Gifts for Dad ➔

It’s the eve of back-to-school. I’ve labeled books and bags, filled up BPA-free water bottles and made sure there are enough pairs of matching socks for the next few days.

We sit our two elementary school-age kidlings down and lecture them on our expectations this year.

They will bounce out of bed with a happy “good morning” at 6:30 a.m.

There will be no whining at breakfast. You get what you get.

The morning routine will take place without argument and without parental intervention.

This is the year they will practice the piano consistently. They will also learn to play the ukulele and the drums.

Kid 1 will be in soccer. Kid 2 in gymnastics. Both will learn to play badminton and to skate.

And homework. That will happen every evening between the exact hours of 4:30 and 5:30 pm.

As for screen time? Absolutely nothing, nada till the weekend.

We are also going to eat healthy this year. In fact, we’ll be having fresh fruit for dessert every evening.

(And all of this will happen while mama makes her 10,000 step goal on her Fitbit every single day, while swearing off carbs and sugar.)

Yes, I was the very picture of the overachieving, perfectionist mama. It’s my start-of-the-school-year-avatar. It’s like the New-Year-resolutions mama failed, went into hibernation – and came back with a double dose of enthusiasm. It’s when my expectations scrape the sky. When lunchboxes are packed with personalized notes. When uniforms don’t have ketchup and chocolate stains on them.

When I know that it’s only a matter of time before real life happens.

Because there are going to be mornings when we’re going to hit the snooze button too many times.

There are going to be many, many breakfasts with sugary cereal and not the overnight oats with chia seeds and fresh raspberries that I’d envisioned.

There’s going to be yelling at the top of the stairs: I can’t find my fill-in-the-blank.

There’s going to be missed homework and forgotten science projects.

There’s going to be days when the piano, the ukulele, and the drums will lie forlornly untouched, gathering dust bunnies.

There are going to be “forget your shower and just get in bed” days.

There’s going to be days when my Fitbit will look at me accusingly from my nightstand.

There’s are definitely going to be grab-handfuls-of-chocolate-chips-when-no-one’s-watching days (at least for mama).

In other words, there’s going to be real. And that’s perfectly okay.

This year, I choose practical over perfect.

This year, I choose average over achievement.

This year, I choose ‘good enough’ over guilt.

Sure, there’ll still be expectations and I do hope for excellence (where it counts). But I won’t hold myself – or my kids – to a standard where either of us feels “less than” if we don’t make it.

So this year, I look forward to the messes and the beauty of real life. Because I’m in the business of raising kids. And what matters most to them is not that they can play three instruments and two sports. But that they are raised in a home where love trumps performance.

Now, quick, where’s my stash of chocolate chips before my munchkins tumble through that front door?

Susan Narjala

Susan Narjala is a freelance writer who shares her faith with authenticity and humor, and has been published on leading Christian sites. You can find her at and @susannarjalawrites.

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