Ah, silence. When I hear it, I know summer’s gone. And today, the silence is complete. I’ve got no heart pummeling, no pulse racing, no brain surge that has been the hallmark of every other day after Labor Day.
I should be a mess. I packed three lunches, conducted three early wake-ups, organized three carpools, and got through three first days of school with all the pain it takes to launch kids from summer into fall from one day to the next. In years past, I’d be looking in the mirror around now staring at a frazzled face that’s been shocked into reality. I should be hungover from the last minute rush that was getting into Staples for school supplies 30 minutes before the store closed for the long weekend and cramming in the mad binder/backpack fillup just hours before the alarm was set to freak us all out of bed at the ungodly hour of 7:15am.
But nope. I am eerily calm, and happy.
So what made this school’s first day different from all others? Maybe it’s just that I’m old, but it turns out I’ve learned a few tricks about how to lighten the emotional load on the first day of school. So here are a few Do’s and Don’ts for all you jittery parents out there.
DON’T let appointments murder the final days of everyone’s holiday. I managed one out of three annual checkups, only one kid made it to the dentist’s chair, we missed the trip to the eye doctor entirely and forgot about haircuts. They’ll get new running shoes when they need them. Newsflash: Life does not end when school starts.
DO drop your to-do list in the pool. No one wants to punch a clock, that will soon be beaten black and blue with enough driving, organizing, planning and working to last the next 10 months, early. Be too busy doing nothing while you can.
DON’T morph into the house police (setting limits on screens, homework times, chore charts, etc.) on the eve of school. No matter what age your kids are, they’re anxious about the first day and the new routine that’s about to start. The last thing they need is insomnia.
DO write down the new house rules and plan a sneak attack at dinner in a few days, after the kids are in the school swing.
DON’T create a list of 10 life-or-death items for your kids to remember. Like handing in every form. Like practicing the locker combination. Like planning a lunch that includes one of each food group.
DO be happy if they get to school, with a backpack, and something to eat.
DON’T set your phone on speed-dial and call every parent in the grade to try to piece together the class lists in advance. And no matter what you do, take it from me, DON’T call the school to whine about class placement. Once upon a time, I thought the sky would fall if my kids cried about their new class. Then magically, as the year progressed, they survived and even thrived, while I was left looking and feeling like a 5-year-old.
DO support your child’s feelings while keeping your nose out of classroom dynamics. At school, your kids have lives that are separate from you, and as hard a lesson as it is to learn, those lives are not yours to control. We had our chance. It’s time to let them have theirs.