As Jonathan VanNess would say, “I’m strugs to func” right now guys. (I told you it was the summer of Queer Eye). My kids both start new schools tomorrow and both situations are not what I was hoping for. One didn’t get into the arts school we dreamed about for years and the other didn’t get the accommodations I was hoping she’d get to adjust well. I’ve struggled with my feelings about this since we started pursuing the options we ended up not getting back in January. And being rejected from those opportunities was really painful and scary for me as a mom.
Tonight, I’m on the cusp of that transition. Tomorrow is the first day of school. Macy will take the bus for the first time, change classes for the first time, have a phone on her for the first time, and just freakin’ be in middle school (the school that everyone I know says is basically the worst place on the planet…still not sure how this is helpful?!?!) And Penny will start at “regular” school (as opposed to Montessori) in a beautiful brand new building with basically no one that she knows. She missed her old teacher tonight meeting her new one. She struggled on the playground equipment. She asked about what it would be like when we left her there tomorrow without anyone she knows.
I’m scared. I’m scared my kids are not ready because I don’t feel ready. I’m scared they’re going to get hurt and I won’t be there to protect them. I’m scared that the adults in charge of them are overworked and understaffed and will miss important things. I feel shame. I feel like I need to be able to control all the things and the fact that I can’t means I’m not a good mother. I know that’s not true but shame is a liar and I am crying tonight with those thoughts.
I’ve done the work to recognize the source of this shame. Between my exclusively Christian education and the purity culture movement, somehow I’ve learned that I’m not capable (so now my kids aren’t) of handling the awfulness that is the big bad world. I’ve learned that innocence is the most important thing - the thing to protect at all costs. I’ve learned that once it is lost there is no way to get it back. You are forever changed in the worst possible way. I feel really backed into a corner because the kids are in situations that I wouldn’t have chosen and cannot prevent. And we don’t have other choices. So somehow, whatever happens to them in these environments represents my inability to “save” them (hello codependency!) from certain, unredeemable doom.
I really think there’s something here. Some sort of parent-based shame. We are taught to be obsessed with innocence. That morality and purity must remain perfectly in tact in order for our kids to be happy and healthy and safe.
Here’s the thing, guys: THAT’S FUCKING BULLSHIT.
I know it. You know it. Thank God, my husband knows it and has been talking me down through my tears for months. Pain teaches us stuff. If my kids aren’t capable, guess what, the experiences they have will increase their capability! If they are never challenged or shocked or even harmed, how can they grow and learn and hold the pain that life will inevitably bring in adulthood?!?! How can they be compassionate if they’ve never needed compassion? How can they learn to be kind if they’re never treated poorly? Sometimes life lessons are waiting for us on dangerous barely-supervised bus rides and on playgrounds where you cry in fear and adults don’t hear you.
I’m scared. But I’m resolute. We are present, capable parents who will go to bat for our kids if needed. In the meantime, class is in session.