Her minivan turned out of the school parking lot and cruised gracefully down the street, sunlight streaming into her open window. The gentle breeze lifted her hair softly away from her face and twisted the several blue ribbons hanging from her rearview mirror.
How cute, I thought. She hangs her children's ribbons in her car. They must feel proud.
I approached the stop sign behind her and crept slowly toward her back bumper. That's when I saw it the ribbon that told me everything I needed to know the ribbon that proved I was (sort of) in the presence of greatness.
Its red letters were outlined in gold: “World's Best Mom.”
There she was. I couldn't believe it. The world's best mom was driving the van right in front of me. She had just dropped her children at school, and now she must be headed home for a day of world-class motherhood.
For the rest of my drive home, I wondered what a day in the life of the world's best mom would be like.
The world's best mom probably would arrive back home and head straight to her children's rooms to make sure their beds were made and their pajamas were put away. She would rinse the toothpaste blobs out of the sink, open the shades and grab the laundry, smiling contentedly at the chocolate stains on her son's T-shirt as she thought of the fun they had had going out for ice cream the night before.
The world's best mom would get the washer and dryer going, pull a roast out of the freezer for dinner and then sit down in her sunny kitchen to plan the end-of-the-year party for her daughter's class. It would be so pleasant in her kitchen, what with the smell of brownies baking in the oven.
She'd make a list of errands (buy teacher gifts, get new baseball gear for Junior, buy a birthday gift for Susie to take to a party, stop at the grocery store for vegetables that don't come in cans), and then maybe she'd make some phone calls to organize a Cub Scout camping trip.
The world's best mom might then walk the dog, put in an hour of yard work, eat a healthy lunch and then head to the school to volunteer in the library.
I can just imagine how organized and productive the world's best mom is. She looks at her calendar and plans ahead. She's never caught off guard. Heck, she's the world's best.
I'm not the world's best mom.
When I get home from dropping my children at school, I have to tackle the war zone that is my kitchen. It takes a solid hour to empty and reload the dishwasher, sweep the Rice Krispies off the floor, wipe the syrup off the table from someone's frozen waffle breakfast (Note: The world's best mom would serve homemade) and refill the dog dish.
These chores are daunting, so instead, I usually just pour another cup of coffee and read the paper.
While the world's best mom makes sure in advance that her children have the perfect gifts for friends' birthday parties, I buy things en route. I thought this was the whole reason decorative gift bags were invented for people like me who purchase presents at the pharmacy, along with a card, some tissue paper and a container in which to present the gift.
The world's best mom probably makes the world's best dinners. This is another way in which she and I are different, because I stand in front of the freezer at 6:45 every evening trying to figure out what to serve and calculating how long it takes to defrost and then cook different cuts of meat.
The world's best mom probably knows the rules to soccer, something I still can't figure out no matter how many games I attend.
She probably keeps photo albums chronicling the growth of her children from the days they were born (using acid-free photo paper so the pictures don't fade).
I bet the world's best mom finds time to play checkers with her children and always reads to them before bed, something she can do because she's not still doing dinner dishes at 8:30.
Those are the things I would do if I were the world's best mom, anyway.
For the record, when I had my first daughter, I meant to be the world's best mom, and with only one child, I did OK. Even when I had just two children, I was pretty good though admittedly this was about the time when I started to make compromises (ready-to-bake cookies instead of dough from scratch, for example).
By the time I had three and then four children, it was painfully clear I wasn't ever going to achieve world-class status in the motherhood game. There were too many schedules to juggle, too many problems to solve, too few hours just to listen and talk.
I had no choice but to drop my standards and settle for something less something like “World's Most Well-Intentioned Mom” or “World's Most Remorseful Mom.”
Who would want a ribbon hanging from the rearview mirror to acknowledge such a status?
Then again, though I know I'm not the world's best mom, I also know there are four children who seem to think I'm good enough, and that's even better than a ribbon (though a certificate would still be nice).
(Marybeth Hicks is a writer and author of the features “then again.” and “A View from the Pew.” A wife of 18 years and mother of four children from third grade to junior year, she uses her columns to share her perspective on issues and experiences that shape families and the communities we share. Marybeth began her writing career more than 20 years ago in the Reagan White House. She currently writes a column for the Washington Times. Learn more about Marybeth and her work at www.marybethhicks.com. This column first appeared in and is reprinted with permission from the Washington Times.)