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Parent views: Back-to-school joy

Flashback to mid-June: only a couple days into summer vacation, I began to take for granted my daughters’ generally good moods and their willingness to go with the flow and drift off to sleep at bedtime with nary a battle.

Sure, I noticed more sibling rivalry, but that was understandable given the increased amount of time they were spending together each day. They were getting plenty of playtime outdoors, we met up with friends at the zoo and at parks, and enjoyed exploring yard sales and libraries.\

I work outside the home part-time, and truly appreciated the time I had at home with my girls. By mid-August, though, I was counting down the days to the structure and routine of the school year.

To anyone who asked if the girls were ready to go back to school, I said, “We’re all ready!”

Despite what previous back-to-school seasons have taught me, I somehow forgot that longer days away from home on their best behavior mean my daughters struggle to behave well when they return home in the afternoon.

I forgot that, for all of us in our house, emotions run amok.

I forgot that this season of emotional chaos does not end one or two weeks into the school year. For weeks and even months each Fall, patience seems to wanes and tempers definitely flare. On many days, we simply feel out of whack as a family.

Yet, taking cues from friends who are parents and from our own parents, my husband and I try to remind one another of what’s true: this time of year isn’t about us as parents, rather it’s about our little ones growing their minds and bodies in huge strides.

It’s about them becoming friends, becoming learners, becoming makers and doers, all alongside their fellow students and their teachers who are in their own processes of becoming. This is hard work!

I often compare my daughters being in school to having a full-time job. And, as any adult who’s ever had a job can attest, what we most need from our family members or roommates at the end of the day is not the expectation of perfect behavior or of doing more work, rather it’s comfort and love in their simplest forms.

I’m learning that my daughters’ post-school-day tantrums aren’t personal affronts against me, their mom (who just wants some peace and quiet sometimes!). Instead, more often than not their tears and complaints and growls are really saying, “Sit and play with me,” or “I need some good food in my belly,” or “I just really need a long hug.”

For those of us blessed with the capacity to provide those things, we simply need a few reminders along the way to set down our tasks and love on our kids. Recite The Parents’ Creed with me!

I believe in God, the sanity saver extraordinaire
Maker of early wake-ups and early bedtimes,

and in Jesus Christ,
His only Son, our model of utmost patience,

conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary (and if God were the father of my children I’d still want to toss them out the window sometimes),

suffered under Pontius Pilate (why can’t I wash my hands of my children’s sins?!?),
was crucified, died, and was buried. (I would die for my children…)

He descended into hell. (…but sometimes, blasphemy or not,  I *think* I’m approximating this descent.)
On the third day He rose again from the dead. (He forgot his shroud, yes, but not his lunch, water bottle, jacket, AND gym shoes.)

He ascended into heaven, where there is much wine,
and sits at the right hand of God, where there is always laughter and never whining,

from there He shall come to judge
the homework forgetters and the sister hitters.

I believe in the Holy Spirit, inducer of me-time,
the Holy Christian Church, host of moms’ groups,
the communion of saints, wine nights whenever we can get ‘em,
the forgiveness of sins, including the cardinal sin of forgetting to include a good snack in the backpack,
the resurrection of the body, which will one day be free of stretch marks, c-section scar, and puffy eyes,
and the life everlasting. (As long as there’s childcare.)

Amen. And Amen!