This picture…yup, it’s from last year. Want to know why? Because today it just didn’t work. Any of it!
Last night, I laid out freshly-cleaned uniforms in each of their rooms. I had lunches made, water bottles filled, and backpacks ready to go by the door. I planned a waffle breakfast and set my alarm clock 30 minutes earlier than necessary to ensure there would be extra time for cuddles and reassurance. I even had our chalkboard sign ready for pictures, like the ones currently flooding my Facebook scroll. So this should be a happy post about the excitement of the first day of school.
But sometimes life just isn’t like that. It’s messy, unpredictable, and you just have to roll with the punches.
We had a good start but the last 10 minutes killed us. My son spilled syrup on that freshly-cleaned shirt. “No problem Sugar Dumpling. Let me get you another shirt.” Yay, we did that 3 times and there was no Sugar Dumping that 3rd time.
Our other son decided kids would think his combed hair looked weird, so he put his hand to the top of his head and made circles until every last piece of hair was stuck in a different direction. Dad reprimanded and brushed it again. Lip quivering with anxiety over what the 1st graders would think, his hand returns to his head only this time evident it had nothing to do with his actual hair. We told him his hair looked cool.
Then my daughter didn’t believe I had really signed her up for Hot Lunch and insisted on seeing the email confirmation before she would get in the car.
When I tried to take that 1st Day of School picture that I have taken every year since birth, the boys fought over who got to hold the sign, that is until the sprinklers went off spraying the chalk lettering. It was only kinda funny at the time.
It didn’t matter how much I prepared last night, today was going to be messy. We had nerves, anticipation, and a drippy eater. I was reminded it’s not my job to make the morning routine perfect, it’s my job to create an atmosphere that when they have their moments of anxiety and insecurity, there is warmth, guidance and grace.
I was once the maid of honor in a beautiful wedding where every detail was perfect. As I went to straighten the bride’s gown mid-ceremony, I knocked the tall glass-encased candles which lined the stairs to the altar. Every eye including my own froze with anticipation as we waited for the shattering of the glass at the bride’s feet. Thankfully it didn’t and there was laughter instead, but the bride’s mother came up to me afterwards and said “Allison, thank you! I had been holding my breath for the perfect wedding and once you knocked that over, I finally exhaled. I knew it wasn’t going to be perfect and I was able to enjoy the moment.” Uh, you’re welcome?
How often does our desire to create a perfect moment for our loved ones get derailed by the unexpected? What my children needed this morning wasn’t another cute picture in front of the house, they needed to know that there was order and certainty to the lunch process. They needed reassurance over an acceptance issue revealing itself through hair. And they needed to know that a little spilled syrup doesn’t have to ruin your day.