Our Story Begins:
Embracing Imperfection


I got a crash course in imperfection this week.

It was, after all, back-to-school week. I have two boys – twins – and they are starting their first year of middle school. I don’t need to tell you just how difficult that is, we all lived it. Even the high school jock was a hormonal, awkward, voice-cracking middle schooler once.

I write this after, morning of the first day of school, I was frantically filling out the emergency contact forms, in triplicate, for the umpteenth year in a row.

I came to the nirvana of imperfection after attending back-to-school night. Sure, there were a few parents like me. The Dad who said “I forgot my kid’s schedule on the table” to the Mom who seemed abundantly stressed and had thrown on a t-shirt with her hair in a pony tail. We were a band of brothers going to the battle of the Bell on our own version of St. Crispin’s Day.

Far more common, though, were the designer jeans, manicured, salon-style hair, golf shirts, and dressed-to-the-nines parents who drove to the school in separate cars because they simply couldn’t be bothered to pick up their spouse along the way. Into this walked your humble writer, still in his dress shirt and slacks for work, in need of a haircut, bumbling his way up the stairs. Along the way four pairs of parents chat about their last week before school. One says “Oh my Gawwwdd, I just didn’t have time at all to get to the club, how did you get so tan?” The others titter about swim meets and lessons and eating cold sandwiches while they watch their children swim.

My pool, by the way, blows up and sits on the lawn in the back yard.

Related: Our Story Begins: The Single Dad’s Father’s Day

So it’s after the exhausting display of human peacock feathers spread along with enough perfume and cologne to cut a hole in the ozone above my community that I collapse at home. I faced power Moms who do it all and volunteer for the school and solicit money for the booster club and look gorgeous. Then their husbands talk about the torque their new Tesla gets on takeoff.  I hear about taking the boat out on the lake and their kids’ soccer triumphs. I, however, scramble from classroom to classroom because with twins, parenting alone, I can’t hit two classrooms at once. I endured tons of stares being the sole Dad with two schedules on my desk knowing, without a single word, they’re asking themselves “so where is his wife? Why isn’t she here?”

After all this, still in dress slacks, shoes and shirt . . . I realize I don’t have any of the school supplies. In the store, where other people’s kids are screaming they want fancier calculators and cannot possibly go to school with that backpack that I realize it: it’s a facade. All of trappings are a mask.

The Boys at School

Dave’s boys, Noah and Sam, prepped for school

So many parents try to hide the imperfection of parenting. They “have it together” is the message in the conversation, competition and primping and preening for school nights. The designer clothes and coiffed hair cover up the stress and the panic we all face. The interesting thing is that the priority becomes the show not scholarly pursuit.

Yes, I’m in a panic at 6am in my workout clothes penning the last of the school forms on the first day of school.  But that’s a result of making their lunches the night before. I made sandwiches, I didn’t buy Uncrustables. I made homemade cookies last night, I didn’t buy pre-packaged Rice Krispie treats. I know what my kids are eating and it just freaking tastes better.

So, yeah . . . I’m totally unprepared. I’m flying by the seat of my pants and I have no idea what I’m doing sometimes. My kids don’t know that, though. Well . . . not most the time.

I embrace the imperfection, chanting the yoga-like “ohm” of “I’ll get to it before school starts.” I delay buying the bus passes because I see how stressed my son is about a new school and new schedule. Still, it’s okay to know we don’t live in Utopia . . . and imperfection is just fine. In fact, it’s Nirvana.

What about you? Do you stress? Are you worried about how you look but not the process of school? Do you embrace the imperfection or fight it?