Twas the night before the first day of school and my children were all stirring. Max smiled up at me all ready for bed and asked me to wake him up early enough to shower. Before you get all judgey that he needs his own alarm clock, I have asked my children not to use an alarm clock. I don’t want it waking my six year old up. I don’t wake Lillie until 8:00 for school!
My big 7th grader wanted to start showering before school. I guess the shower that he takes after soccer every day isn’t enough for him. This is the first year that Max told me it was time for school to start. He had enough of the summer and was ready for school to begin. He is usually so upset that summer is ending. This is a lot of firsts for Max. He grew a ton over the summer and his voice changed too. He was talking about showering and for the school year to begin. Who is this kid? I was having a really good feeling about this year for my son. My son who was now taller than me. How did this happen?
We got to go to school a week before it was starting to set up his locker and meet all his teachers. We liked every single teacher. He even told me one of them reminded him of his all time favorite teacher. Things were looking good for Max. I was also making him try out for his school’s modified soccer team. Max just wants to play for his GPS soccer travel team, but I want him to have a connection to school so I am making him try this. His principal talked to the parents at Ella’s orientation and told us that all the children should have at least one thing that they pick to do at school. Middle school gives you so many new opportunities including sports, a club, or student council. He couldn’t be more right. Max never seems to want to do anything extra at school. He doesn’t want to go in early and he doesn’t want to stay late. He’s not amused to find out that modified soccer is every day after school. He wants to know how I think he is going to do modified and GPS but like everything else I tell Max we will figure this out together.
Max and Ella’s school supplies are already off the dining room table and into their lockers. That is always a great feeling to get all of the school supplies out of the house. They tend to take up my whole dining room. Lillie’s were still all over the place. After folding and putting away all the laundry and grocery shopping, I realized I still had school supplies to deal with for tomorrow. Why is it that when we think we are done there is always something else to do? I have come to terms with the fact that lists won’t go away. When you cross something off you end up adding something else to your list!
We packed up all her school supplies together and Lillie started to draw on her new art smock. She is definitely the most helpful of my three children. I need to tell Lillie more how much I appreciate her helpfulness. I have learned a lot about Lillie this summer. Just like every child, my praise has such a positive impact on her behavior. When I am angry and stern with Lillie, she gets really nasty with me. I know that’s not ok. I also know that when I am patient and kind and give her positive feedback that she eats it up and wants to do more of that good behavior. The social butterfly that she is, we talked a lot about my expectations of her at school. I told her I couldn’t wait for wonderful reports from her second grade teacher.
Then there was Ella! My little peanut was heading off to middle school. She hit the jackpot with awesome teachers. When we went to her orientation and open house before school started, she struggled with her locker, she got lost, and she realized she has none of her friends in her classes. She amazes me with how she handles things. She is handling all of this so much better than I would have at her age. She was going between nervous and excited but was feeling very ready to start middle school. We call that emotion nervicited. I knew my social girl was going to make some new friends.
Let’s fast forward to the Saturday after the first week of school. I had been in an overwhelmed fog all week. I am sure most parents feel the exact same way. Getting back into the school schedule is not easy the first week. I couldn’t believe that Ella seemed to be enjoying middle school. Max seemed to be liking school and Lillie keeps telling me how funny her teacher is. The first day of school he pretended to throw Lillie in the garbage can. Max and Ella have been telling her about this for years so she couldn’t wait to come home and tell them. Lillie is a super hard worker and I know she is going to be able to do this. I don’t think Lillie realizes what a hard worker she is and again I need to tell her. Max gets a lot of praise for being so naturally smart. Ella gets a lot of praise for being so sweet and easy going. It has to be hard being Lillie and trying to live up to these two wonderful older siblings. Lillie, when you read this, you are wonderful too.
My head is completely spinning as I try to process my new schedule. School, soccer, theater, dance, Hebrew school and girl scouts were dancing in my head. I woke up crying every day as the grief of the summer ending poured out of me. I was waking up super early every day to get a jump start on the crazy new lists that had begun. I was missing the slower pace of the summer and dreading the crazy Fall schedule. This was not my jam. Every parent was feeling slammed into September.
Seth came down the stairs Saturday to find me alone on the couch crying. What he didn’t realize is that while he slept and did his normal routine all week, I woke up super early every morning and cried alone. He just didn’t know that until today. He seemed surprised to find me like this. Where had he been? Did he not take my summer grief seriously? When June comes rolling around, I am filled with glee as I anticipate school ending and the warm weather approaching. My parents open their pool and the sun shines all summer. I get to wear sundresses and flip flops and get pedicures. You see I have quite the love affair with summer. I tend to be tan and have a happy glow. I am sure my husband sees the difference in me.
Then September rolls around and my grief begins every year. You would think at age 43 I would have figured it out, but I still struggle with this. It’s the second week of school, and while I still feel like I am running in a rat race, I am starting to adjust to the new Fall normal. I made my happy son chili which he loves, and I just made my kids some yummy blueberry muffins. Baking, soups, and lots of pumpkin were in my Fall future.
Seth looked at me on this Saturday crying with love and concern. He hated to see me like this. I had been so sad all week. He told me I needed to become a teacher. I looked at him like he had ten heads. “You need to become a teacher so that September is not about you. You will have kids to worry about and you won’t be self-focused.” After being with me for fifteen years it truly struck me that he really listens to me. We have talked about how depression is self-focus. When we worry about others it takes us out of being self-absorbed. The funny thing is he wasn’t way off. My dream for many years was to be a kindergarten teacher. My mom really wanted me to find a job that would allow me to work part time when I had children. It really was good advice. My mom and my college counselor geared me towards social work. Deep in my heart I know I would have loved to be a kindergarten teacher. My husband had a point.
I was being super self-absorbed. He really is a great husband and a great therapist. He listened and gave me the advice I needed. It was time to stop wallowing. My advice to myself and to all of you is that when you feel sad and anxious, take the attention off yourself. What else can you focus on? What is good about the Fall? What do my children and husband need? What does the PTA and Girl Scouts need from me? There were so many things to focus on in my life that didn’t have to do with me. What could I write for all of you to help you? When I write these blogs, it is my greatest therapy. Getting everything out and figuring things out along the way as I write is my greatest coping strategy. I am beyond happy with what this has evolved into. It is helping me, and I hope it is helping others. It has also spiraled into a way for me to contribute financially to my family. I couldn’t be more grateful. This is something wonderful for me to focus on.
Something snapped in me Monday. Maybe it was the nice weather. Maybe it was my open sun-roof and driving around being able to get things done by myself. Maybe it was my three-mile walk with my amazing friend. Things were starting to look up. My schedule was still making me crazy, but my spirits were lifting. I was smiling and I was hopeful for my children. Great teachers and new friends were in the horizon. Ella was already making new friends. I had a good feeling about this year. I still woke up this Wednesday crying and overwhelmed, but I was snapping out of it faster. I was slammed into September, but I was determined to come out of September smiling.
My lessons learned:
I get more with honey with Lillie. Getting mad at her makes her behavior worse. Give her praise and attention for her good behavior and I will get more of it.
Keep training my brain to focus on the positives of Fall. It is pumpkin time and I love pumpkin everything. I am heading home to make pumpkin muffins for my family.
Enjoy every moment as much as I can with my children. The days seem long sometimes, but the years go by too quickly.
Take the focus off myself. The Fall schedule may seem overwhelming to all of us, but my kids are thriving, and this is good for them.
I hope you are finding the Silver Lining in your days.
Laughing, Learning, Loving,