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A Mom’s Survival Guide: May Madness

Dear Kerry,
It’s May Day. I think I’m supposed to be happy but instead, I feel a sense of dread. My calendar is full of kid-related activities and I hate to admit it, but I feel a sense of dread about trying to keep up with everything that needs to be done for my elementary-schoolers. Any suggestions?
Sincerely,
April Showers May Bring May Flowers but May Flowers Stress Me Out

Dear Showers,

Ready or not, here it is. Ask any mom which month is more stressful: May or December. Many will say it’s a toss-up.

Call me a slow learner: it took me years of feeling crazy and overwhelmed in May before it finally dawned on me that this is cyclical and predictable.

Every single May, I would find myself frenzied, trying to “do my part” as a good, involved mom of three kids, each of whom were in a sport, played an instrument, went on field trips, had field days, had “end of the year” celebrations for everything, teachers and coaches to appreciate and summer activities to be registered for. Oh, and throw in a son’s birthday, Mother’s Day and my birthday. Wait… there’s more! Don’t forget about gardening! ’Tis the season to plant beautiful flower pots and flower beds, right? And making sure the kids’ closets were well-stocked with summer clothes that fit those every-changing little bodies. It felt like “May Madness,” I tell you. Suggestions? Yah, I’ve got suggestions.

Just this past weekend, I sat in a piano and cello recital. You know the kind… where I drove 45 minutes EACH WAY to wade through an hour of performances so that I could have the pleasure of listening to my stepdaughter play three whole minutes of piano. One young cellist bombed. I mean, seriously failed. As her bow screeched and shrieked over the strings, she grimaced. The song seemed to last forever and the mistakes just compounded. I marveled that she didn’t burst into tears. When she finally finished, I heard her tell her teacher that she felt like throwing up. During the debacle, a man next to me sat with his face in his hands, shaking his head. He grumbled about how hard it was on his ears. He wondered aloud why she hadn’t practiced more. Honestly, I wanted to kick him. He clearly didn’t get it. This was not a performance for our listening pleasure. This was an opportunity for young people to have the chance to practice performance and feel seen and supported. For those who played well, it was a chance to enjoy the fruits of their labors. For this grimacing girl, it was a chance to learn the hard way how valuable practicing is. Every kid who got up on that stage learned something. I would’ve bet the grumpy man next to me that Grimacing Girl learned some important life lessons about preparation. And anyway, who knows what her life looked like leading up to this recital? Maybe just getting on the stage was a victory in and of itself.

Having said that, here are a few things I wish I had figured out sooner about surviving May with my sense of humor intact.

1) The recitals, jamborees, tournaments, shows, proms and awards nights are not about you and how good a parent you are. They are also not about your kid and how good a human he/she/they are. They are about young people being seen and supported and learning important life skills. This is a time to celebrate their efforts and be clear that their academic/athletic/musical success is not what makes them precious to you. This is a time to make sure the kids who haven’t qualified for the awards and tournaments know that they are cherished and lovable simply because they exist.

2) Our worth as mothers is not defined by our ability to have the cutest teacher appreciation gifts or most clever soccer trophies ordered and ready. Our worth as mothers is also not defined by our ability to make it look easy to organize and orchestrate all that is required of us in May.

3) May is a great time to accept ourselves as the humans that we are. If we are good at all these May-oriented tasks, this is a time to bask in it and go for it. If this is where we flounder, then May is a great time to be real. To not pretend. To do what we can to honor and celebrate our children while giving ourselves permission to be good at other things besides this.

4) What if your goal for May was simply to show up at your children’s events as fully present as you can? Imperfect, disorganized and somewhat overwhelmed… but fully human. Imagine the collective exhale of those around you who might also feel permission to be perfectly imperfect and just here to love the precious young people who are in their care for this little chapter of life.

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