It’s the most wonderful time of the year…
You know you can’t help but to sing along to that commercial on TV.
I always loved back-to-school season when I was a kid. The new clothes, new shoes, crisp notebooks that were not yet written in, sharpened pencils and pens at your disposal. It marked the beginning, a fresh start. No matter what had happened the previous school year, the slate was wiped clean. Of course a couple months into the school year, the shine has worn off, the clothes are no longer new, the shoes have scuffs, and you are lucky to find half of a pencil in the bottom of your backpack, but for those first few days it feels as if anything can happen. You had the opportunity to reinvent yourself over the summer.
It seems then a more fitting time of the year to make some resolutions. A time to reinvent our routines and make them work for us.
We are on school week #2 here and thus far my resolutions to have a better, and smoother school year are sticking. I pause here to high-five myself.
1: Clothes- All clothes laid out for the entire week–including socks, underwear, hair accessories, and shoes. My high school kids are exempt from this, but everyone else is not. How many mornings have dissolved in tears because a preferred shirt or a matching pair of shoes could not be found.
2: Laundry- I make sure all the laundry is washed, dried, folded, and where it belongs on Sunday to aid in Number 1, above.
I can’t tell you how much stress these two things have taken off of our mornings. If all the other resolutions fall by the wayside, these two will stay.
3: Kids- Upon arrival home, lunchboxes and water bottles go on the counter in the kitchen. Backpacks are brought to the study room and anything that needs signing is removed from the backpack and put in a nice, neat pile. Do not do anything else until these things are done. I promise you that you will NOT DIE OF HUNGER if you do not immediately have a snack.
4: Lunch- I make sure all lunchbox items are purchased on the weekends to prevent mid-week shopping trips that end up costing me more money in impulse buys than I really want to spend.
5: Routines– Establish and enforce routines. This looks different for every family. For us it means: No TV on school nights. Early as possible bedtimes. Homework done right after school before extra curricular activities or playing outside with friends. When you enforce the rules and kids know to expect the same thing every day, they don’t complain. Well, they don’t complain as much. The unexpected is what leads to chaos.
6: Computer Organization- Bookmark all the teachers’s websites on your computer. This is good for the kids to be able to easily look up their homework assignments that they were supposed to write down in the fancy agenda the school made you purchase but have not even cracked it open yet, and for you to be able to have the teachers’ contact information should the need arise. And it will arise.
7: Paper Organization- Go through the mounds of papers that the kids bring home from school each week in a timely manner. Sign what needs to be signed, file what needs to be saved, and then discard, discard, discard. Resist the urge to pile.
8: Dinner- Plan out dinners for the school week. And be realistic about those dinners! I do not enjoy cooking. I do not have a whole lot of time every evening between when the kids get home from school to the time we need to leave for activities. I usually plan three good meals. The fourth day we eat leftovers and the fifth day we eat something easy such as frozen pizza, hot dogs, pancakes. I refuse to feel guilty about this. No one has succumb to scurvy yet–that is why vitamins were invented!
9: Take Notes- Write everything down. No, really WRITE IT DOWN! You think you will remember that in two days your daughter needs a baby photo and your son needs a picture of his grandfather and your eldest needs a new calculator. But trust me, you will forget. As I am typing this I just remembered that my son needs magazines from which to cut out photos to make a collage. I don’t know about you, but we do not subscribe to magazines anymore. But looking at my calendar I see that we have a doctor’s appointment tomorrow, that is perfect! I don’t need to rush out today and buy some magazines. I can steal some from the waiting room tomorrow. Multitasking at its finest. (I am kidding about the stealing. I will, however, ask the receptionist if they are getting rid of any of the old magazines.)
10: Home Organization- Make sure to back-to-school shop for the house. Buy the pencils, pens, markers, and paper now while it is on sale. It sure beats running out on a Sunday night when one of your kids remembers that they need to make a poster for a school project that is due Monday morning. Instead you can now replace the time you would have spent fuming in the car, driving around trying to find a store that is open with lecturing your child on procrastination.
11: Homework Organization- Set aside space for doing homework. I turned an extra room in my house into a study room this year. You don’t have to do anything that drastic, just make sure that if they are supposed to do their homework at the kitchen table that the table is cleared off. That there are no distractions. Make the environment conducive to learning.
12: Have Fun- While you are busy being the task master and rule enforcer, don’t forget to celebrate the ordinary days. Make a special TGIF breakfast. Write a little encouraging note for their lunchbox. Bake some cupcakes for an after school snack- just because it is Tuesday.
13: Be present, truly present, when you reconnect after your day apart. Whether this is right after school ends, or later on when you arrive home from work. Set aside the phone, the computer, the mail and look your children in the eyes and hear their stories. Listen to them. See them. At the end of the day that is what we all desire, to been seen.
Hopefully you already know what’s for dinner and the kids have put all their school crap away and you have not one thing to ruin the moment. And if it all hasn’t gone as planned, if the best laid plans went to hell in a hand basket, just remember you can try all over again the next day.
Do any of you have back-to-school resolutions for this year? Anything working, or not working, for you?
If you have a question for Chris, please email her at this specific email address: adviceforparentsoftweens[at]gmail[dot]com. Please keep your questions on the issue of raising older kids.
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