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Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Back to School Crazies

When I was a kid, the anticipation leading to the first day of school was unbelievable. I remember arranging all my supplies in my new backpack or bag. Pencils and pens in the pencil box. Rulers and protractors and sharp scissors. I remember not being able to wait to wear my new clothes, even if some of them might be for the wrong season. New shoes you couldn't wait to show your friends. The nervous butterflies in my stomach wondering if my best friend would be in my class. Would I know anyone? Would the teacher be nice or mean? And my lunch box with matching thermos that I insisted on drinking from as soon as I brought it home.

Yes, back to school was a wonderful time. By the time it arrived, I was bored with summer games and playing outside. Skating down sidewalks and riding my bike with friends. Even swimming was old hat. I didn't want anymore craft projects or books to read or games to play. No matter how many wonderful things my Mom presented to me, none of them seemed exciting. I'd said, "I'm bored" enough times that Mom was sick of it and ready to ship me off to school.

As a parent, I realize now there is so much to back to school. Between worrying about the kids and making sure my long to-do list is complete, I find myself a bundle of emotion.  I put on a brave face for the kids. I tell them how great it will be to see their friends. I see them just as excited about new back packs and lunch boxes as I was at their age. Inside, my brain is swirling.

It's really hard to be a parent. My Mom told me this many times, but of course I didn't believe her. She was a single working mom, sometimes working 2 jobs to support us. Knowing now what I didn't know then, my Mom's statement about parenting being hard seems like a HUGE understatement. Don't get me wrong. Being a parent is absolutely the single best thing EVER. My kids are amazing and funny and cute and smart and teaching me things everyday. I thank God everyday for them and the opportunity to be a parent. BUT, I'd be lying if I said every day is wonderful. ANY parent who tells you every minute is wonderful and they are enjoying every minute is a BIG. Fat. Liar.

For me the time leading to back to school is nerve wracking. There are forms to fill out and emails to answer. School supply lists that seem longer and more complicated every year. Now that my son is in (gulp) high school, there are summer readings and projects. Between school things and their outside activities,  I feel like my head is spinning.  Then there are the closets to clean out. Do they have shoes that fit?  Back to school meet the teacher nights and phone calls to make.

And then there's mommy guilt. Did they have a good summer? Did they read enough? Did they study enough? I'll bet that kid down the street was in a 4th grade college prep PSAT class.   I'll bet that kid's mom did interesting science experiments everyday. All that crap on Pinterest I see that looks so amazing, I'll bet SHE did ALL that. And took pictures of it. And posted it all on Facebook.

Then there are my insecurities. Will my kids have friends? What if they're bullied? What if they aren't popular? What if they are the annoying kid in class? What if they are the know it all kid?  What if they aren't as smart as I think? What if they are just (*GULP*) AVERAGE?

And these days, much worse worries than that. Will they be safe? Is there a tornado shelter? What are the school's emergency procedures for lock down? Do my kids know what to do if there is an emergency? Will the teachers follow protocol in an emergency? How does my kid's school protect against intruders?  What would my kids do if a stranger approached them? What would they do if someone they KNOW approached them inappropriately?  What about the internet? How can I be sure they are not doing things they shouldn't be?

All of these worries and more make being a good parent these days stressful. Protecting our kids and guiding them through school is our most important job. But, being a good parent means making sure they enjoy school and get to be a KID from time to time. Play with no plans. Be silly and messy and spontaneous. At the same time, we have to make sure they learn enough so that they will be competitive in a very competitive world. They have to develop their brains and their social lives.


And guess what?  We are only human. We can only do our best. Love them. Guide them and lead by example. Have faith that if we do our best, our best will be enough. That soemday we'll look at the children we've raised and realize it was hard, but we did good. I know that will be an awesome feeling.

But, for now, I'm going to shove all those worries aside. Do my best to teach my kids to be safe. Do my best to teach them to enjoy reading and math and science and just plain LEARNING. Show them how to manage their time and organize. Show them sometimes you screw up and learn from that, too. Do my best to be sure we enjoy these years of school and sports and band and Girl Scouts and Boy Scouts and ALL of it. Becuase after all, we only get ONE shot at that.

So bring it on BACK-TO-SCHOOL. We got this.

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