I spent hours making and freezing healthy casseroles and filling notebooks with instructions for my husband. (And who ever else was caring for the kids.  Sometimes it took some fancy scheduling to make it to convention!)  I included a phonetic dictionary of preschooler terms: nana= blanket, sneezus= Jesus and usually meant he way praying….etc. I wanted to make sure communication would continue without my mom-terperative skills. I left a list of places to find things to avoid the inevitable call to ask “Where are my clean underwear, and do you know where the kids shoes are?” Being inevitable, the calls still came. (Funny how that works, isn’t it?

I left clean MATCHING clothes for each day. Because, I’m a good mom.

I left detailed lists of chores broken down by age/ person and day. Truthfully?  I just hoped someone would mop up the toilet misses before I got home. I should have included emergency cleaning instructions. Like for cat vomit and cheerios and mashed banana.  I also left a list of do’s and don’ts. Do bathe. Don’t do it in mud. Don’t let the children kill each other or harm the cats…. You know- simple stuff, like that.

Year after year, I went to MOPS convention, and left feeling refreshed by fun and connection. I was reminded of being a part of something even bigger than our local group. I was reminded that I am incredible and unique, and called….I also worried about my families managing without me.  I worried if they were eating. I worried if they could read my instructions on the casseroles….I worried about the cats. I worried about the morning they went to church without me… (umm matching clothing at church is important.. It’s kind of like visible holiness…rt?) I worried about what they were into and if they went into public restrooms alone.

Year after year, I returned hone, exhausted but refreshed.

I found ignored lists and a freezer full of frozen casseroles. (There are probably still some from 1992 in there… I was an over-achiever that year.) In the fridge, I found 4 days worth of half eaten McDonald’s meals and (now leaking) papercups of watered- down- by -melted -ice Sprite.  (What’s up with those cups? Why must they leak after 6 hours? I hate that!) The kitchen garbage was piled to the ceiling like a gross game of Jenga. (they need to be reminded to take it out or they’d all drown in yesterdays junk mail. )

Year after year I was met at the airport by a family on the verge of collapse and in some pretty interesting outfits.

It  took days for me to clean up all the messes that went ignored while I was gone.  It took days to get discipline back on track. Honestly, It took days for me to look at my husband without wondering how he managed to function at work if he couldn’t read. (I doubted his literacy- because duh! I’d written it all down!) It took days to catch up on laundry. (Ok I’ve NEVER actually caught up my laundry… I gave that up.)  For years, I got angry that things weren’t done MY way, while I was away.

Here’s what I’ve learned:

  • That appearance of near collapse at the airport?  It comes from having fun, not neglect. Who knew?
  • They won’t die if they eat the same thing for 4 days straight. (Even if it’s McDonald’s)
  • Dirt don’t hurt. (messes can be cleaned up, and will be eventually, maybe.)
  • Matching clothes have nothing to do with holiness. And the church ladies just smile at daddy’s attempts to dress children for church… they don’t write you off as a bad mom. well- some may but those are cranky ladies with too many cats.. just sayin.
  • No one will eat the casseroles, don’t bother.
  • Velveeta Shells and cheese and banquet chicken can be bought at the party store, hence avoiding the grocery. Men are crafty like that. It still counts as dinner.
  • Cat vomit is easier to clean up when it’s dry.
  • My children are way more resilient than I thought.
  • Husbands may think that letting the kids wear dirty(ish) clothes is actually HELPNG. It saves you laundry when you get home. Thank them for being considerate.
  • If you gripe about how things are (or are not) done when your gone… you can expect even less the next time you go. His way is the RIGHT way, when you’re not there. Deal with it.
  • When they call to ask you where something is…. remember: it’s kind of nice to feel needed…
  • By the time your kids are teenagers… they may send pics to your phone of things they do while you’re gone….. take a deep breath before opening… and know that if they actually DID break a leg jumping off the banister upstairs. while his brother snapped a pic of him in mid air….. they prolly wouldn’t have sent a pic…(yes this really did happen, and no, nothing was broken… )
  • I would have been disappointed if they could do it all my way without me…. (I hate to admit it, but it’s true.)

Here’s the thing, we can either go to Convention and be distracted by our controlling nature (hey- we’re moms, we can admit it.) and return home angry about all that went undone, or done wrong… or we can go to convention, count the messes and mayhem we find on arriving home, as part of the cost, and be glad we went.

After 20 years?  I choose the latter.

I’ve also learned what’s important and I don’t knock myself out over what’s not. This makes it easier for me to leave (I save hours not bothering with  frozen meals) and less frustrating when I come home. I make sure there IS clean laundry, but understand they will wear what they want while I’m gone. (And it doesn’t really matter.) Our lists of what’s important may differ, and your childcare arrangements may need different instructions… but we all need to learn what to hold onto and what to let go of to make Convention a reality that isn’t a nightmare….

What about you?

What works and what doesn’t, for your family?  Lists? Casseroles? Outfits laid out? (during the school year, I put them in gallon ziplocks arranged by day…. I’m like that) Or McDonald’s and dirty clothes because they’re “saving you work” by wearing them twice?

Can’t wait to see you soon!

In answer to my title question:  YES.

My oldest is almost 21 middle is 18 and my youngest is 8.  All have grown up being left each year for MOPS convention, all have survived;)