Why having kids in school isn’t actually easier

The credit card machine beeped at me.

I had swiped, and it wasn’t a swiper. It was a chip-reader.

And that was just the last straw.

I inserted my credit card and blinked away tears of frustration. I knew Target had chip-reading machines. It’s the grocery store where I need to swipe. Why didn’t I remember that?

Oh, maybe because both my kids are in school now, so my brain is constantly swimming with ALL THE THINGS that must be remembered.

Over the summer, I could not wait for school to start. It would be the first year that both my kids were in school at the same time, at least for three days a week. I was pumped. I would have 12 solid hours of time without children. Those 12 hours would be so productive. I could get my work done, clean the house, organize a closet, maybe even save 30 minutes just for me!

Unfortunately, no one warned me that having both kids in school was going to be pure chaos.

It is SO NOT easier than having them at home. Admittedly, when they are at home for long stretches of time, they wear my patience thinner than the threadbare sweatpants I wear on those days. However, that is so much better than having to be a shuttle service/errand runner/craft-maker/gift-buyer/paper-signer/things-remember-er.

In the fall, I thought maybe I felt overwhelmed because we just hadn’t adjusted to the new routine yet. It takes a while to get used to new schedules. The paperwork sent home from school would eventually die down, right? There wouldn’t be so many activities, field trips, dress-down days, dress-up days, bring-something days, right?

Here we are, halfway through the school year, and it hasn’t stopped. It hasn’t slowed. In fact, now that it’s the holidays, it has gotten way worse.

That’s how I found myself grinding my teeth and clutching my credit card at Target at 9:15 a.m. on a Tuesday.

I had remembered the Friday before that my 3-year-old had her holiday party, and that I needed to bring fruit. Yet, as the room mom shrewdly pointed out, I didn’t slice up the fruit nor put it in a pretty bowl.

I had also remembered that the 3-year-old had ANOTHER party on Monday, and we had to send in Hershey’s Kisses and make sure she wore her pajamas. I remembered that my son had a holiday shopping event at school on Tuesday, and I had to send in the money for it but DO NOT SEND IT IN EARLY, only send it on Tuesday. I remembered to put his Christmas pajamas in the wash Tuesday morning because he had to wear them on Wednesday for his holiday party.

I remembered to drop off the dog at the groomer’s because if she sheds one hair at my mother’s house in Ohio while we are there for Christmas it will be the death of me. I remembered to load up the old toys and take them to Goodwill so we can make room for the new toys coming in.

I even felt like Mom of the Year because we got to preschool early on Tuesday morning, and I played hide-and-seek in the waiting area with my daughter.

Then, I spied one of her classmates with a wrapped package. The dread set in.

“The book exchange,” I murmured. “I forgot about the stupid book exchange today.”

On the surface, it seems like no big deal. I forgot a book, so what? I have time to go to Target.

That’s not the point, though.

The point is that I had remembered so many other things already. I was ahead! I was doing great! And now, I had to spend money on a new book when I had perfectly good books at home, and I had to spend money on gift wrap when I had plenty of gift wrap at home, and I had to spend time doing all of it when I could have spent that time doing the other things I need to do.

So when that stupid credit card machine beeped at me, reminding me of yet another thing I had known but had forgotten, I came undone.

The point is, if you see someone get frazzled by something that really isn’t all that frazzling, it’s probably because she reached a breaking point long before then. Offer support. Or a coffee. She could use both.

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