By Kay Wyma
Supply lists and promises of “Back-to-School Savings” have been bombarding our mail and in-boxes. And, if you haven’t already visited an office supply store, you will. (Multiple times in our house! Something to do with lists … or lack thereof.) I’ve decided that while gathering all the kids’ school needs, there are a few things I need to add my own back-to-school list. Herewith my top seven.
1. A Ruler. While picking up one for the kids, I might as well grab one for me as a reminder to measure and adjust my attitude. Despite quick and frantic prayers upon seeing any of our four (did I say four?!!) school’s number on caller i.d., over the years I may or may not be excited. For so many reasons. We were hoping to get Mrs. Smiley instead of Mr. Stern. Or, they didn’t get in the class with their friends. This teacher is too tough. That one’s too easy. We preferred French, not Spanish. Whatever it might be. Enter the ruler. For myself and for the sake of my children and their ever-watchful eyes, I need to adopt a good attitude. Life throws curveballs. We might think we want one thing only to realize down the road that the other was an enormous blessing. If appeals need to be made, go for it. Then rest and embrace the year at hand.
2. A Teflon Apron. Okay, so maybe they don’t exist, but we can pretend. Like a superpower or a shield, it repels every single whine and complaint – especially ones of the “not fair” and the “I’m never going to finish this” as it relates to summer-reading-procrastination variety.
3. A Padlock. For me, I need five locks. One to hang on each of my kids’ backpacks, like a keychain. In the same way the ruler helps adjust my attitude, the padlock acts as a visual reminder for me to keep my hands out of their work. It’s always a good idea to inform each kid’s teacher, who I adore despite any initial doubt (thanks to that ruler), that the work appearing from this backpack is solely kid, not parent, produced. The padlock, though never a prohibitor to provide assistance when needed, encourages me to rest on the sidelines … and to breathe. Because when we actually send them out of the house without knowing that homework is correct or even done (just sayin’), we might need a reminder to breathe.
4. A Map. Do stores still sell maps? Maps are great. They get you where you’re going. They promote independence. We don’t have to rely on someone else to get us where we need to go when we have a map. So whether I can buy one or not, whenever I look at one, I hope I’m reminded to provide map opportunities for my kids around every corner. Involve them – even in getting to school. Maybe begin by letting them coordinate transportation to and from school. Let them ride bikes or walk with friends. Let them help organize carpool? They can. They need to. Kids can do so much more than they or we think. Even something as simple as getting to school builds confidence and infuses independence.
5. A Pair of Glasses. While waiting in the ginormous check-out line, flanked with dollar-items and bins of candy, I might want to pick up a pair of glasses for myself. Something snappy and cute. Not to correct my vision, but to add focus. In the midst of school stress and relentless parental competition, I need glasses to remind me to look outside of myself. Though often, sometimes inevitably, overwhelmed by pressure (to look or act a certain way – us and our kids), I can put on those glasses and realize that the person next to me feels the same way. Rather than crater, a little focus might help me offer encouragement. Looking to encourage the person next to me never fails to make everyone feel better.
6. A Stopwatch. I need a stopwatch or timer to remind me to slow down. Because time flies – fast. I want to remember to savor the moments. Even the mundane ones. It all goes entirely too fast.
7. A Swimsuit. Grab that swimsuit today before everything starts to swirl out of control… and quite possibly tomorrow and even throughout the year. Might it remind me to get over any mom-itude, you know where we pretend to be busy lest we have to put on a bathing suit and get our hair wet – and to dive in the pool and swim with my kids. There’s only a few more days, if any, to be carefree. Though extravagant trips, cross-country car rides, museums, camp, and sparse lemonade stands create summer memories, some of the most memorable moments of summer and life are born in a surprise splash by mom. When swimming season is over, pull out Candy Land. Believe it or not, even dubious/groaning teenagers enjoy the mindless fun of racing to the Candy Castle – especially if a parent is involved. Why Mom drawing the cupcake card or landing on a licorice space is so funny – I’ll never know. But let’s just say, time on the colored squares can silence even the most persistent phones.
So, when shopping for Back-to-School, here’s hoping I don’t forget to include necessities in my own basket. Lot’s of reminders to let go, to encourage independence, to slow down and to relish the simple pleasures of parenting.
Kay Wyma is the author of Cleaning House: A Mom’s Twelve-Month Experiment to Rid Her Home of Youth Entitlement. She shares the hilarity and the tears that come with raising adolescents & teens on her blog The Moat … because who wants to walk that road alone.