Tuesday, October 4, 2022

It's Not Always Easy


We're six weeks into the school year. The school year where my kids got to go back into the school building after a pandemic. The year where we jumped head first without seeing where we were going to land. I've experienced a wide range of emotions these last six weeks and I needed every bit of that time to get a grasp on my thoughts through it all. Well, at least when I've had the time to think.

Two of the three minis were ecstatic to be going back to school, the third (and middle) one apprehensive. Unfortunately, that was the child who had a very rough first few days. I'm now on a first name basis with the vice principle of the school. It has been a fine, delicate line of letting my twelve year old handle things on his own while also keeping communication open with the school. I cried a time or two, as did my child. I spent the first two weeks frustrated that everyone else seemed to be having a seamless back-to-school experience while my middle child struggled hard. I wanted my child, this middle child who is the typical middle child, to have a great beginning of the school year too. How unfair is it that this kind hearted, hilarious, nervous kid had no one to help him through his first few days at a brand new school because of the freaking teacher shortage?

I know enough not to blame the school or the teachers and staff who are already stretched so thin. Instead I sat, helpless at home, offering a listening ear when he got home for school. As with any challenge, my kid was a complete rock star and handled everything with grace and perseverance. Never once did I hear that he didn't want to go back to school or try again. I would not have been surprised if he came home after his first day and begged me to homeschool again; and I likely would have said yes. Instead, he's shown up day after day, willing, and excelling in his classes. To write the words 'proud mom' is a complete understatement. I'm in complete awe of him.

I had worried that going back to school, the minis would lose time to do the things they love, something we didn't have to worry about when we homeschooled. Would there be time for them to run and play with neighbor friends until dark? Would there be time for them to continue cooking and baking? To stay up and watch a special show/movie/news/etc.? Somehow, we are fitting it all in. Not as easily as when the minis were homeschooled during the pandemic, but they still get to do as much as they can. Of course, you should see our family calendar. 

There's something every damn night of the week. I have to schedule in who gets to cook dinner what days and who gets to bake dessert. There's dance nights, drama club, fall play, volleyball, and art club to schedule around, as well as leaving time for homework. Their schools (all three in separate schools this year) really seem to be fans of Thursday night happenings, which means most Thursdays the minis go from school, to whatever activity or event the schools have, to dance/volleyball/clubs. For the first two weeks of school I couldn't figure out why I felt like I was a hit by a semi every Friday morning, but I figured out it's from our Thursday schedule. 

I can't say I exactly miss homeschooling either. I instantly felt lighter once the minis were back at school. I don't have to be "on" every minute of every day for my kids. I didn't realize how exhausting it was to create learning opportunities from the minute I woke up until bedtime. Every single day. I've been able to remember why I love being with the littles every day without the added homeschool hat I wore for two and a half years. I feel a renewed energy (that's still gone by Friday mornings) for my business, job, and being a mom. Not teacher, just mom. There's been a few times I've had a hard time letting it go. The youngest brought home a paper filled with grammatical errors and an A+ at the top. Clearly her teacher has different expectations than I did. It took everything in me not to grab my pen and mark that paper up and down with corrections. I really had to force the smile and congratulate her on her grade. 

I also forgot how expensive the beginning of the school year could be. The pandemic brought our children a lot of free and virtual opportunities. We paid for travel, museums, etc., but they got online drama, music lessons, etc. Suddenly, I had to rent a flute and a clarinet, pay activity fees, buy school apparel for each child, treats, snacks, and we were hit with three separate school fundraisers all within the first two weeks. Literally thousands of dollars out of our pocket all within these last few weeks. Part of me paid those without a second thought because someone else was doing the teaching for it all. The other part of me handed it all over while thinking of all the cool places I could take them with those dollars. 

No, these first six weeks haven't been easy breezy. I'm still deeply bothered by social media's ability to portray back to school as a glorious time for all. It's not. Some kids struggle with the change in routine, parents struggle with it all too, and it's all glossed over with cute outfits, fall fun, and homecoming week fun. I can't deny I'm not a part of that because this is the first time I've shared our back to school struggles. But I knew I needed to wait to get a grasp on all of the feelings this time of year brings. I needed time to get my feet into our new schedule and routines. Mostly, I needed to sort out my thoughts on it before I hear anyone else's. I'm only good at helping others and empathizing when I know what experience and knowledge I bring to the table. 

This is what I know: back to school can be a brilliant, exciting, and wonderful time for some. The teacher and staff shortage is real and only going to get worse. I had really hoped my kids wouldn't feel its affect, but they are (only my middle child in the middle school, which I feel is truly amazing) and I don't know how to make it better for the school or my child (other than voting for people who support education). I'm tired from running my kids all around, but I also love how involved they are in things they love, so I can't complain about it. I love that my kids cook dinner two nights a week and that we've carved out the time in our schedule to allow them to do it. I need to purchase stronger coffee for Friday mornings and sleep as soon as I'm done working Friday evening.