To the professional back-to-school mom of older kids at Target,

Today you witnessed my children have an epic meltdown in the school supply aisle. One baby screaming his head off for unknown reasons, one 3-year-old in the fetal position on the ground because I told him we couldn’t buy the mega pack of glue sticks, and one starry-eyed future pre-K student lapping every aisle screaming at me, “Mom, Mom, Mooommm I found the ruler/pencil/eraser/marker and I neeeeeed one these because SHIIINNYYY!!!”

Our cyclone of toddler terror swooshed next to your children as they dutifully perused every aisle, calmly walking back to you and asking if they found the right item on their school supply list.

You, the professional back-to-school mom, found me later in the office supply section buying myself a five-minute window of silence with Lunchables while I searched for manila paper, reading aloud the supply list on my phone.

Catching my eyes as I verbally checked off “watercolors, binder, and backpack” you softly called, “Hey, I saw you back there and I just wanted you to know . . .”

Oh here it comes, I shuddered—a professional back-to-school mom about to tell the rookie back-to-school mom what kind of Bento Box she should buy and to suggest she doesn’t give in to the 3-year-old’s demands for new glue sticks. Then, to end her sage lecture, she would remind me to “just enjoy these moments.”

Bracing myself with the happiest smile I could muster, you melted my brave facade.

“I saw you back there and I just wanted to give you a standing ovation.”

My jaw dropped as I stuttered to respond. A standing ovation???!!! I wondered. My kids were so crazy today I contemplated abandoning our cart and taking my walk of shame to the van.

But you, professional back-to-school mom, took a moment to tell me you saw me doing the hard work (looking like a total rookie), cheering me on when I must have looked as graceful as a toddler tottering in her mama’s heels.

Instead of calling me out you called me up.

You, professional back-to-school mom, made me feel like there was a chance I could navigate this new season of parenthood without losing my mind.

Instead of exposing my weakness and viewing my newbie status as a chance to flaunt your own knowledge you cheered me on. There was knowledge you could have imparted at that moment about packing healthy lunches, managing carpool lines and surviving extracurriculars.

Your wisdom was revealed when, instead of a speech, you gave me what my soul needed: grace, empathy, and encouragement.

Dear all professional back-to-school moms:

As fresh pencils are sharpened, new shoes bought and back to school nights begin, would you look for the rookie back-to-school mama?

She shouldn’t be hard to spot. She’ll be dragging a screaming toddler, frantically checking her email to make sure she has the correct room number, and her hair will be dry shampooed into a messy bun because showering is still a rarity.

Behind her frazzled smile and white-knuckled grip on her squirmiest blessing are her most vulnerable fears. Did I remember everything? Will they like their teacher? Will they make friends? What if they have a learning disability? What if they miss me? Did I do enough to prepare them as a mom? What if they’re bullied? Am I enough?

And while you may not know the answer to every question, you know what she needs.

She needs to hear, feel, and receive the wisdom, grace, and friendship from a professional back-to-school mama.

Walk over there, connect with her harried gaze, and give her a standing ovation.

Originally published on the author’s Instagram

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Charity Rios

Charity is the author of “My Heart’s Garden” children’s book and workbook (releasing Jan. 2021). She is a Jesus follower, wife and boy mama to 4 of the wildest, and squishiest sets of dimpled cheeks. Most days you can find her top knottin’ it, totin’ potties and rollin’ in the mini. The power of the gospel is her melody and unleashing women and children from captives into warriors is her passion. You can find her at, on Instagram @claritywithcharity and Facebook @charityrios,author.