Depending upon how today’s going, you’re either saying “pass the tissues” or “where’s the party?” I don’t think there’s one right reaction for a mom putting her first baby through school. It affects us all differently.
However, I suspect that for you veteran mommas, you’ve learned a thing or two as you’ve ushered in many a school year. My oldest is enjoying his last year of middle school and I might, if the heavens align properly, get a dashing photo of him as he tries to escape my click-clicking. Just trying to preserve the memories, son. If School Mom 2014 could tell School Mom 2006 five things, surely this is what she’d say:
1. Don’t bail your kids out. Did they forget their lunch? Let ’em bum snacks off their buddies. Did they leave the homework on the kitchen counter? The zero won’t kill them. Did their shorts get wet at field day? Let them sit in wet pants. Because let me tell you this. Better for them to learn the lesson in kindergarten to remember that lunch box, pack that homework and to steer clear of water soaking games, than to be “that kid.” The one who always calls on his mom to solve the problem. As your children get older and the consequences pack a bigger punch, it matters that they learn to figure it out. To figure out life, by themselves. Don’t be the middle school mom (or worse, the high school one) who’s carting her child’s lunchbox up to school. Cut the string, girlfriend. It might sting a tiny bit and you may have to wipe a few tears, but your child will grow up to be a problem solver who lets the small stuff slide and, instead, focuses on the big picture.
2. Skip the elaborate teacher gifts. In the early years I used to agonize over what to get the teacher as a beginning-of-school/Thanksgiving/Christmas/Valentine/Easter/end-of-year gift and you know what? It was ridiculous. Pinterest has crazy amounts of ideas on how to thank your teacher. As the daughter of a teacher, you know what I say? Give the teacher the gift of YOU. When your kid brings home a bad grade (after talking to your child first), reach out to the teacher and find out how it can be improved the next time. Pray for your teacher. God knows they need it with all the demands on their time and resources. Be a cheerleader, not a naysayer. Your child’s teacher needs to know that you’re a part of the teaching and learning team. While a stack of highlighters, tied with a fancy bow and a cute saying on cardstock look pinnable, the thing that really matters is helping your child become smarter, more confident and successful. No coffee mug or gift card tree can do that.
3. Get in the pictures with your kids on the first day of school. Yes, I know you are going to lose the 20 pounds (someday), that your hair looked better (yesterday), that the outfit you planned to wear isn’t clean (ever). But, you know what? In 20 years your kids want to see pictures of you, momma. They want to see you hugging them on the first day, giving them a high five and wiping away your tears. YOU matter to your kid. So, get your hiney in the photo. Oh, and don’t forget the camera. Or the charger. (Not that I’ve ever done that, ahem.)
(This is our infamous second day of school photo in 2006 since the first day of school EVER for our family, we were 20 minutes late. Mom of the year!)
4. Avoid contracting VD. You know, Volunteer Disease. As I was signing my fifth sign-up sheet at my son’s very first back-to-school night, a very wise mom patted my shoulder and uttered the very best school advice I’ve ever received. “If you’re volunteering so much that you have to get a sitter to watch after your other children, perhaps it’s time to step back.” I promptly erased my name from all those lists. You see, I had forgotten that for everything in life, there is a season. There’s the “many little people at home” season, the “big people can all wipe their own hineys” season and every season in between. Be passionate about your volunteerism, but know your limitations. Respect them or they will rule you.
5. Leave the regrets behind. I think all of us worries that perhaps we didn’t fully embrace the carefree nature of summer, lived “in the moment” enough, read to our children the right minutes, taught them all the life lessons they’ll need or showed them the basic necessities. The reality is, we have to trust that what we’re doing is enough. Some days you’re hot, you’re on it and you earn major cool mom points. Other days? Um, perhaps not. And that’s okay. Own your life and the role you have in your child’s development and love every moment. Even the hard ones. Because when your child walks across that graduation stage, the only thing you’ll want your heart to remember is the love and not its shortcomings.
Let’s make it a great 2014-2015!