I wander through the aisles of Target as my boys are playing “Train Ride” around the cart. I glance at the list in my hands: 16 count of Crayola crayons (2 packs), 60 pencils (all sharpened), 4 large Expo markers (low odor), pencil top erasers, notebooks 1 each (red, yellow, blue, orange)…
Around me other parents are looking equally panicked as they begrudgingly participate in this annual treasure hunt of back to school supplies. We smile at each other aware that none of us are finding this particularly fun, aware that the kids don’t particularly care about what we buy. Aware that this is going to cost a small fortune, even with all of the coupons we each are shuffling through.
We parents are in this together. Mutually understanding each other’s struggle, we help each other find supplies, unless, of course, they also want the last pack of highlighters. Then it’s every man and woman for themselves.
And as the dog days of summer continue, so begins the Back to School season. So do the good intentions of every parent to be more organized this year, to pack healthier lunches this year, to have their act together so much better than they did last year, and the year before that, and the year before that.
Every fall I jump feet first into the volunteering trap for my kids’ schools. I sign up for everything so that I can be as involved and as busy as possible, so that my children will remember me being an active participant in their youth. Except I can’t. Unbeknownst to most of the other parents, I have lupus and the more involved I am volunteering at my kids’ school, the more time I need to recover at home. Last year, I was left with a severe case of optic neuritis (inflammation of the optic nerve). I lost 100% of my vision in my left eye and partial vision loss in my right eye, leaving permanent vision damage in both eyes. It took six rounds of the chemotherapy Cytoxan before we had control over it. The memories I make outside of the home mean I won’t have the energy to make memories inside my home.
At the school supply drop off, we are inundated with all of the opportunities to be involved in our children’s school experience.
"Join the PTO!" They shout.
"Help with the Monster Bash this Halloween!" They plead.
"Join a committee!"
"Volunteer your time!"
"Be more involved and more involved and more involved!"
"Do it for the children!!!!" They pull at our parental heart strings.
And so, just as Ariel signed away her life to Ursula, we sign every form, as we volunteer for the Halloween Party, Holiday Party, Valentine’s Party, Reading Parent, Room Parent, Art Parent and more.
Except this year I’m not.
This year I’m going to restrain myself from overdoing it. I’m going to be selective in my volunteering. I’m going to do my best to help as much I can. Not necessarily as much as I want. I’m going to only pretend to be supermom. I’m going to prioritize what I want my children to remember. I’m going to carefully weigh each activity and I’m not going to feel bad when I have to say, “no” once in a while.
I’m going to realize that I’m more valuable to my kids healthy than I am busy.
This fall, I’m going to be the parent my kids deserve. One that takes better care of herself so she can take better care of them.