Thursday, September 6, 2012

BACK TO SCHOOL: Top 11 Reasons to be Thrilled vs. Not-So-Thrilled

It is officially BACK TO SCHOOL! Top 11 (this wordy girl cannot possibly keep it to just 10) reasons to be thrilled versus NOT-so-thrilled:

NOT-SO-THRILLED because...

1) It feels like we are again, 'Off-to-the-Races!' A return to running on the hamster wheel (if only the logistical 'running' here and there counted for exercise, I would be the fittest lady on the block!)

2) Getting 3 kids (2 of which are rowdy boys, i.e. 'climb-in-and-cuddle-with-mommy-turns-injury-yielding-wrestling-match....1 of which is a HIGHLY indecisive-yet-opinionated, tutu-obsessed, bed-headed 3-year old girl), dressed, teeth and hair brushed, fed, backpacked, and OUT the door ON TIME to 2 different schools, while keeping fighting/yelling to a minimum (let's face it, this is the REAL challenge!) ....This process should be an Olympic event...bonus points for beds made, coffee consumed, a glimpse of the Today Show (if for no other reason, to simply determine whether rain coats are needed), or clothes on right-side out (well mine, at least).

3) Sitting in the never-ending carpool lines is simply tedious, time-consuming, and least once you are in plain view of the teachers and therefore have to put away the smart phones...on which you can at least read articles, check emails, catch up with family/friends.

4) Particularly for moms of multiple little ones (in multiple schools to boot), the first month requisite 'orientation period' and the accompanying alternative are literally driving DOUBLE-TIME, which means 4 legs each day, to/from one school, to/from the other, with tiny windows of time in between to squeeze in lunch or a bathroom break...It is not so much the actual driving routes to/from place to place, or even the aggregate time spent in the car...Rather, the 'herding of the cattle' in and out of the car, refereeing of fights, and associated toddler negotiations to ensure you get to your destination on time, 4 times per day, that is simply relentless and exhausting!

5) By the time they come home from school, there is a new learning curve for both parent and child in terms of COMPLETING HOMEWORK....never did I anticipate the actual challenges here...  It is not necessarily MOTIVATING your child; rather, it is setting the stage for completion.  Somehow devising a plan to prevent the other non-homework-doing children from distracting, interfering, fighting, milk requesting, 'wipe-my-bottom' demanding, and table seemingly impossible.  Once you come up with an alternate activity to keep the non-homework-doing children engaged, THAT activity naturally becomes more attractive to the homework-doing child, and you are therefore back to square one to motivate the homework-doer.... it becomes this crazy cycle, from which I have succumbed to tactics including basement TV-time and ice cream bribery.

6) I no longer get to watch the kids learning and growing from their initial states of skepticism/nervousness about that first swim practice or baseball game to their later-in-the-summer excitement and joy from sticking it out, working hard, making progress, and having fun.

7) To the extent the children are involved in any extracurriculars, there is simply TOO little downtime.  The time-consuming dynamics all converge around the same age.  Around Kindergarten/first grade, they are (a) typically in school longer hours + (b) are assigned homework + (c) become more involved in sports, dance, music, activities, etc.  The nerd in me tells me that (a) + (b) + (c) = almost 0 downtime....which is sad for the still-little ones!

8) The busy school year schedule consumed by aforementioned school/homework/extracurriculars extinguishes opportunities to enjoy all that our city has to offer (of course these 'outings' become increasingly attractive once they are out of reach) including trips to the pool, local parks and beaches, Nature Center, Science Center, BayArts, Art Museum, History Museum, Botanical Gardens, Zoo, Metroparks, etc.

9) Particularly since both sides of our family live out of town, (St. Louis and Michigan) the school year limits such family visits to quick in-and-out weekends versus the longer, lingering visits the summer months afford.

10) I admit, SOMETIMES when they are at school, I actually MISS my little crazy, fighting, gremlin-ish, oft-tazmanian-devil-like babars!

11) This means SUMMER IS OVER & WINTER IS COMING...We must say goodbye to the cherished fun-in-the sun...flip-flop wearing, pool splashing, Lake Erie boating, sand-castle making, beach-glass collecting, sidewalk chalk drawing, block party going, watermelon enjoying, corn grilling, margarita drinking, Wagar Beach anchoring, tubing/water-skiing, fishing, camp attending, park frequenting, baseball playing, Olympics watching, patio dining, family vacationing....YET, every cloud has its silver lining, right?

THRILLED for back-to-school because...

1) Kids are once again ENGAGED and learning, in an official, structured opposed to, "oh, what a cool rock, go look for some more in the backyard"....OR..."ooops, we really should be READING more and CARS 2/Toy Story/Fox and the Hound-ING less"

2) After a summer of various sports and recreational camps, swim practices, and trips to the pool/park/lake/beach/nature center/science center/zoo/grandparents' houses, of which some were daily, weekly, monthly, morning only, or afternoon is REALLY calming to be back to a REGULAR schedule.  It was often an administrative hassle to have such a varying calendar week-to-week.

3) 3 kids aged 6 and under (2 of which are constantly-wrestling-boys, fellow-Moms-of-boys-you-know-what-I-mean), under 1 roof TOGETHER for 24 hours/day, 12 weeks/summer = enough fighting and chaos to produce 1 crazy Mama!

4) My washing machine is happy to take a breather from the RIDICULOUS onslaught/overage of laundry produced by the aforementioned daily swim practices, baseball (worst offender), soccer practices, camps, and family vacations.

5) Kids are going to bed EARLIER which = slightly longer evening "down-time" (to decompress with an uninterrupted spousal conversation, show, novel, magazine...AND to catch up on the mundane: schedules, paperwork, grocery lists, etc.)

6) Sending the kids off to school, even if at various points throughout the day, makes you appreciate them MORE when they are home, AND it gives you more one-on-one quality time to catch up with individual or even pairs of kids, i.e. "oh, Charlie, you really CAN be a funny and sweet little boy" opposed to..."You are ALL driving me crazy, go outside and find something to do!"

7) I can FINALLY get back to my regular classes at the gym! Summer camps and practices always seemed to interfere with these endorphins-are-keeping-Mommy-sane work-outs.

8) The silver lining to the countless hours spent in the inevitable carpool lines = quick breather mid-day to read an interesting article, or catch up with family/friends.

9) The kids' short-lived excitement/focus/sharing of minor details of their day upon entry into the car, (why does this seem to magically disappear once they are distracted by the tiniest outside stimulus) which gives me the biggest smile to know they are (fingers-crossed) enjoying school thus far.

10) They are once again in a social setting, enjoying the company of their friends and teachers, no longer restricted to the love-hate sibling relations, inevitable when there is simply TOO much shared energy under one roof....while Mommy can hopefully ALSO enjoy a little social time with a work-out/coffee/lunch with friends...I am tempted to host a monthly NON-kid play date, where moms can gather to drink coffee and discuss anything NOT-related to our children. How refreshing would this be?

11) Again, the nerd in me revisits: SCHOOL SUPPLY SHOPPING! I am not referring to the hunt for questionably impossible items (i.e. 'non-metal pencil sharpener' (does this really exist?)).  Rather, I relish the fact that this ritual represents a new beginning, fresh start, clean slate...the chance to start things off on a good foot....or at least a solid hamster wheel.    ; )

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