If you have spent this year navigating school at home with your children, you will relate to this concept of the Scumbag and the Superstar.
I first wrote Part One in 2014.
After almost 23 years of parenting, you may assume that I understand how to be the most amazing mom in the world, that I have learned from all of my mistakes, that my experience allows me to avoid pitfalls and damaging my children’s sense of self. When you meet my children, you may think that I actually did a good job.
But to be honest, I am pretty sure there is a positive correlation between the amount of my scumbag moments and the average age of my children. There is less room for error in parenting when they can spell and understand big words.
Another positive correlation is the amount of time I work with the amount of scumbag moments. I went back to work full-time this year for the first time in almost 12 years.
It wasn’t a conscious choice. Like most of the biggest decisions in my life, my crossing threshold decisions, this door materialized in front of me and I decided to walk through it not knowing that a massive tightrope was waiting for me on the other side.
As I talked to the kids about my first year going back to the work, they had some feedback for me.
“It was strange having to make an appointment with you to talk about my progress.” Scumbag.
“It was nice to see you passionate about your work and less focused on your identity as a mom.” Um, Superstar?
“You were always busy with work this year.” Scumbag.
“Mom, you always had other projects as we grew up but you still always made time for us. This really wasn’t any different.” Superstar.
“I didn’t see much of a change except I had less tantrums when you taught me because I had classmates now.” Superstar moment… for her.
One daughter reflected, “We all had our own stuff to do but it was nice to come back together at the end of the day and talk about everything. You always stopped working to keep connecting with us at the end of the day.”
For my youngest, he was used to life with me all the time. Now he had to navigate learning with a new guide and with classmates whereas I still teach my other children.
When we were in Canada, he enjoyed time with me as I homeschooled him again, just the two of us. Looking back on this moment he told me, “Mom, I wish you could teach me too again.”
As I re-read that post from 2014 and listened to my children in 2020, I finally noticed a pattern.
I don’t have to go to the other extreme and entertain them all day. I just have to build in a moment or two when I pay them undivided attention – through listening, doing a lesson, reading together, getting off the screens entirely. But with five children, a moment in time multiplies. Time becomes the most precious resource in my day.
One card game and then I have to finish my writing.
One chapter and then I have to send messages.
One conversation and then I need to go to sleep early.
One lesson and then I have to plan.
One coffee and then I have to train.
So I am keeping it simple for my family. To my kids: Choose one thing you need and I will be there. Grab my arm and make me look at you if you need me NOW. I promise that if you ask, I will be there. I get absorbed in my work, in my teaching, in my writing because I love it. One day you will know what that means to love to do something so much that the rest of the world falls away. You will be a scumbag to others while being a superstar for yourself. It’s ok. You can always try again. And you can remind those you love that yes, sometimes you have to make an appointment.