It’s that time of year again . . . .
Colorful Crayola displays are popping up all over the stores, Pottery Barn catalogs arrive in triplicate seemingly every day and every morning news show is featuring spots on the latest and greatest back to school tech as well as tips to rock the new school year. We can no longer deny that we are officially in Back to School season.
In fact, our school district starts on Tuesday, August 20th.
In addition to the ubiquitous School Supply lists and unapologetic push for more consumerism – new shoes, new clothes, new backpacks and lunchboxes and hundreds of dollars worth of supplies, another thing that is commonplace this time of year is a book bag full of mixed emotions.
I have been going “back to school” for longer than I can remember. First as a student, through twenty-two years of formal education, then as a teacher (18 years, I think), and also as a mom (this is my 14th year of back to school as mom – many of those years overlap with my teaching years) and one thing I can say with certainty is that this time of year is always filled with some major anxiety.
I think it’s worse now that I am a mom than it ever was when I was the student.
As the August days tick by I grow increasingly anxious over changing schedules and the start of something new, unknown demands, late nights, early mornings and the anticipation of the sheer craziness that accompanies a family full of school year schedules.
I lament the passing of the lazy days of summer. Although, if I am honest, the “lazy” days of summer haven’t actually been a thing in years. I’m lucky to squeeze in a handful of pool days and can barely keep my head above water even during the summer. Which makes the impending school year all the more worrisome – if I can’t keep myself and my house together during the summer, how will I ever do it once the routine is back in full swing?
Then there’s simply the sadness that accompanies the passage of time. I am super excited for my children to embark on their new adventures – to grow and learn and thrive and become more independent each day. But I am also a little bit sad that one more childhood summer is behind us. My oldest is a junior this year. I only have one more school summer with him. And that weighs heavy on my heart.
School also means packing lunches. Everyday. For four people. Ugh! I know I shouldn’t complain, because one day all too soon my lunch packing days will be over and I will miss it. Or not. Right now, lunch packing is the bane of my existence and I dread the thought of 180 days of lunches.
In addition to all these traditional concerns, my worries are now compounded with anxiety over school shootings and whether or not my kiddos are going to come home safely each day. No matter how rare these tragedies are, it’s impossible to send a child to school these days without at least a little doubt about safety.
And then there’s vaping and drugs (that are so much of a problem today that our schools now stock Narcan, which is definitely a good thing overall, but a bit unsettling). And with a new driver in the house also the fear of drinking and driving and other unimaginable accidents.
But yet, while my heart is doing somersaults in my chest, my head knows that more than likely my children will all have safe, productive, fun and growth-filled school years. And before we know it, it will be June once again.
So, I have decided that this year I want to live more intentionally. I don’t want to live only for the summer or wish away the next ten months.
Yes, our days start early and they go late. There is cooking and cleaning and laundry and errands that still need to be done. There will be homework and projects and tests to prepare for. And countless concerts and sporting events and activities to attend.
But, in the midst of all that craziness I think it’s important to remember to enjoy the moment. To celebrate the everyday. Crazy as these days may be, these are the moments that make up our lives.
I’ve come up with 5 guidelines or “rules” that I am going to do my best to live by this year. And I encourage others to do the same. Whether you are heading back to school yourself, sending your child to kindergarten or middle school or high school or college for the very first time, the very last or one of the many hazy years in-between, this time of year isn’t easy. But I’m confident you can have a more relaxing and rewarding school year simply by adopting a few simple goals for the year.
Make new connections.
New beginnings always have some degree of discomfort – new people, new places, new routines. I am going to embrace that discomfort this year and seek out new connections – new friends, new colleagues, new interests that can enrich my life. And I am going to encourage my children to do the same.
Make a plan for success.
When approaching a new school year, especially one filled with multiple schedules and responsibilities, I think this advice is probably the most important for a relaxing and rewarding year. For me, this means meal planning and meal prep. It means keeping and referring to and following my planner. It means less time on social media and more time on task. It means setting goals and priorities each day and being intentional about how I spend my time.
Make healthy choices.
In busy seasons of life it’s easy to compromise healthy habits in the interest of “saving time.” But I find that the more I do this the worse I feel. I am going to take the time to eat well, exercise and sleep enough. This last one is the hardest for me, especially when the days are busy. I get up early – like 4 a.m. early. That means I have to be in bed by 9:30 p.m. in order to get enough sleep. This obviously isn’t always possible, many of our activities run well into or past my bedtime. But I make it a point to limit those nights out during the week (and even on the weekend), and to turn in early when I am at home. It’s not always fun, but it’s necessary if I want to maintain my sanity.
Make time for fun.
On the other hand, there must be time for fun with family and friends built into the schedule. Whether it’s family dinners, game nights, movie nights, family hikes – make time to do the things you enjoy together. My children have all asked me to prioritize Halloween this year – not the holiday itself, but to intentionally celebrate all things scary during the month of October. We have brainstormed a list of family activities we can do together to enjoy this season. Equally important is carving out time for friends – I am really bad at this so I am going to try and set aside two nights a month to foster friendship.
Make your bed.
I am not very good at this one either. But I am so negatively affected by clutter. I fell my heart rate quicken and my motivation lag when I am in a chaotic environment. And during the school year there is a lot of clutter in our home. Making my bed is one simple way I combat this chaotic environment. This task only takes a few minutes each morning and my hope is that it will spill over into other areas of organization. And if not, at least my bedroom will bring me peace.
Those are my five goals for this school year. I am hoping for my most relaxing and rewarding year ever. Wish me luck.
And let me know – how are you feeling about the upcoming year?