When she couldn't balance school and family, a heavenly angel stepped in.
Just a few final touches and my paper was finished. I glanced at the clock on the wall in the kitchen: 6 a.m. Just in time. I hit save and turned off the computer.
“Kids!” I called. “Time to get dressed for school!”
Don’t yell, Kathryn! I reminded myself as I tiptoed past my bedroom door. You’ll wake up Bob. My husband was an accountant who’d just survived an especially hectic tax season. He needed his sleep.
Normally I didn’t mind keeping the house running and seeing to the children on my own this time of year, but at the moment I was juggling a family of five and my first semester in graduate school earning a masters degree in education. The paper I’d just finished was due in a matter of hours. I’d barely made the deadline.
Four-year-old Rebecca was already awake when I walked into her room. “Mommy, what should I wear today?” she asked. At least the other two children were old enough to dress themselves for school.
“Let’s see,” I said, opening one of Rebecca’s drawers. It was empty. Oh, no, I thought. When was the last time I did laundry? I pulled open another drawer: empty.
Frantically I moved from Rebecca’s chest to her closet. But my mind was somewhere else—focused on self-doubt. With all I had to do, something was bound to fall through the cracks eventually.
What kind of mother leaves her child without clean clothes to wear? My degree was supposed to teach me the best way to help children. But what about my own children? Maybe I can’t go to school full-time and be a proper mom.
The closet proved hopeless, and I went back to the drawers. A stray shirt, a pair of shorts and one pair of socks—all bright red. Odd that these were her only pieces of clean laundry. It was a little much for one outfit, but at least it was complete!
“Look, Mommy!” Rebecca said. “The only clothes I have are red!”
Rebecca’s carpool would be here in 15 minutes. “That’s right, sweetie! You’ll be Mommy’s little red bird today,” I said, pulling the shirt over Rebecca’s face and holding her bangs back with a red bow. Maybe no one will notice that she’s red from head to toe, I thought. Right.
Once she was dressed and had breakfast, I took Rebecca’s hand and ran out the front door. Her ride was pulling up to the house. As I got Rebecca settled in the backseat I noticed her classmate was wearing red pants.
“We’ve got two little red birds flying off to school today!” I said. I waved them off and went back inside with my guilty feelings.
I got myself dressed—luckily I had something besides all red—and drove into town to hand in my paper. When I returned home Bob had already left for the office. I got to work on my chores. I put a load of laundry in the wash.
God, I thought I could go to school and still take care of the house and the kids. But now I’m not so sure. Bob helped as much as he could, but we both knew the period before, during and after tax season would be a challenge. Clearly I wasn’t up to it.
Several laundry loads later, the front door opened. “Mommy! Mommy!” Rebecca called.
I went downstairs. “Guess what today was!” she said. “Guess!”
No telling. Crazy hat day. Pajama day. The faculty was always coming up with creative ways to make pre-school fun. Of course I didn’t know what day it was at school. I couldn’t even do laundry. Rebecca looked like she was about to explode. “I don’t know, honey. What was today?”
“Red day!” she shouted. “We were supposed to wear all red. I forgot, but I looked the best of everyone!”
My precious little red bird. Perhaps I did have too much on my plate. But an angel wanted me to know that I didn’t have to handle it alone.
Motherhood wasn’t a test where you got marked down for mistakes. In fact, sometimes mistakes turned into moments of grace.