14 Aug Five back to school tips for parents
I’m here with five tips for life in all its beautiful feelings when you say goodbye to those kids, whether it be to kindergarten or the third year of college. A larger perspective spreads out before you at the end. Whether those kids are going on a bus, driving themselves to high school, or headed right back into your living room to go to school—remember these things.
- Feel however you feel.
Elated? Terrified? Sorrowful? Like turning cartwheels and drinking wine right there in the middle of the morning? Whatever, guys. All of those feelings might be cycled through in one hour. It’s OK. Feel them. Don’t feel like you’re “supposed” to feel. We all react differently, and it is no measure of our love for our offspring. No comparisons, no condemnation.
- Treasure the firsts and lasts.
Don’t wait until senior year of high school to realize you will never have another first day of school, another last packed lunch (hallelujah!), or another Christmas concert. Treasure them all as they happen. I know—at times you will want to eat your own toenails more than you will want to attend another two-hour concert sitting on bleachers. But trust me, treasure it. It will be over. Enjoy the firsts and lasts, big and small, as they happen.
- Be your child’s best advocate but not her biggest excuse.
She will need you to be in her corner. Especially if she has special needs that teachers, parents, and others do not understand and don’t care to. Stand firmly in that corner and don’t back down. But—don’t become his fall back for not making the effort to stand on his own. You won’t always be there. Walk the tightrope of defending when needed and letting him take his consequences when needed. It’s an art, not a perfect science. You will make mistakes here. When you do, reference tip #4.
- Nothing is a permanent mistake.
Remember all those warnings that whatever horrible deeds you did in school would end up in your permanent record? Yeah, exactly true, except not. No misplaced homework paper, no unfinished art project, not even that one time your kid repeated the word your husband said when he missed the final minutes of the Superbowl are going to matter At All when your kid tries to get a job on Wall Street. Yes, we care about teaching our kids to be responsible. We care about helping them to use the minds God gave them to their fullest capacity. We care about making sure they do not live in our basements forever but do get into college and get jobs. But we also care about giving grace. Offering second chances. Not acting like the end of the world hovers over our heads if they color the grass purple and the sun blue. Kids make mistakes. They are not forever. Dispense grace. Liberally. Nothing is a permanent mistake for you, either. Not the time you forgot to pack the birthday cupcake. Not the time you sent him to school with a 102 fever because you were sure he was faking it. Not even the time you missed the first-grade Mother’s Day program because you couldn’t get out of Home Depot on time. (I have no personal experience in that last one. None. Except that I still have guilt for it. And the kid is twenty-five and married.) You, mom or dad, will make mistakes. Reference #3. Dispense grace to yourself. It is not forever. It will not be on your permanent record unless you put it there. Don’t.
- Remember the big picture.
Life is not about perfect papers or team sports or science fair projects that get your kid in the newspaper. It’s about doing what God has for you to do and being what God has for you to be. For both you and your child. Step back. Breathe. Drop activities that make you crazy. Your kid isn’t going to the big leagues or the Olympics. Take the time to enjoy one another now and grow in God. Don’t sacrifice those things for the things that will not matter in the end. Make the time to put them first. We took our kids on a mission trip during school. The world did not end, and they did not fail first/fifth/sixth grade. I took my daughter out of school for a zoo trip on her birthday. No-one turned us into DFS. (She did, however, get food poisoning from the zoo cafeteria.) Sometimes, the big picture memories are far more important than the daily urgent. Remember the big picture. Step back. Breathe. Trust me on this one. Earth will remain in orbit.
- Feel however you feel.
So there you are. Your five back-to-school tips to help you along this year.