I am not a supermom and never have been. For the most part, I’ve resigned myself to the fact I never will be. But every now and then the possibility dangles itself in front of me, and thinking it may be within my grasp, I lunge for it. Never gracefully.
As a former teacher, I had higher expectations for myself as a mother. I envisioned my children arriving at school fresh and ready to learn. These imagined children would submit thoughtful assignments on time; I would always know what they were studying at school, and would provide engaging curriculum links between home and school. Reality looks more like me careening down city streets, wild-haired and wild-eyed, hoping to get my kids through the doors before they lock. Visions of them sitting peacefully in their seats by first bell have long since dissipated. Shay’s teacher is a wonderful young man, however, as of yet, he has no children of his own, so I often suspect he watches our family circus with a mix of horror and fascination. No doubt believing we are a case study in how not to raise children.
One fateful day, the carrot of supermom dangled in front of me, and this is the story of how I lunged for it.
My supper preparations were interrupted by the frenzied stamping of four pairs of feet on the stairs, and the relentless pounding of fists on our glass patio door. Responding to shouts of, “Mom, come quick!” I abandoned my supper preparations and raced to open the door, wondering what the commotion was all about. Voices clamouring over each other, the children shouted their excitement. They had discovered a skull in the hole around the glacier rock, and were convinced this was a fossil from centuries past. They desperately wanted me to see it but could not wrestle it away from Charlie, our faithful lab, who refused to relinquish his prize. I assured them that it was surely a magnificent specimen, perhaps worthy of a museum, but it was now time for supper, so Charlie could play with it for the time being. We soon sat down to eat, the ‘fossil’ temporarily forgotten.
The following morning, in the midst of the rush, Shay turned to me enthusiastically. He had just remembered the skull, and as they were doing a unit on fossils and this would be the perfect thing to bring to school. Well, my teacher heart skipped a beat. Simply marvelous! Connection between home and school, lifelong learning . . . don’t even get me started.
Being somewhat squeamish myself, I handed my son a large Ziploc bag, and told him to get the skull in the bag and seal it up. He followed my instructions, and came to show me his treasure. Though I am anything but outdoorsy, I could quickly see that it was merely the skull of a coyote who had left this earth only recently. No ill wind of foreboding blew though, and thus my enthusiasm was not dampened by what I was sure was an irrelevant observation. While I was happy for my son, I was also secretly excited for his teacher to see the ‘fossil’. He would likely be surprised I even knew which topic they were studying, and shocked that I was allowing such a treasure as this to be brought to school to supplement their studies. Yes, I was pretty sure I was about to make an impression on his teacher.
On the way to school we chatted excitedly, anticipating the excitement our skull would generate. I dropped them off at school and went about my day looking forward to hearing all about theirs. By the end of day pick up, I was eagerly waiting for them. When I saw my boys walking across the field to the parking lot, I could no longer contain my excitement. With great fervor I jumped out of the van to run across the field and meet them. In an ominous turn of events, after walking only five steps, my foot got caught in a hole and I fell, face-first into the snow. Pride cometh before the fall. Despite knowing many parents cocooned in the warmth of their vehicles facing the field would have seen this, I quickly picked myself up and carried on.
Upon reaching my children I grabbed my firstborn in great excitement and peppered him with questions, “How did it go? Did your classmates love it? Was your teacher surprised? Did they want to keep it to put on display at the school, because I would be ok with that?!” My son merely looked at me, shook his head, and kept walking towards the van.
This was not at all what I’d expected. He tossed the bag into the van and ran off to play with some friends. I was surprised by his lack of enthusiasm, but thought maybe he was just trying to play it cool in front of his peers. A friend stopped by the van and we chatted briefly. Unable to contain my enthusiasm, I mentioned this ‘fossil’ Shay had brought to school. Her son is in Shay’s class, so naturally she was curious about it. I peeled through the layers of garbage bags eager to reveal the prize, never once questioning why this treasure, once nicely displayed in a clear Ziploc bag, was now buried under layers of heavy plastic.
And then it hit me. An odour so foul, my eyes instantly started to water. My friend covered her nose and backed away from the van, her interest evaporating instantly. I attempted to cover it back up, desperate to contain the smell. I ran for my children, herding them into the van, frantically trying to get home so we could unload this putrid passenger.
We raced down the highway for home, windows wide open despite the cold of winter. Over the roar of traffic, my son woefully revealed how badly his day had gone. He had hidden the ‘fossil’ in his desk, waiting for an opportune time to share it with the class. (He has inherited my love for the dramatic, and would not have been content to merely plop it on the teacher’s desk. This skull was going to make an entrance.)
As the morning progressed, the warmth of the classroom did its work, and by snack time, my son confessed that he felt very nauseous and his throat hurt from swallowing bile. Unable to stand the stench of it any longer, he confessed to the teacher that the source of the smell they had been trying to locate was in his desk. The teacher, completely repulsed, ordered that thing from the classroom. However, the damage had already been done. The classroom reeked and as it did not have a window that opened to the outside, it remained defiled for the remainder of the day. To make matters worse, my son lamented, it had been hotdog day, and though he had really been looking forward to lunch time, he had been unable to eat his hotdog because his tummy and throat hurt.
I was mortified. How could things have gone so wrong?! My husband was horrified when I informed him of the debacle, incredulous that we were really that family who hauled dead animal carcasses to school. (Yes, apparently we are that family.) Why had I not called him to get his opinion on the matter before happily sending a rotten coyote skull to school? Was it even legal to transport body parts? I defended myself vehemently; obviously had I known the extend of the madness, I would have left it in the field. Did he really think that I had thought through the situation, anticipated that this once frozen skull would thaw and become putrid, and decided to send it to school anyway?!
Looking for some sympathy (though it had backfired magnificently, I had really tried here!), I called my mom. She was extremely sympathetic, but not to me. She couldn’t believe I would have done that to Shay; had I no sense?
It was with great humility I sat down that evening to compose an email to the teacher. I apologized profusely for my lapse in judgement and promised that this would never happen again. I had learned my lesson.
As I lay in bed that night, the passage from Matthew 23:27-28 came to mind. Having smelled that rotten skull, the words about white washed tombs with decaying bones inside, took on new meaning. Sometimes outer beauty can deceive us into thinking the decay on the inside is harmless, but rottenness can only be disguised for a time. What good will it ever do for me to appear ‘together’ on the outside and get the acclaim of those around me, if the Lord sees something different on the inside?
And then the full impact of the lesson hit me. Confronted with the rotting stench of my sin, He extends invitation.
Come now, let us reason together, says the LORD:
Though your sins are like scarlet,
They shall be as white as snow;
Though they are red like crimson,
They shall become like wool.