The school year has begun and we have all transitioned yet again. But before we go much further, there is an important piece of parenting reality that you may need to consider (more) fully.
Parents are often divided into two groups:
Those who count the days until school starts.
Those who count the days until school ends.
No judgements here.
Some of us parent better with specific schedules dictated by the 9-month academic year. At day’lsquo;s end, we know what to talk to our kids about: their school day. There is a routine, a rhythm. The seasons can be measured in sports or concert programs, in school plays or testing days. Our calendars move from activity to activity.
Others among us parent better with stretches of unscheduled days to hang out and discover what’lsquo;s up and who’lsquo;s who. We rely on the freedom of the summer months to be more present, to be less stressed by long school and work days with high expectations for everyone to gather at day’lsquo;s end in perfect moods. We love our children’lsquo;s unexpected sick days because we get yet another day together. We measure seasons in holidays or long weekends. Our calendars are determined by what others might call “ldquo;days off”rdquo;; for us, these are our “ldquo;days on”rdquo; and we crave them.
And then there are the (rare?) parents who can mix and match. We can’lsquo;t wait for the last day (either of school or of vacation) and then we dread re-learning how to re-adjust to the changeover – yet again. Hell, we were just getting the hang of it!
I see the new school year as a significant parenting milestone. My girls (your kids, too?) are growing up too fast. One day, I am watching my daughter get swallowed up in the big yellow school bus that will take her to Kindergarten. I blink. And it’lsquo;s her first day of her senior year of high school. (How is it that the bus looks oddly the same? My daughter has aged; the driver hasn’lsquo;t. What’lsquo;s with that?)
There is no choice but to guide my girls through their first few weeks of classes, new teachers, new friends (and old), new rules, and endless assignments as we allow this year’lsquo;s schedules to become our new routine.
Our lives inevitably become more chaotic as we gradually adjust to the new normal. Will it be better than the long days of summers? I only know this: it’lsquo;ll be different.
My work now turns to creating chunks of time where we are together as a family while also carving out moments that we can be one-on-one, just mother-daughter / parent-teen.
I become fiercely protective of these times because I well know that such moments are on the endangered time list. So I enforce the “ldquo;No pings. No dings. No rings.”rdquo; rule just for those few minutes together. It may be a throwback to the old days when tech didn’lsquo;t intrude nearly as much (days that my kids have never known); still, we never regret being “ldquo;teched off”rdquo; together for just a little while.
It doesn’lsquo;t matter if my teen rolls her eyes, taps her foot, or lists her far-too-busy schedule. I create the time any time we are together one-on-one and mostly face-to-face. Kitchen. Car. A walk. I try to be wherever they are without being obviously in their space.
I ask. I listen. I mirror. I ask more. And I learn to let go before they learn to duck out when they see me coming the next time.
It’lsquo;s an art form that I continue to perfect.
Vacation days? School days? No choice.
These days, instead of counting days, I’lsquo;m looking for moments, grabbing them, and claiming them.
May you capture more and more moments with your children.