My big kids started school yesterday, entering 1st and 4th grade without new sneakers. This happens every year; I tell myself we will be better prepared next time, and before I know it, it’s August again.
I’ve historically blamed my lack of back-to-school planning on external factors beyond my control, like finances, but the truth is, I obsess over things that don’t matter (dirty dishes in the sink, the emotional state of the family pet, the clarity of my skin) and ignore the things that do.
The truth is, we have — well, had — the money for new shoes, but I spent it on something that didn’t matter. It mattered in the moment, certainly. That’s what always happens. I don’t drink or take pills anymore, but I still make terrible decisions. Some people call this irresponsibility, but I think it’s more like misplaced responsibility. I have no idea why I do this, but I have high hopes that working a recovery program will help me sort it out.
Please note: I HAVE A LOT OF REDEEMING QUALITIES.
This is my first back-to-school experience as a sober mother. I don’t know if my family can see a difference since I got sober almost 6 months ago, but I certainly feel different. Yesterday, I stood at the end of our driveway with my sons, holding a cup of coffee, waiting for the school bus to arrive.
After about 20 minutes, when it became clear that the bus wasn’t coming, I announced that I would drive them to school. My littlest was awake and had already dressed herself in a pair of inside-out pants, so all I had to do was unlock the van and tell them to load up.
Maverick is almost 9. He, more than anyone, knows what life used to be like, before therapy and diagnoses and I quit drinking. If anyone is going to notice changes, it’s him. He’s my barometer.
As we sat in the carpool line, I commented, “This isn’t that bad of a wait — if y’all would rather not ride the bus this year, I could drive you to school.”
“Wait — what?” Maverick’s eyes were wide.
“I don’t mind driving you. Unless you want to ride the bus. Just think about it, and let me know! It’s no big deal either way.”
I looked into the rear view mirror. My big boy, all arms and legs and overgrown, shaggy hair — another back-to-school task that didn’t get accomplished on time — was looking at me quietly.
“I thought you didn’t want to drive us,” he said, lowering his voice.
“What do you mean?”
“I mean … you always seemed like you couldn’t do it.”
I turned around and put my hand on his knee. I knew what he meant. It’s not that I couldn’t physically drive them in the mornings — there was nothing I couldn’t do without the help of an extra-strong cup of coffee and a pair of sunglasses — but I lived in such a constant state of stress that any unforeseen circumstance or extra task would send me over the edge. I was always one event away from a nervous breakdown, and my kids could sense that. I mean, obviously.
I looked at him, dead in the eyes, and studied his face for a long time. A car honked behind us. I continued to look at him.
And he smiled.