTA president. That ship has long sailed, sister. I have since found my people among the 40-and-over school parents. We are the ones all hiding in the corner, slouched over, head hanging low, simply too burned-out to be super involved anymore. We are the “been there, done that” school moms, and we are looking for a few good 29-year-olds to take over. Please. Take the hell over. Because we have long since abandoned harboring any guilt over simply saying the word “no.” And truthfully, we don’t care what you all think about us anymore — “Why doesn’t she help out? She is so uninvolved in her kid’s education!” Hey cute little baby-wearing mama born in 1985, I just want to say a few things: I am sorry you missed the ’80s, and saying “no” is the new black, and when you hit 40, you too will get bloody brilliant at it. So can you and your “Gossip Girls” just go ahead and throw all the class parties this year? Because we’re going to yoga.
2. I will let my kids manage the morning routine all by themselves.
I know, I know, but I gotta try it. I am keenly aware that I have some very big and completely unrealistic morning dreams here. I am also 100 percent certain that without my screaming morning voice, and without my school stuff packing, crap organizing, double homework checking, and pretty much total body maneuvering of all the small humans here, nobody in this house would move a muscle before 10 a.m. But I am going to try, really TRY to stop the morning madness that has turned me into a resentful raving lunatic. This is going to require me keeping my mouth closed (duct tape, please) and trusting that my kids CAN and WILL step up to the plate — and that they’re physically and mentally capable and mature enough to wake up, feed themselves, and get their bodies and all their stuff inside the school-mode-of-transportation and ready to go. Every. Single. Morning. And all this morning magic will happen without my head turning around 360 degrees, without any undue strain on my vocal cords, and without tears being shed by any or all of the inhabitants of this house. We can do this, kids. We totally can. At least until Christmas. Maybe Halloween?
3. I will let my high school kids plan for THEIR futures, not the ones I wanted them to have.
When my oldest started high school two years ago, I had all these plans in my head about which classes he should take, which “track” he should be on, and which college he should go to. I never asked him his opinion. I thought I knew better. Turns out, I have raised him well enough that he is perfectly capable of both discovering and acting on what is beginning to inspire him, not what his mom wants to inspire him. So he won’t be in AP Calculus or Engineering Honor Society by his senior year. Lately, he thinks he wants to be a teacher. And his favorite subject? English. He is not a math prodigy, and he is only vaguely interested in science, but he reads more fiction than your average adult, and that kid’s personal podcast library is both intellectually awesome and boyishly hilarious. Look, I’m smart enough to know that his career choices and subject interests will change many times in the next five years, but from now on those choices will be HIS, not MINE, because in two years, I will not be sitting next to his college advisor checking boxes for class selections. Only he will. Time to start letting go NOW. Gasp.
4. I will not help do science projects, history fair displays, state dioramas, book reports, or any other projects that are assigned to my kids.
Who else out there can spot a totally parent-made science fair entry from a mile away? Hey mini Bill Nye who is trying to pass off his precisely scaled and intricately engineered replica of a pool’s solar heating pump as his own work, doesn’t your dad own a solar heating company? Luckily, I am already pretty good at the no help thing, because having four kids does this to you naturally. I have zero time or energy left for you to pull the, “Moooom… my project is due tomorrow!” — because this mama doesn’t say “How high?” when you say “Jump.” She says, “Well it appears, dear one, that you are totally screwed. Good night.” Even when the last-kid guilt kicks in, and my crafty instincts want me to pull an all-nighter and personally hot glue the hell out of that poster board, I will stand tough. Better to snag a great big F in the fifth grade and learn your lesson than to let the crap hit the fan when you’re a high school junior, and your every move is being watched by a college admissions officer.
5. I will enjoy my youngest child’s elementary years.
Recall #1. Yes, I am the “over it” school mom — but I need to not let my youngest child know or experience that. In so, so many ways, kid #4 gets the shaft big time. As in: his baby photo book doest not exist, he is the king of hand-me-downs, and every developmental milestone is no longer ushered in with a parade, but rather a weak, “Oh yay. I remember when your brothers first did that.” I don’t want his early school years to be a string of whiny and complaining “not agains” from his mom. I am in the home stretch, and as much as I really want to put the pedal to the metal and get him to the finish line, I need to slow down, both for his sake and for mine. He is entitled to and deserving of the same school enthusiasm from me that his oldest brother got. Weary though I may be, I need to be just as excited for his second grade “dress up like a saint day” as I was the first three times. (Thank God I saved the costume. That thing is already boxed and ready to go. He’s gonna be St. Patrick, whether he likes it or not.) So I plan to show up utterly giddy, video camera in hand, for the school Christmas play I have seen three times already, and the science museum field trip I know by heart — and I will help him hand-make 30 valentines for his classmates, just like I have been doing for the last decade, without bellyaching. I vow to make his school firsts again be my school firsts. Because who knows, maybe I did save the best school mom experiences for the last.
Melissa Fenton runs a fraternity house made up of 4 boys, is a wannabe bakery and yarn shop owner, a cookbook hoarder/reviewer, a badass mother runner, and sometimes a humor writer at http://4boysmother.com Find her on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/4BoysMother and Twitter at https://twitter.com/melissarunsaway.