Audrey walks toward me, her canvas bag swinging at her ankles and her backpack visibly heavy. The twins have wrestled and giggled wildly for the hour we've waited outside as the older three finish their swimming lessons. I squeeze her, and she gives her perfunctory, "Oh mom, please" look.
"You've got to talk to my teacher." Swimming teacher, she means, and yes, I'm shamefully absent when all the other dutiful parents pick up their children and wait for the instructors' feedback.
It's just too much effort. Seven minutes to corral the wild horses and herd them inside. Two minutes to remove coats and shoes. And the spectacle of my ineffective parenting the moment we've stepped foot on the pool deck as they ignore all of my warnings to "Stop running!"
Mother of five, I simple can't do it all. As much as I think I've made peace with the limitations, fears simmer beneath the surface.
There's never enough time, money, energy, or attention for this crazy brood of kids.
And I'm beleaguered by the cultural messages.
If you want your kids to succeed, you've got to involve them in a variety of activities from a very young age. Remember, it's achievement that counts, so give them enough opportunities to be the very best. It's going to matter for college. And college means career, and career means money, and money means security.
I see the parents around me driven wild by the fear, and they can't stop the perpetual motion of securing the best for their kids.
And then the school announces the topic of their next parenting discussion, led by a renowned expert.
"Self Reliance and Independence: Letting go can be difficult at any stage, and yet working ourselves out of the job of managing our children’s lives is one of our most important tasks as parents. Get practical tips for building a child’s confidence and ability to be resourceful and self-evaluative."
They have seminars for this?
This is our life. Resourcefulness, autonomy, self-expression, independence: these are the fruits that grow wild in families as big as ours.
And so it is that I exhale and embrace the limitations of this family, this life, this mom.