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.
No matter where you are in the school year, I’m sure the pressure is on. It’s so easy to get caught up in the hustle and bustle of the day to day that you forget to prep for the big events ahead. End of year teacher gifts are FAR off of our radar. We are miles away from Teacher Appreciation Week (which, WHOA. Could we possibly make that a bigger deal? I don’t think so.) The last days of school? Please. Let’s just get through Back to School Night first, am I right?
Except on the first day of school last year, when I asked Lila how her first day of school 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!” I made a mental note to tell her teacher about it, but frankly, there just isn’t that much time to touch base every day. And let’s be honest. My memory ain’t so good these days.
I spent many years as a teacher, and I’m sure my students must have come home with some whoppers about me. Hearing Lila’s version of events made me think about all the funny/silly/sweet things my students must have told their parents about me and my classroom. 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.) Continue reading “A Teacher Gift You Should Start on NOW”→
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.
A new school year brings with it many things- new backpacks. New uniforms. New teachers. And for some of us it brings new experiences. When you first set out to prepare your kids for their FIRST first day of school, a million questions pop into your mind. Is my child ready for preschool? Does my child have the kindergarten readiness skills they need? Will they be okay without me?
As a former teacher, I was surprised to find that I had exactly the same concerns when my daughter went to school for the first time. I felt like there were soooo many things I wanted to teach her before school started- and believe it or not, letters and numbers were the least of my concerns!
When it comes to school readiness, there are more important things to focus on (things like independence, how to get along with others, and fine motor skills) that will free up the teacher’s time to teach academics. Here’s ten things that you can teach your kids before school starts that your child’s Kindergarten/TK/Pre-K teacher will LOVE you for.