What No One Tells You About The First Week Back to School.
If you're at all privy to social media during the start of a new school year then it's no secret that your feeds are full of "first day" pictures. From the second week of August (a nod to all of my Southern friends) to the first week of September, my feed was chock full of happy, smiley-faced kiddos with sheer joy radiating out of their ears, all holding the same or similar signs denoting what grade they would be entering and who wanted to be a fairy princess, fireman or dinosaur when they grow up.
It's all pretty stinking cute, if you ask me but what those same social media feeds don't show you is what happens to those smiley, joy-faced children in the days that follow. The first week of school is a huge transition, one that I was completely unprepared for and by the third or fourth day back to school, I was questioning exactly what happened to my angelic, mostly mild-mannered offspring.
I'll tell you what happened. School daysDaze happened.
Thankfully through hushed whispers in the school pick-up line, I'd heard about this phenomenon and considered myself forewarned. Elementary school is tiring business and on top of that, this would be the first year that we had two kids in school, which would quickly escalate to double the tired, exhausted, over-stimulated small-ish humans.
I first started noticing it in my four year who has the reserve of a British soldier. You know the kind, with the fancy furry hat and the stoic facade? That's him. He doesn't cry unless he's bleeding and, unlike my first and third children, he isn't one to throw himself to the ground in a fit of rage over anything be it big or small.
Suddenly, on or around the evening of the third day of school, he was beside himself over an imaginary boo-boo on his shin. When I offered him a band-aid, you would have thought I offered to amputate the extremity. With tears streaming down his face he sternly told me to "go away!" and "find a new boy!" Fifteen minutes later he was sound asleep on the floor of the playroom.
I knew right then and there that we would only survive this first week back to school on a wing and a prayer. Tempers are shorter than usual. Bright eyes are red-rimmed and puffy from exhaustion. Brothers are especially fight-y and prone to nit-picking and prodding at each other until they explode in fits of "he breathed on me!" and tears.
It's because of the big transitions that all of us are facing these first few weeks that I've purposely relaxed the reigns on our normal routine and allowed room for these bumps in the road that will no doubt eventually work themselves out. Because honestly, if I didn't? I'm not sure how we would survive otherwise.
I've accepted the accidental car naps that will undoubtedly make bedtime a headache because I know how badly they need to rest and re-energize. I've let typical mealtime shenanigans slide because we're all learning how to balance this new normal.
Despite finishing every bit of their over-packed lunches, the boys are returning home from school famished which often leads to an earlier-than-normal dinner time and snacks on the side. While I'd love to all sit down as a family for these meals, it's just not going to happen when they're begging for food at 5:30pm and I know my husband won't be home until 7.
On this final night of our first week back to school, I may even let them eat cupcakes before dinner as we celebrate SURVIVING our foray into elementary school, dual-schedules, drowning in paperwork and packed lunches.
One thing that has helped us remain sane during this week of huge transitions is a consistent bedtime. If there is any advice that I can offer parents in a similar situation, for those school age kids who may be struggling at the end of each day, throw them into the bath and get them to bed around the same time each night.
They may protest that they're not tired (they are!) and they may need a little extra coddling to settle in (a new water cup, an extra story, a back scratch or two!) so if you can, placate them. Give in to their new neediness (within reason!) and be sure to let them know that you understand how overwhelming and different this new schedule can be. By validating their feelings you're reassuring them that these new feelings (of anxiousness, tiredness, etc.) are expected and you'll work together to alleviate them and settle comfortably into a new routine.
Hell, reassure each other! As a brand new parent of a school-age child I've never felt so overwhelmed as I have these last few days of school. Between rigorous pick-up schedules and feeling like we live in the car most days, I've had to do a little soul-searching and grace-seeking myself. It's a daily struggle to remind myself to have a little bit of extra patience when it comes to mothering (and wife-ing!) and I know that both my husband and myself could use a little extra reassurance and a pat on the back for getting our family to where we are today.
After all, we're all in this together. Only 35 more weeks of school to go!