1/3 of a cup.

1/3 of a cup. That’s all it takes.

I was rinsing out a pesto jar. It was greasy and filthy and I was tired of making dinner. I filled it 1/3rd of the way with warm water, gave it a few “I mean it” swishes and, voila, clean. It’s like nothing every happened. It’s like it was always new and clean and waiting to be filled.

All in all, yesterday was a great first day of school. Except that my son had to be peeled from my body. I rushed our goodbye hug so I could hug crying grandmothers as they dropped off their school-aged grandchildren.

I did not cry.

I did, however, make a few mistakes at work. I neglected to order lunch for the same son that so desperately needed me to not forget his lunch. I was too busy ordering the lunches for the crying grandmothers’ grandchildren. Lunchtime came and my son’s teacher let me know, “Don’t even worry about it. There was an extra sandwich.” But, of course I worried. One day in, I’m the mom who forgot lunch.

Still, I did not cry.

I also forgot snacks. For all four of my children. At this point, I looked down at my dress and my appropriately-high-heels and I wondered if I was selfish that morning; I took the extra 10 minutes to look good. If I’d spent 5 less minutes trying to cover the 8-year-old bags under my eyes, would I have remembered snacks?

It’s doubtful.

Now would have been a great time to cry. Even still, no tears.

I pulled as far as I could into the driveway of my youngest’s daycare. I put the air on full blast and ran to the back gate just 10 feet and a world away from my car. I left the other children in their seats. I couldn’t even entertain the idea of having them enter the yard with happy, sunbathed toddlers. I could see the future – my next 40 minutes bribing children to leave a swing set. My heels had already lived their 8 hours and an eternity on my feet. I said, “I’ll be right back.” and with an ever so small eye twitch, I walked away from the car. Fortunately, the “baby” ran right to me. I grabbed her, waved and left. I barely acknowledged the women who had loved my daughter all day long.

Even still, the kids are all fine. No snack? No lunch? No problem.

But, there was something about the way the pesto left the jar.

I cried.

If you just consider what we have to work with and how much we have to do…my insides felt so sticky. The more I tried to succeed, the more I failed. And while failure is so very human, it is also so very disappointing.

But still, failure is key.

Huddled masses of new people watched me fail. I had two choices: I could accept it or, I could deny it. I chose to admit it…hopeful that with acceptance came the 1/3rd cup of water that would rinse me clean.

I don’t feel quite so sticky anymore.

This morning, I ordered my son’s lunch. I remembered snacks. I am still human. I am still flawed.

And this new school year brought so much growth. Instead of trying to be perfect, I said, “Here I am, all sticky and imperfect! I forget my kids’ lunches and I’m sometimes a mess. I like you just the way you are. I hope you’ll like me just the way I am too.”

I promise I’ll forget snacks at least 45 more times until June.

I love my kids. My kids love me just the way I am.

And it only takes just the tiniest bit of water to wash ourselves clean.

Hello, my name is Bethany and I’m going to sometimes get it right. I’ll mostly get it wrong. I like you just the way you are. I hope you’ll like me just the way I am too.

How low can I go? Pretty. Damn. Low.

Back to school! So great! So exciting! Check out all the shit I can do!

It’s a great day when you get to venture out to Walmart without children. It’s also the saddest day when you fully embrace the level of excitement you feel walking into a Walmart alone. This is how it starts. In a few years, I’ll be purring on the couch wearing a Snuggie and ordering a Ronco “SET IT AND FORGET IT!” rotisserie. My future is so bright, I gotta wear the shades I ordered from QVC after another bout of insomnia.

Our routine was in a rut the size of my ass cheeked imprint on my couch, so, we’ve been walking to school on most-ish days. It’s been an exercise in actually exercising and futility. There is no amount of early that gets us there on time.

I am also packing lunches. I don’t know when or why I decided to take this on. That overachieving bitch is going to get a, “Wake up and smell the french roast!” slap on the face from me as soon as she makes another grand entrance in my mind wearing homemade facial scrub constructed from organic peach pits and raw, local honey.

Between the pre-dawn lunch packing and actual wearing of the brand new tennis shoes I bought two years ago when I promised myself I cared about fitness, is the stack of school paperwork I’ve already forgotten to sign.

Dear Mom,

Today was your child’s share day. He had to share his 1/2 eaten string cheese because you forgot…again.

P.S. You suck.

Your child’s educator

There is also the attending of school functions because it’s important to be there and because, I hear, everyone loves the screams of younger siblings. Especially in an auditorium during that time of the morning when you’ve had just enough coffee for survival, but, not enough to participate in the actual parenting of the screaming child that everyone insists is yours.

So, there’s that.

It’s never too early to feel like a failure and that is why, just two weeks in, I’m starting to eye the school lunch menu with both interest and desperation. Those “fish“sticks on Thursday might buy me an extra 11.4 minutes of sleep. My kids hate fish. I love sleep. I’m currently weighing my commitment to their happiness.

I fear for them. This is only September. What dark and terrifying depths of mediocrity will next May bring? I picture a bag of microwave popcorn thumb-tacked to the permission slip for last week’s field trip.

If you’re thinking, “Things can only look up!”, you’re very kind to assume this is my rock bottom. Thank you for believing in me.

Until next week, this is the world’s most mediocre mom, over and out.

I don’t cry on the first day of school.

I’ve read many a back-to-school story. I’ve connected with and absorbed the numerous tales about tears, fear and a general feeling of gratitude mixed with sadness. While I can recognize the basis and biology of these feelings, I must admit, I have very few of my own. My husband, my biggest advocate and either my most or least flattering mirror constantly tells me that I’m the least romantic person he knows. As I wait for my mug or blue ribbon, I contemplate the correlation between my practical side and my non-crying-at-school-drop-off side.

The fact is, there is very little that makes me feel as accomplished in my parenting as the first day back to school. It marks the success of another season and the beginning of a new level of independence I’ve helped to foster. It signals forward motion. The alternative, the keeping of the status-quo. The pining for small while big is happening. The hesitance to acknowledge and celebrate the quick passage of time.

As a mother, these particular feelings are not a part of my daily repertoire. To the contrary, I’ve enjoyed watching them grow more individual, at first parallel and now, slowly away from their all-consuming need of me. They are not afraid to leave me. This is ok. No, this is good.

We start to let go from the moment they leave our bodies or are placed in our arms; from the moment they are ours, they still belong more to themselves.

We are just the keeper of the bees. They were built to fly. Sometimes, it stings. But for me, it’s mostly as sweet as honey.