back to school

Back to School Reboot


Well hey it’s back to school and I don’t know about you, but our first week lasted approximately 87 days. Or so it seems.

Every year the optimist in me approaches the new school year with enthusiasm, and by the first Friday I want to stab my eyes out with the kids’ freshly sharpened pencils. Transitions are fun like that.

That said, in my years of parenting school-age kids I have learned a few things about coping with the first weeks of school.

1. Don’t volunteer for anything at Parent Night. After hearing the presentations by the principal and teachers, you will be drunk with enthusiasm. Don’t volunteer while under the influence! Give yourself a grace period. Trust me, the teachers and PTA will still want your help after the first week.

2. Make more routines and fewer rules. Instead of hard-and-fast rules, such as no screen time during the school week, we try to focus on fluid, helpful routines. Every day when you get home, hang up your backpack, empty your lunchbox and wash your hands...pretty much exactly what you do when you walk in your classroom. Screens are a maybe...only after homework and only on non-activity days. Bedtime routines are fixed but times shift depending on the after school activities, with ultimate veto power held by parents.

3. Decline all but critical invitations. My kids have had so much unstructured time during the summer that school schedules completely drain them. We don’t add anything extra into the family mix at first. Sorry, early September birthdays...but we are probably going to pass. (Especially if it’s a party that ends in Cheeze. Who am I kidding? This is great year-round advice.)

4. Make lunches before dinner. I can’t actually vouch for this tip, but it’s one of our goals this year. The post-dinner cleaning and lunch-making is such a buzzkill in our house that it can turn a perfectly nice evening into a major grouchfest. The chore might still be a drag, but at least it won’t be a drag at the very end of the night.

5. Schedule the date nights immediately. Five days into our school year and suddenly 90 percent of our spousal conversations are centered around calendars and carpools. If I’m not careful, Thanksgiving will be here before we remember to enjoy each other.

6. Plan a weekday pizza night. This is a year-round thing for us. Once a week we order pizza and (this part is critical) always make sure there is enough for the next day’s school lunches. A win-win!

What helps you get through the back-to-school transition?



On the road

The twisting, two-lane road running from summertime to schooltime is littered with countless potholes and ridiculous roadside attractions.

The Valley of Cute New Alarm Clocks, which seems novel and thrilling at first, loses its luster once everyone realizes it is only open before dawn. Both the World's Largest Pile of Paper and the Museum of Uneaten Lunches will leave you reaching for your Dramamine.

If you've traveled this road before you know the alllure and pitfalls of the most popular tourist traps. The PTA Mountain Range, with its promises of glory and satisfaction, sees many a climber stumble from volunteer vertigo if they don't watch their step. The quaint Extracurricular Activity Stands with their hand-painted signs selling everything from soccer teams to scout troops...taxes might be included, but make no mistake there are hidden costs, usually in the form of snack mom or chaperone or person in charge of sewing on patches.

Be wary, travelers. This journey, it is full of sharp turns and very few straightaways.

Even getting close to home presents its own challenges. At many an intersection there is a grief-stricken child holding out his hand and begging for your attention. The clever ones make signs: "Will Work (kinda) for a Homework Pass." "Need Just One Ride to Practice." "Can you Spare a Video Game Privilege?" Give him a buck if you must, but then drive on, mama, drive on.

You have a destination, and I swear it's gotta be just around the corner.