Whether your children attend school in a public, private or a home setting, September marks the end of summer and the beginning of a new school year. It’s a time to buy school supplies, resume extracurricular activities and make lunches: lots and lots of lunches. Here are a few simple tips to help you adopt a more relaxed approach to your child’s school year.
Hot Lunch: Your Weekly Free Pass
Do you like making 140 school lunches in a calendar year? Does it feel like a good use of your time to strategically cut and place apples in such a way that they won’t brown and ultimately be rejected requiring composting?
If you answered “no” to any of these questions, then I highly recommend you sign up for any or all of the Fun Lunch options offered at your school this year. Don’t worry about the nutritional content of the personal-sized pizza with the sides of a chocolate chip cookie and apple juice. If you’re concerned about this, then you aren’t thinking about your best interests.
I can promise you that on those days when you wake up and realize that you don’t have to make lunches, you will thank me. If you’re one of those ambitious and hardworking parents who has trained their kids to make their own lunches, well, good for you. And also, how did you do that?
School Supply Smarts
If you’re like me, when the school offers the quick and easy option for purchasing school supplies in their School Supply Kits, you opt out because you foolishly think that you will do better than last year and be more organized only to realize in August that you’re just like everyone else who opted out and find yourself in Staples, Walmart and at least three other stores whose shelves are as bare as the grocery store during the pandemic because all of the truly organized parents have already bought their school supplies and it’s no longer possible to find every item on the required-items list at one location and if you had just said yes to this incredibly generous and thoughtful gift the school was offering you back in June you wouldn’t be in this position.
My advice, buy the kit.
Trust the process
Classes are built by teachers and school administrators before they break for the summer. If you wrote to the school to request that a specific child is or isn’t in your child’s class, and didn’t get your wish, I invite you to make peace with the outcome. School is a microcosm of life and everywhere in life we encounter people with whom we agree and others with whom we don’t. But we have to find a way to work together.
I don’t know about you, but anytime I’ve had a co-worker that I didn’t get along with, I couldn’t simply ask my employer to remove her from my workplace. Real life doesn’t work that way and your child’s classroom shouldn’t either.
Don’t deny your child, or yourself, this free and handy way to learn some real life lessons. The classroom is a perfect environment to work through some uncomfortable stuff. And, there is a bonus: a built-in mediator, AKA, the teacher.
It’s normal to want to safeguard our kids from feeling anything painful but dealing with disappointment isn’t a bad thing. Our job as parents is to set our children up to be successful in the real world and if we continue to buffer them from adversity, how will they practice problem-solving and learn resilience?
A little trust goes a long way in this department — trusting that your school has your child’s best interest at heart and trusting that your child can and will handle whatever life throws at them this year at school.
(Disclaimer: I don’t have children with learning disabilities or any other diagnosis that makes school uniquely challenging. Many parents of children have to advocate for their children in school and it makes sense to do so.)
Cozy up to your child’s teacher
It took me about three weeks of homeschooling during the pandemic to realize that teachers have one of the most difficult jobs out there. In public school, they have anywhere from 23-28 students to manage for six hours a day, five days a week. The important word in that last sentence is ‘manage.’ I don’t know about you, but I only have two kids at home and when I was tasked with being their teacher, I couldn’t get past the management stage.
Before teachers can even begin to educate our children, they have to manage those 20-something children, each with different personalities, energy levels and competencies. At the elementary school level, I am impressed that teachers can actually teach at all. And after the school day is done, teachers have to mark work, prepare the lesson for the next day and perhaps coach or give their time to a club or cause that they care about.
Teachers, especially the good ones, can make meaningful and life-affirming impacts on our kids, so be kind to them and remember to thank them as often as you can.
These tips may sound like a Mom’s way of “taking the easy way out.” Is it so wrong to want to long for the kind of parenting our parents did in the 70s and 80s? In those days we walked to and from school alone, played outside until dinner, had three items in our lunch bag, and didn’t go to tutoring at the first C on our report card.
I’m not talking about returning to previously accepted behaviours, such as smoking while pregnant and spankings, I just believe in stepping back a little during the school year and letting our children develop some grit. The only way to endure making all of those lunches is to have a little of that grit yourself.