Several years ago, Jen Hatmaker‘s Worst End of School Year Mom Ever made the rounds, describing the desperate limp toward the finish line that many parents experience. More recently, the Holderness family produced a video about “Maycember,” illustrating the feeling that parents have at this time of year – just as busy as Christmas, without the lights and the peppy music. As the parent of two elementary-school-aged children, both of these pieces resonate with me deeply and make me laugh loudly. I imagine that teachers feel about the same way by the time May rolls around.
Last week, when there were exactly nine days of school left, my fifth grader came home and told us that he’d need to bring in $50 worth of special markers. (And let’s be real, the fifth graders aren’t doing anything marker-worthy for those last four days.) I ordered them (thanks, Amazon next-day delivery!), but I’ll admit it was with a little more grumbling under my breath than there would have been in August or September.
Maybe you’re a current parent of school-aged kids and don’t feel weary right now – you might pace yourself more evenly throughout the year and take your vitamins with plenty of water, so that your energy is sustained throughout the school year. I’m genuinely impressed.
I think that most of us who are in this stage, though, feel a little weary by the last few weeks of school. Most of us who spend any time with children realize how fallible we are in about five minutes. And that weariness is almost a welcome relief to me. At the beginning of the school year, I feel like the mom that I imagined myself to be before I had children. My ducks are in a row, and my robotic vacuum is on a schedule. Everyone flosses regularly. In moments like that, I feel very good about myself, but I also feel dangerously self-righteous, as if I don’t need any help.
The truth is, for me anyway, that I do need help. Desperately so. When the shoes are a bit scuffed and the lunch boxes smell like the prodigal son, I am keenly aware of my need for mercy. I don’t think God loves me any more or any less in August or in May, but I’m certainly more aware of my need for his forgiveness, and for his grace to be echoed by those around me, when everything feels like it’s falling apart. The end of the school year is one of those times when everything feels like it’s falling apart. The good and bad news is that we get to do it all again in a few months.
If Saint Paul were an end-of-school-year parent writing to the Romans, I imagine his epistle would go something like this: “Neither shiny lunch boxes with organic fruit nor scuffed ones with stale croutons, neither remembered library books nor forgotten ones, neither self-righteousness nor self-pity, neither fresh haircuts nor bug-spray-used-to-tame-