Now that the school year is well underway, I find myself in a familiar situation. We’re less than two months in to a new school year and I’m already behind. I mean, the signs were all there. Despite swearing to myself in July that I would get the back to school shopping done early, despite promising myself two weeks before the first day that I would get into a better morning routine, and despite declaring loudly for all to hear that I was going to actually write things down in my planner instead of on the backs of envelopes and random post-it notes, there I was at Target buying index cards and #2 pencils the night before the first day. Since then, I have slept through the alarm three times, missed at least one back-to-school night, been late to at least two volleyball games, and I just found an envelope reminding me about a parents’ meeting. I’m still not sure which child, activity, or school it’s for. So as always, I find it’s time to re-examine my school year resolutions.
Much like the days leading up to the start of a new year, I always try to have a list of school year resolutions to get the year started right. However, just as I do by the end of each January, I quickly realize that my resolutions aren’t always very realistic. It’s not that I can’t or shouldn’t be achieving the goals I set. It’s just that, well…life tends to get in the way. So while my usual school year resolutions of being more organized and staying on top of everything are still the benchmark, this year, I’ve decided to give myself a little grace. This year, I’ve come up with a new set of school year resolutions, and this year, I think I might just be able to make them happen.
1. I will not worry if I miss an event.
In the past, I’ve driven myself into a blind panic if I was not at every single back-to-school event, open house, PTO meeting, class party, and after-school book fair/picnic/carnival. I would race frantically from classroom to classroom and school to school trying desperately to remember not only what the event was, but which child’s name I would need to use when introducing myself…as in, “Hi, I’m [child]’s mom.” However, I’ve come to realize that the book fair will survive without me. So this year, I’m going to continue to do my best, and you can be certain I’ll be there for the big stuff, but I’m not going to stake my worth on my ability to be everywhere at once.
2. I’ll bring store-bought cookies and not think twice about it.
In fact, if I’m really on the ball, I’ll try to get to the sign up list first and volunteer to bring the paper products – not only is there less guilt for not having something homemade but there’s a lot less stress involved in paper products. I will, of course, remain in awe of the parents that show up with designer cupcake holders filled with homemade cupcakes featuring handcrafted seasonal toppers, but I’ll go ahead and let you know now – I won’t be one of them.
3. I won’t say yes to everything
With the first two resolutions in mind, I have to remember that I’m only one person – with multiple people depending on me at home. My first priority is to the people I birthed and the home we live in. Yes, school events are important. Yes, extracurricular events are important. But so is my sanity. I won’t be doing anyone any favors if I’m overbooked, over committed, and overtired. So while I want to be involved, I’m going to say no sometimes, while offering my gratitude and respect to those parents who do step up to be the classroom mom or the theater stage set builder dad. I know that it’s your involvement that helps me be able to prioritize my own.
4. I’m going to keep mental health in mind
School attendance is important; we all know that. But kids these days have a lot on their plates. Not only do they attend school for nearly the same length of time most of us do at a full time job, they follow up a long day in the classroom with hours of practice or rehearsals. Then they come home to a rushed dinner and another couple of hours of homework awaiting them in the rooms they’re usually too tired or too busy to clean. This kind of schedule takes its toll. So while I’m never going to encourage slacking off, I will allow the occasional mental health day. Whether it’s getting a couple of extra hours of sleep during a particularly hard week, or taking a day off for no other reason than to get some rest, I’m going to remind myself that keeping my kids mentally healthy is every bit as important as keeping them physically healthy.
5. I’m going to remember to lead by example
Our kids look to us not just as a taxi for all of their events and a never-ending food source, but as a means of informing their own development. In other words, when they see us act a certain way, they assume that’s simply the way it’s done. If I want my kids to be more organized, I need to be more organized. If I want to see my kids feel less stress, I need to find a way to be less stressed. If I want my kids to be focused and happy and healthy…well, you get the point. Sometimes, we get so caught up in the demands of doing it all, being it all, and handling it all, we lose ourselves in the chaos. And while my kids have teachers at school to instruct them on various academic subjects, at home, I’m the one that teaches them how to do life. So the more I give myself grace, create a manageable world, and feel calm in mind and spirit, the better I can teach them how to handle the world of adulating that awaits them when their school years are over.
Like most resolutions, even the ones we attempt to make realistic and attainable, a few of my school year resolutions will slip through the cracks, I’m sure. I’ll still have days where I feel like I’ve got too much on my plate and I’ll feel a little twinge of guilt when my packet of store bought cookies sit next to the PTA president’s handcrafted petit fours featuring miniature fondant sculptures of the school mascot. But this year, through a series of small resolutions, I hope to keep the biggest resolution of all – and that is to remember that it’s not about being perfect, it’s about being happy as people, and as a family. And that’s one school year resolution I feel good about making.
For more essays on parenting, kids, and raising families, be sure to check out our entire Parent Life series – only on Richmond Mom!