Of all the back-to-school posts that I’ve read (and pinned. And obsessed over), the one thing that no one ever told me is that it would bring on the advent of weekends again.
For the last three years, I have been engrossed in the life of a stay at home mom. Yes, weekends were different in that my husband was at home, and I had a full-time parenting partner, someone to laugh with, someone to talk to. But so much of the weekend was just the same as the rest of the week for me. I was cleaning house, and watching kids, and hitting up the park, and cooking dinner. These are all things that I signed up for, and not even things that I particularly mind. It was just that they were everyday things, Monday through Sunday, and every day was much like the one before it. Sometimes that was a good thing, but sometimes? It wasn’t.
And then came school, and suddenly Fridays had so much more meaning. We’d survived a week full of rushed breakfasts school drop offs and homework and packing backpacks! Now I’d get two whole days to spend with my girl! Parks were a novel thing again, lazy mornings watching TV on the couch were a treasure instead of something to feel guilty about, and our pace was just DIFFERENT. She was tired from a full week of school, and ready for some downtime. Where the weekends used to be full of sameness punctuated by birthday parties, suddenly we were all looking forward to a little rest, a little less structure, and a little more free time to spend together. I finally remember why Friday used to be a thing, why everyone talked about weekend plans, and how the promise of two perfect days is enough to get anyone through a stressful, boring, or even just a normal-old-week.
So here we are, and I’m fully ready to open up my arms and embrace the weekend again. Take time to rest, to drink an extra cup of coffee, to snuggle up and watch some cartoons, and to not worry about rushing out of the door to get to school on time. I’ll stay up late with my husband, and the kids might actually sleep in, and we’ll play and laze about and spend Sunday evenings getting ready for the week ahead. It may not be everyone’s ideal weekend- heck, it may not even be mine- but whatever it may look like, I’m just glad to have it back.
Last year was my son’s first school picture day. And I. Was. Ready. I may have a lot of Mom fails – I don’t have the perfect set of first day of school traditions. I have forgotten for a solid year to prep my son’s emergency kit. Today I didn’t realize until it was too late that I had basically nothing for my kids’ lunches. But picture day? That’s one of those days that I ROCK. Shopping, practicing, pep talking to the kids – we slay picture day. But now, a year later, I realize that I had put a tad bit too much pressure onto picture day.
My guess is, you have to. We all do. But we NEED TO STOP. So here are three things to just LET GO of on picture day.
1. The perfect outfit.
If my Mom had it her way, I would have worn a corduroy jumper every year on picture day until I graduated college. I hated it. Because I was not a corduroy jumper girl. I’m sure that on more than one occasion I screamed at her, “I’ll NEVER make my kids wear a stupid corduroy jumper if they don’t want to!” Fast forward to Cole’s first picture day. And no, I did not make my son wear a jumper.
But damned if I did not force him into FREAKING. CORDUROY. PANTS. Like, is there some weird genetic inclination in my family?? I don’t know. All I know is that my son – who had NEVER worn corduroy before – was wearing it on picture day. And he hated it.
Looking back? I should probably have let him pick what he wanted to wear. Because it’s HIS picture day too. A snap in time of who HE is. Not who Mommy was making him be. Even if just for a day. 2. Hair.
Okay, I’m not saying have your kid roll out of bed and head off to picture day. Run a brush through that bad boy. Maybe even bust out some product. Have a girl? Have an entire treasure chest full of clips and headbands that she refuses to wear? Bad news – she ain’t gonna suddenly love headbands and hair clips just because it really means a lot to you today. Maybe you can bribe her. Maybe he’ll agree. But keep your expectations LOW.
I killed myself and got into the biggest fight my son and I have ever had over his hair that morning. In the end, it was perfect. He was so. Freaking. Handsome.
And then I got the proofs of the picture. And wondered what the hell happened. Because his head looked like it had been through a blender. So unless your kid is going to sit in a chair with their hands strapped down until the picture is taken? It’s probably not worth the grief.
Fun fact: There is NOTHING your kid will love more than you yelling at them to “smile!,” and then telling them they’re doing it wrong.
Follow up: Your kid’s smile will actually NOT get more natural if you tell them repeatedly, “That isn’t your real smile! It doesn’t look natural!”
Photographers generally know what they’re doing. They can make your kid laugh. And if they can’t, none of your coaching is going to change that. Trust me. I coached Cole all day and he had his smile down. It was amazing. And let me tell you – I ended up with not a single one of those well-rehearsed smiles.
Truth be told? Some of my favorite pictures – of my kids and my friends – are the one’s where they’re not smiling! Especially if they’re not smiley kids! Evie was a GRUMPY CAT when she was a baby. She was born with a pouty bottom lip. So when we went and got professional pictures taken and I chose to keep one with her resting B face, the photographer couldn’t understand it. But that’s what she looks like! That’s the face I’m going to want to remember forever, way more than a fake plastered smile.
I know what you’re thinking, uh, Christine – outfit, hair and smile are basically ALL the elements of picture day. What am I supposed to stress out about then?
Just let it be.
Easy for me to say? Maybe. Or maybe I say it because I tried. I tried so hard. I had the perfect outfit. We got his hair to be on point. And he left the house with a picture perfect smile that would make you swoon. And then, even then, we got…..the picture.
And now, I present to you, the best, most epic, you WILL NOT BE DISAPPOINTED EVEN WITH ALL THE HYPE school picture, you may have ever seen. Just let it all soak in. You’re welcome. And happy picture day.
For many of us, school is just getting started. End of year teacher gifts are FAR off of our radar. We are miles away from Teacher Appreciation Week (thank goodness. It has turned into such a circus, but that’s a post for another day.) The last days of school? Please. Let’s just get through Back to School Night first, am I right?
Except then I had the CUTEST idea. On the first day of school, when I asked Lila how her day was, she said “I need three popsicles. And a nap.” The second day, she said, “When Mrs. D gets mad, she sounds like a buffalo. It’s AWESOME!” And it made me think about all the funny/silly/sweet things my students must have told their parents about me and my classroom, and I desperately wished I could have heard what those things were (I mean, the nice things, of course. I’m not a glutton for punishment. I don’t want to hear about how the kid said I’m a monster, obviously).
So I decided that I would keep track of the little things Lila reported about at school on a cute little paper somewhere, and then at the end of the school year, we could gift Mrs. D with a collection of the sweet, crazy, funny little moments that stood out most for Lila. Along with a fat gift card to Target. Because TARGET.
And I can’t just keep something like an adorable printable to myself, so we’ll go ahead and share it with our friends (aka YOU!). Download the free printable HERE and put it in a safe place where you can add to it throughout the year, and we’ll check back in with you in the Spring to see how it’s going. Follow the blog to make sure you don’t miss out on the update!
Want to make your printable even cuter? Click the link below to purchase a custom copy that includes the student and teacher names of your choice.
Do you have a kiddo in school? We’d love to hear the funniest thing your child has said about their classroom or teacher in the comments below.
My husband is tall. Like, really tall. Like, “hey, did you play college basketball?” levels tall.
And he’s smart. Like went to a super academically demanding college, and killed it. Like, when I told my parents he existed I said, “he’s a rocket scientist” – and I wasn’t lying.
These traits are both VERY celebrated in his family. On a trip back East during our engagement, there was a robust conversation about my ability to provide sufficiently tall grandchildren, what with my diminutive stature. I somewhat nervously defended myself, “I mean, I’m 5″8’….. that’s not exactly short?” My mother-in-law to be quickly rebuffed me, questioning my asserted height, as though perhaps I would lie about it to get in her good graces? There was only to be one solution. I was to be measured. Yes, she ACTUALLY measured me.
Thankfully, there was no such test to measure if I would adequately assist in our children’s mental agility. I would like to think I would pass that as well, but I’m honest enough to admit I’d fail the math portion.
That being said, there are tall expectations set on my husband’s family, both literal and figurative. So it was with great joy when we dropped the bomb on them: we were aiming for average.
Personally, I’m tired – nay, downright exhausted – with the quest for excellence. Every child cannot be in the 99th percentile at their 6 month well baby check. It’s not possible. That’s just not how percentages work. Every child cannot be leaps and bounds above their peers academically. If they are? Great, if they’re not, that’s fine too. That HAS TO BE FINE TOO.
So when asked if our son was just “off the charts” in regards to his height, we would often reply, “nope, he’s right on track” sometimes even fudging the numbers to make him MORE average. The looks of horror on my in-laws faces were priceless. (However, they were quickly replaced with theories as to why he was so stunted, but that dear readers is a story for another time – spoiler alert: it’s my fault). A family of engineers, they would see him holding an object and making it work and excitedly exclaim, “oh, I see we’ve got another engineer on our hands!” They decided quickly and concisely that he would, obviously, attend his father’s alma mater and we’re debating what kind of an engineer he would be. My husband, again enjoying getting a rise out of his family, would say, “I don’t know, I think he’s more inclined to be an entertainer. Maybe in Vegas!” You’d think he said, “I don’t know, I think he’s more inclined to be a serial killer. Maybe one of those cannibal ones.”
And I get it, it’s back to school and there’s AP classes or “gifted classes” and Varsity Football or a starting spot on pop warner and someone’s getting first chair in the orchestra or the solo at the fall concert or will be the kid with the longest line in the Kindergarten production of Peter Rabbit and so many areas for our kids to have the opportunity to shine and excel. And we absolutely want to give our kids all of those opportunities and encourage them to be the very best version of themselves that they can be.
But we can’t all be 6′ 7″ (yes, that’s how tall my husband is) and we can’t all be engineers. And why should we all want to? Our kids won’t all play major league baseball or be famous actors or cure cancer. Most of them? Will just be average. Wonderfully, beautifully, average. That’s truly all I can aim for.
Every Monday, Wednesday and Friday, for nearly a year, Cole and Evie have had an emotional goodbye through a chain link fence. It’s like a scene out of some prison movie. They tell each other how much they love each other and are going to miss each other and then I tear Evie away from the gate telling her we’ll see Cole in four hours. Often, I have to carry her writhing body in one arm, while balancing a baby in the other, and haul these girls out to the car. After dealing with this week after week, month after month, Chad and I had to have a serious conversation: Is it time to start Evie in preschool?
We had made bold proclamations and decisions on our plan for Evie’s schooling. I’m a stay at home Mom and she’s just fine here with me. She can wait until she’s 3 like Cole did. We can see if they have a spot open in January and if they don’t she can start the next fall. Two years of preschool will be plenty for her.
But it seemed she was disagreeing with us.
So I asked the Director at Cole’s eternally waitlisted preschool if they happened to have a spot. No rush, anytime really, we’re fine keeping her home as long as we need – oh, what’s that? You already had her on a list because I mentioned it to you once in passing? She can start next month? Yeah, okay, that works too…Suddenly we were launched into preschool prep mode! I bought Evie a lunch bag, did some “Back to School” shopping, grabbed her a water bottle and talked about the impending start of her career as a student. She proudly told everyone, “I go to school with Cole soon!” She was excited. Like really, REALLY, excited. Drop-offs were suddenly much easier, because as they hugged and kissed each other each morning, they’d exchange excited words about how soon Evie would be joining her big brother.
She was excited. I was all the feelings. Normally made of stone, the idea of having two kids in school proved too much for my solid core to handle. I just wasn’t sure I liked this. At all.
Then it was the big day. We got dressed in one of our new outfits. I busted out the chalkboard easel for important stats and pictures and a giant display of “Evie’s first day of preschool!” I took a thousand pictures of the three kids in every possible arrangement – sitting, standing, two sitting – Evie standing prominently, all three sitting together – Cole in the middle, Evie in the middle, Izzie in the middle – you name it, I probably have a picture of it. Evie looked happy and proud – probably a combination of first day excitement and the promise of a lollipop in exchange for endless smiles.
We loaded into the car, drove down to school, hopped out of the car and proudly marched down the hall. Which is about when all hell broke loose. To our complete and utter surprise, our cool, confident, happy-go-lucky, independent daughter freaked the F out. We thought we’d done everything “right” to prepare her! She knows this school, knows the teachers, knows lots of Cole’s friends! Plus the school happens to be on our church’s campus (though not affiliated) so she literally has been in the classrooms since the week she was born! We talked, oh how we talked, about what the first day would entail. And she was sooooo on board. Lest she forgets, this was HER IDEA!
But, as is a woman’s prerogative, she reserves the right to change her mind. And oh did she change it. My husband and I looked back and forth for a minute, telepathically running through our options.
Me: Evie, it’ll be fine. Cole’s right here with you. *Jump in here dude! Tell her it’s fine!!*
Chad: That’s right, Cole’s going to go do circle time, you can sit with him. *She’s screaming! Why is she screaming??*
Me: Honey, honey, honey, calm down, baby. *I don’t KNOW!! We gotta get out of here!*
Chad: *We can’t just LEAVE her like this!*
Me: *Like hell we can’t! She’ll be FINE! Band-Aid! RIP IT!*
Chad: Okay Evie, Mommy and Daddy have to go, you’ll be okay. *You’re a heartless monster*
Me: I’ll be back sooooo soon, you’ll have lots of fun, okay? We love you! *Oh, grow a pair*
Us: Bye sweetie!! We love you!!
I may have been the one to force us to leave, but I thought of my sweet little baby all day, hoping she’d calmed down and found some fun. I picked her up a few short hours later. Before she saw me, I saw her eating and laughing and I knew we had made the right call. She looked up, saw me, ran and jumped in my arms.
When we settled in the car I asked, “What did you do today Evie?” She said, with a big smile on her face, “I did art and crying.” I laughed at her and hugged the heck out of that kid. I said, “Maybe next time we’ll try for just art, huh?” She replied, “Yeah, I liked the art.”
So yes, in the grand tradition of first days of school, there were tears. Lots of tears. Mostly from Evie. But, as terrible as it is to say, the tears were a nice reminder that even though she’s a sassy, independent, stubborn, “I can do it myself” kind of 2 year old, she’s still my two year old baby, that just needs her Mama once in a while.
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The school year is rapidly approaching, and for the very first time, I am preparing my own little girl for going “Back to School.” As a former teacher, there are soooo many things I want to teach her before school starts- and believe it or not, letters and numbers are the least of my concerns! Here’s ten things that you can teach your kids that your Kindergarten/TK/Pre-K teacher will LOVE you for.
1. How to Write Their Name
This is a really, really hard thing to teach whole group. Spend a little time having them trace their name before having them move on to writing it solo. And feel free to leave the paper and pencil approach until later- check out Practical Name Writing in 12 Fun Ways by Hands On As We Grow.
2. Cutting on a Line/Curve
Similar to the skill above, scissor skills are really tricky to teach when you’re no longer one-on-one. Show your kiddo how to hold the scissors, to use them safely, and to move the paper (not the scissors) as they cut. You can draw lines on paper for them to practice with, or buy this colorful activity book that gets progressively harder with each page.
3. Coloring Skills
Now listen, we LOVE a kid who colors outside of the lines. BUT, there are times when coloring inside is important, too. Help your child to learn the difference between coloring for fun and coloring on schoolwork. Help them to decide when to use “realistic colors” versus when they can go rogue. Any coloring book can be used for this, but this fun book really narrows in on these skills.
4. Glue Skills
Let’s save the poor teacher some mess, yeah? Can you imagine cleaning up after thirty kids with glue bottles? Let’s don’t do that to him or her. Work on squeezing the glue bottle just a little (we use the phrase “Dot, dot. Not a lot!”). This exclusive, Salty Mama printable can help your kiddo to practice this skill, along with a few others on the list. Also work on using gluesticks. Need more help with gluesticks? This cute little craft kit will give your child plenty of practice- and they won’t even know they’re working on school readiness skills!
5. Pencil Grip
I don’t want your child’s teacher to have to run around to each student and show them how to hold a pencil. Think of all the time wasted! Have your child practice using a functional grip (on or two fingers on top of the pencil, with the thumb underneath). Is your child struggling? Use shorter pencils or crayons, which eliminates some of the other, less useful grips. Need more tips on how to help with this? Head on over to Living for the Sunshine to read more about ways to practice.
6. Folding a Paper in Half
Okay, this is a weird one, but there are a LOT of school crafts that involve folding a paper in half. Practice folding length-wise and width-wise (like a “hot dog” or a “hamburger,” if you remember from your school days). You can have them practice their scissor skills on their folded paper by tracing a half-heart and letting them cut it out.
7. Workbook Skills
I am no fan of workbooks personally, but there are going to be plenty of them at school. Grab one from the dollar store or the Target Dollar spot, or order a fun one here. Kids can practice valuable school-skills like circling an object, drawing lines from one item to another, and finding the line where they should write their name (or writing on the top right-hand corner if there isn’t one).
8. Putting Things in and Out of Their Backpack
Can you imagine the first-day-chaos if none of the kids could do this? Practice opening and closing backpacks with your kids, and make sure they are able to open any containers/packages that you plan to send to lunch with them. There’s not a ton of time to eat, and you probably don’t want your kid waiting the whole lunch period for it to be their turn for the lunch aide to open their Pirate’s Booty or juice box.
9. Taking Off/Putting On Their Own Sweater (Shoes, Etc.)
Big kid school is not like little-kid-preschool or daycare- there just aren’t enough grown-up hands to assist with these tasks! Help your child to become independent with their own zips/ties/snaps. And avoid sending them to school in shoes with ties until they can retie them on their own!
10. Wiping Their Own Booty (TK and Up, at the Least)
I mean, I’m just saying. I can almost guarantee that wiping booties was not a part of your child’s teacher’s credential program, and someone’s gotta get it done. It’s gonna have to be your kid, so get to work on this one- stat.
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