My kids are back to school this morning! Hence the picture of me sliding through the kitchen with my coffee cup raised like a trophy. Getting through that last hurdle of summer always feels like a massive win. Then there’s the whirlwind of shopping for school supplies and haircuts and who gets which backpack, and no you can’t have two lunch boxes, and I will turn this car around and then nobody gets mechanical pencils!
All of it can be exhausting.
Which is why the first day of school always feels like a huge relief– an exhale of breath I didn’t know I was holding. But along with that relief, also comes anxiety.
Having kids in school feels stressful for me. There are three little people with totally different schedules to keep track of. There’s paperwork: both the kind that accumulates in massive piles in the first couple of weeks back and the loose leaf permission slips and sign up forms that I find shoved down deep in backpacks throughout the year. Also, school lunches. I’m pretty regimented about using a system to keep lunches organized. But now that the boys are older they want to have lunch at school sometimes, but only on specific days. So now we’re tracking the cafeteria calendar like it’s our part time job, and making sure our lunch cards have enough money on them to get the teriyaki chicken this Thursday. There are field trips and performances. There are bake sales and carnivals. There are drop offs and picks ups and banking days where they get out an hour early and if Jackson (God bless him!) didn’t remind me I’d likely forget every single one. There are so many things to remember, and I guess what ultimately stresses me out is the idea that the other moms (at school or out there in the wild world) are somehow way better at this than I am.
I am one of the most organized people I have ever met, and even with all my planning I still feel like I’m constantly forgetting things. Or, remembering them at midnight the night before they’re due. And no matter what I do or create or volunteer for, some mythical other mom at school has done it better. “Yes mommy you can buy the t-shirt we need for make-your-own-t-shirt-day, but Micheal’s mom grew organic cotton plants, and she hand-separated the seed from the fiber before spinning it into yarn for the shirt she sewed him herself.”
I can’t even begin to keep up, and the stress of trying is making me anxious about the first day of fourth grade in a school I don’t even attend!
So this year I’ve made a big decision. I’m over it. I am utterly over the idea of crushing back to school, or any other part of school for that matter! There are some parts of it I do really well. Our morning routine is the stuff of legends. My lunchtime notes have been known to make even grown adults chuckle. My kids are well groomed, well mannered and they get good grades. Beyond that, they are good people. The kind of kids who befriend the outcasts and the loners. Sure, they attack each other at home and are dramatic enough about their lack of access to technology to earn them an Oscar, but whatever. We are doing pretty good and pretty good is way better than faked perfection any day of the week.
So I might not volunteer in the classroom this year– though count me in for store-bought goodies at the class parties. And I might not make it to every field trip, because, I know I’m the jerk-of-all-jerks but I honestly hate chaperoning field trips… but if you need help with a school musical, that would make my heart sing. And also –gird your loins– because a babysitter will likely pick my boys up from school more than I will. It will all be OK. The other moms will parent however they like and I’ll do the same. I will stop being so hard on myself and focus instead on the good work we are doing, the results of which are evident in the awesome little people we’re raising. What if we all went into this new school year with the intention to just gracefully do our best. Meaning, we’re going to do our level-best to turn in every slip on time and never forget wacky hair Wednesday. But we’re also wise enough to understand that it’s going to happen, we’re going to forget something or not be able to volunteer, or not be able to compete with Michael’s mom and her non-GMO custom gingerbread kit for every member of the class, and that’s OK. Michael’s mom is awesome at her thing, and you and me? We’re awesome at ours. We’re going to walk into this new school year and remember that we’re raising our children into the adults they will become. That’s a valiant endeavor that will take us a lifetime of effort and a single day, or even a handful of days, when you aren’t mom of the century won’t make or break your kids. It’s the intention to do well that will see them through. It’s the lessons in grace and self care and holding realistic expectations about what you’re capable of that will truly serve them later on. Choose a handful of things that you rock as a school mom and knock those out of the park as often as you can. The other stuff? Give yourself the permission to do the best you can and the grace to be peaceful on the days when you miss the mark. To those headed back to school, I solute you. Let’s make this the best one yet!