By Melissa Fenton of 4 Boys Mother
Back to school time is upon us and, if you are like me, this time of year feels a little like January in that we are making another new start, making promises and resolutions to do this school year better than last. Every year I make the same ones: we will always be on time for school, I will not lose any permission slips, I will pack lunches the night before. But this fall I am adding a few new ones, and thanks to some age and experience, these I am confident I will be able to keep.
5 ways I will be a different school mom this year
1. I will say “No”
I have had a child in elementary, middle, or high school for 12 straight years now. I am no longer the new, eager kindergarten mom ready and willing to throw my hand in the air to volunteer and be the homeroom parent contact or the PTA president. That ship has long sailed, sister.
I have since found my people among the 40+year-old school parents. We are the ones all hiding over in the corner slouched over, head down, simply too burnt out to be super involved anymore. We are the been-there-done-that school moms, and we are looking for a few good 29-year-olds to take over. Please. Take over. Because we have long since abandoned harboring any guilt over simply saying the word “No.” And truthfully, we don’t care what you all think about us anymore. “Why doesn’t she help out? She is so uninvolved in her kid’s education!” Hey, cute little baby-wearing mom born in 1985, I just want to say two things: I am sorry you missed the ’80s and saying “No” is the new 30. When you hit 40 you too will get bloody brilliant at it. So you and your ‘Gossip Girls’ go ahead and throw the class parties this year. We’re all going to yoga.
2. I will let my kids manage the morning routine all by themselves.
I know, I know, but I gotta try it. I am keenly aware that I have some very big, unrealistic morning dreams here. I am also 00% certain that without my screaming morning voice and my school stuff packing, crap organizing, double checking, and pretty much total body maneuvering of all the small humans here, nobody in this house would move a muscle before 10 a.m.
But I am going to try, really TRY, to stop the morning madness that has turned me into a resentful raving lunatic. This is going to require me keeping my mouth closed (duct tape please) and trusting that my kids CAN and WILL step up to the plate. I will trust that my kids are truly capable and mature enough to wake up, feed themselves, and get their bodies and all of their stuff inside the school mode of transportation and ready to go. Every. Single. Day.
And all this is going to happen without my head turning around 360 degrees, without undue strain on my vocal cords, and without tears being shed from any and all of the inhabitants of this house. We can do this, kids. We totally can. At least until Christmas. Maybe Halloween?
3. I will let my high school kids plan for THEIR future, not the one I wanted them to have.
When my oldest started high school 2 years ago, I had all these plans in my head about what classes he should take, what ‘track’ he should be on, and what college he should go to. I never asked his opinion. I thought I knew better.
Turns out I have raised him well enough that he is perfectly capable of both discovering and acting on what is beginning to inspire him, not what I thought would inspire him. So he won’t be in AP Calculus or Engineering Honor Society by his senior year. Guess what? Lately, he thinks he wants to be a teacher. And his favorite subject? English. Turns out he is not a math prodigy and he is only vaguely interested in science, but he reads more fiction than your average adult, and that kid’s personal podcast library is both intellectually awesome and boyishly hilarious.
Look, I’m smart enough to know his career choices and subject interests will change ten times over in the next five years, but from now on those choices will be HIS, not MINE, because in two years, I will not be sitting there with his college advisor checking boxes on class selections. Time to start letting go now. Gasp.
4. I will not do science projects, history fair displays, dioramas, book reports, and/or projects that are assigned to my kids, not assigned to ME.
Who else out there can spot a totally parent-made science fair entry from a mile away? Hey mini Bill Nye, who is trying to pass off his precisely scaled and intricately engineered replica of a pool’s solar heating pump as his own work, doesn’t your dad own a solar heating company?
Luckily, I am already pretty good at the not helping thing, because four kids does this to you naturally. I have zero time or energy left for kids to pull the, “Moooooooom…..my project is due tomorrow!” Because this mama doesn’t say “How high?” when her kids say “Jump.” She says, “Well it appears, dear one, that you are totally screwed. Good night.”
Even when the guilt kicks in, and my crafty instincts really want me to pull an all-nighter and personally Pinterest the hell out of that poster board, I will stand tough. Better to snag a great big F in the fifth grade and learn your lesson than let the crap hit the fan as a high school junior, when your every move is being watched by a college admissions officer.
5. I will enjoy my youngest child’s elementary years
Recall #1. Yes, I am the ‘over it’ school mom, but I need to not let my youngest child know or experience that. In so, so many ways, kid #4 gets the shaft big time. As in his baby photo book does not exist, he is the king of hand-me-downs, and every developmental milestone is no longer ushered in with a parade, but rather a weak, “Oh good. I remember when your brother first did that.”
I don’t want his early school years to be a string of whiny and complaining “not agains” from his mom. I am in the homestretch, and as much as I really want to put the pedal to the metal and get him to the finish line, I need to slow down my race, both for him and myself. He is entitled and deserving of the same school enthusiasm from me that his oldest brother got. Weary that I may be, I need to be just as excited for 2nd grade ‘dress up like a saint day’ as I was the first three times. (Thank God I saved the costume. That thing is already boxed and ready to go. You’re gonna be St. Patrick whether you like it or not.)
So I am going to show up utterly giddy, video camera in hand, for the school Christmas play I have seen three times already, and the science museum field trip I know by heart, and I help him hand-make 30 Valentines for his classmates, just like I have been doing for the last decade, without bellyaching. I vow to make his firsts again be my firsts. Because who knows, maybe I did save the best school mom experiences for the last.
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ABOUT MELISSA: Melissa is mom to 4 sons, wannabe bakery and yarn shop owner, cookbook hoarding adjunct librarian, mother runner, and sometimes a humor writer. She blogs at 4 Boys Mother.
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