I had a moment during back to school shopping when I caught the eye of my oldest who is headed into kindergarten and through the lump in my throat I choked out, “When did you grow up?”
She looked back at me through messy bangs and meowed like a cat.
Clearly, she was deeply touched by my emotional display.
I’ve been having a lot of these little moments where the relief that I am no longer mothering babies collides full speed with the agony of the realization that I am no longer mothering babies.
Like when I dumped out the bags of backpacks and lunch pails and crayons onto the kitchen table and started writing names.
Wasn’t it just yesterday that I practiced writing out these names to see what they looked like on paper when you were just a bump in my belly?
The permanent marker moved up and down and I was overwhelmed with the thought that there are not enough supplies in the entire world that could prepare me for this transition into the school years.
When my girls were two and one and I was so completely desperate for a rest I viewed these school years with such longing. I imagined I would drop them off at school with such peace and grace and then bask in the delight of nothing to do: no fits to calm, no toys playing the same mind-melting tune over and over again, no bottoms to wipe, no tiny fingers to entertain while I race to go to the bathroom, no oatmeal to scrape off the table and nobody else’s needs to meet…at least for a few hours.
Those days I planned I would head home and take a long glorious nap.
But I’m finding a giant ball of panic in my stomach and the anxieties play the same worries over and over again in my mind and, surprise, there are still buns to wipe and oatmeal to scrape.
I’m waving 2 Thessalonians 3:16 around like the sword that it is, the promise of peace stabbing at the anxious shadows:
“Now may the Lord of peace himself give you peace at all times in every way. The Lord be with you all.”
He is the Lord of peace and is able to give it in every way.
Right now I need practical peace and so my prayer has been for the wisdom to make this transition into the school year.
In the time I’ve spent praying and thinking I have focused in on three ways I can prepare my hearts and home for this school year.
First, I can establish communication by carving out time to tune out distractions and be an available listener.
I can establish communication with God so I can be spiritually equipped for my work!
I can establish communication with with kids. I can create time in my home to meet my girls on their own turf. I don’t need to bring questions or answers or plans; I just need to be with them and show that I am available to them.
I can establish communication with my kid’s teacher. I can keep the teachers in the loop with what is happening in our lives, ask the questions that highlight my rookie-status and listen to the ways they need support so I can be a help instead of a drain.
Second, I can establish a margin for my family.
I am completely aware of my inability to do many things well. I am so very aware of my tendencies of feeling overwhelmed and discouraged when I feel exhausted and overloaded. This year I have established a margin in my family’s life that gives us down time and space to rest and relax and recharge.
I can establish a margin to help my girls decompress after coming home from school.
As a teacher, I know school is incredibly rigorous and kids spend most of their school day in highly focused learning environments. Even out-of-class time like recess and lunch are full of socially and emotionally eventful moments. I am giving my girls time to relax in the comfort of home before diving into home life. For us, this means some alone time right when we first get home. I’ll change my clothes and get a snack and so will the kids. They can eat the snack where they choose and have about 10-15 minutes to themselves.
I can establish a margin of limited commitments for everyone in the family on weeknights. For us this means telling myself and my kids no to things, even good ones, that push our family to a frantic pace…which is not easy when it seems like every other family is doing dance and soccer and small groups and art classes and karate.
I can establish a margin of grace for myself when having a margin makes me feel like a lazy slacker. I can remind myself that I want to have kids who understand the discipline of not doing everything more than I want to have over-achieving kids.
Finally, I can establish a culture.
I can establish a culture of how school and school work is viewed and approached in my home. This was a conversation I had with my husband and we talked about how we want our family to approach their school day, how we would like homework to be tackled and our expectations for your students as they work in class and at home.
I can establish a culture of how we approach hectic mornings, hurt feelings and homework.
I can establish a culture of how we treat each other after a long day.
I can establish a culture of reasonable expectations and enough grace to cover our missed marks.
All of these are my highest hopes and to be bare-bones honest, I’ll probably be the momma who falls apart from frazzled nerves, exhaustion and discouragement by next friday and I am putting this post here so that when I do meltdown I can re-read it and remind myself where to aim my efforts.
Mostly though, I am putting this here so I can hear from all of you.
You, the women who have gone before me and have survived the school years and lived to tell the tale.
You, the momma who has school age kids. I know there are some days you have this back-to-school thing down, I see you in the parking lot and the school office looking all pro. I would really like to know how you got there! But I am also guessing that there are days where you want to lay your head down on the steering wheel of your minivan in the car line and cry…would you share what you do when that happens too?
You, the momma who has never braved a day of school but have all sorts of ideas about how to make it all work.
We already know that what we really need for a successful school year is Jesus.
But I’m curious to know what that looks like as it plays out in your life in a practical ways.
Would you share your experiences with a momma new to the school years like me?