The Start of the School Year is No Joke! A Prayer for All Who Enter Here...

Elementary school moms, I am here to tell you something that sounds so cliche and you might even roll your eyes at me, but here it is: ENJOY every moment of these years!!  (I seriously can't even believe I just wrote that. I sound like such a grandma. What is happening to me?!) 

For all of you out there with kids still navigating the rules of tetherball and vying for the cool classroom jobs like “line-leader” and “office runner” PLEASE promise me you will soak up every last minute.

If you are not only allowed in your children’s classroom, but invited, do not take those touch points for granted. Enjoy the moments you have to loiter on the playground at the end of the day talking to your besties while your kids chase each other through the jungle gym.

this seems like yesterday!! he certainly no longer lets me take his picture at school. no way.

this seems like yesterday!! he certainly no longer lets me take his picture at school. no way.

I still have two nestled into this accessible oasis, but I also have two entering the parentless abyss of junior high and high school. With my older two entering 7th and 9th grade this year, I am only now realizing all the things I can never get back — which is to say ANY access to them between about 7:30 - 3:00 (5:30 if you factor in school sports and other activities), no more birthday treats for the class, no more mystery reader or class parties.

And, oh my word! This start of the school year thing is NO JOKE. Elementary supply lists post in JUNE! Junior high and high school lists trickle out at molasses pace the entire first week of school. I have been to the Wal-Mart or some other such Depot or Max or that fancy french store, “Tar-jay” no less than 10 times in the past week. Okay, maybe 9 times. But still — the tyranny of the urgent prevails.

Papers requiring my signature multiply like rabbits on my kitchen counter. I no sooner sign one and turn my back to finish rinsing the dishes (which, now that I think about it, have the same propensity to multiply because, apparently every item of food needs its own plate) than another appears in its place. 

Emails from teachers, syllabuses to “review” (yeah, right), water bottles to rinse, infinite reminders to my kids to PLEASE clear the kitchen table of all their crap — all rabbit like.

The “cash” in our checking account seems to be dropping like the Dow Jones because — news flash — public school is no longer free. Property taxes just turn the lights on. Everything has extra cost associated with it — including an outfit for gym.  

What the what?!! 

If I recall, when I went to school, I pretty much wore the same clothes straight through the whole day — and if I didn’t, I’m sure I didn’t have to dress out in the same jail-issue clothes like everyone else. I could rock the black and pink “Suddenly Susan” t-shirt with the collar cut off the neck and flaunt my milky white shoulders like a boss. (Okay, that last part is made up. I could never pull off the flaunting of anything, but I digress.)

My 7th grader sat like a deer in headlights the first day of school as the rest of her last period classmates dutifully marched to the front of the room to hand in their “paperwork”. Meanwhile, she sweat bullets as she realized she did not possess nor had she ever seen said paperwork. (Turns out it was right where I had “filed” it three weeks prior — underneath the ever mounting stack of multi-colored papers and envelopes on my kitchen counter.) Rabbits.

But enough about me.  Over the course of 40-some-odd years of life, I have learned to manage. Maybe not well, but manage nevertheless. 

While my elementary schoolers plod through math pages and whine about the required 20-minutes of reading each night, my older two are enduring the stress of sports try-outs, finding (and opening) their lockers, balancing multiple homework demands and getting up at the crack-ass of dawn. 

I am convinced there is probably no other time in life (outside of becoming a parent for the first time) that is as stressful or tiring as the high school years. And we are only a few days in. 

Reese sets his alarm for 6:10, asks us to PLEASE make sure he hasn’t hit the snooze too many times by 6:20, takes a quick shower, shoves a bagel in his mouth and heads out the door at 7:10 with no less than two backpacks (one for school and one for sport) and two ginormous water bottles. We drop him off on the outskirts of the school grounds and make him walk through the soccer fields to get to class because the drop off lane extends through two stoplights and then some. 

He navigates his very full schedule, packs up his homework and heads to soccer try-outs. I’ve never been to boot camp, but I’m guessing these try-outs are the high school sports version of such a thing. Coach tells the kids that a certain school “stole” the championship from them last year and gosh darn it, they will not be out played again. This year it’s for all the marbles. 

Every last kid wants to make a team, maybe even THE team. 

I mean, can you even?? Swoon. 

I mean, can you even?? Swoon. 

Reese tells himself he’s doing his best. Trying not to compare himself too much to the others. Commanding his mind not to read too much into the fact that the coaches keep shifting guys around. Asking some underclassmen to scrimmage with upperclassmen. Perhaps it’s nothing he reasons. Or maybe it is. 

Any way you slice it, the stress of this transition is definitely taking its toll. On him and on me. He even requested we buy him a stress ball to squeeze so he can stop picking at his face. 

This week, my youngest brought home a little, yellow paper star, on which I am supposed to write my “hopes & dreams” for her this year. They don’t send those kinds of things home in high school. But if they did, I’m guessing my words to my 9th grader wouldn’t be too different than they are to my 3rd grader. 

Here are my hopes and dreams (and let’s just call it what it is — PRAYER!) for this boy who is growing, ever too quickly, into a man:

* I pray you always do your best work, but never let the work get the best of you.

* I pray you foster a love of life-long learning, but never at the expense of a life spent learning to love.

* I pray you find rest in the present moment, having learned from the past and looking forward to the future, but never holding on too tightly to any of it.

* I pray you try and fail or try and succeed, but never let the potential outcome keep you from the brave act of simply trying.  You will encounter the most profound grace, for yourself and others, in that place.

* I pray you always keep God close to your heart, but never keep your heart so close you're afraid to share it with others. 

* I pray you let your teachers and coaches teach and bless you, but never forget you can bless them too. You have it in you.

* I pray you gratefully pursue each opportunity as it comes, but never let the opportunity determine your ultimate pursuit --- which is to love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength. 

* I pray you find your worth and your purpose -- Every. Single. Day. Everything else is gravy.

Question for all you parents of "bigs" -- How do you do it?  What advice do you have for us as we attempt to take the 30-year view of parenting rather than get wrapped around the axle in the stresses of the present moment?

 Holly's Take:

I'm just glad to hear that you didn't get some papers turned in on time, although I can picture your sweet 7th grader with her face turning red and hear heart beat rapidly rising.  I figured only unorganized people like me did that sort of thing.  I actually thought that having a 7th grader and 9th grader would be a little easier than just having kids in elementary school, because they can do stuff like read their own homework and make their own lunches.  I think I would just like to keep believeing that it gets easier as they get older?  I know it's not true, but I kinda want to continue thinking that it is. 

Christina's Take: 

Serious AMEN to this one. Megan, the picture you paint of this new routine gives me a rash.  The stress, the multiple back-packs, the early mornings and late practices are enough to put even the best parents into a "summer-feels-like-three-years-ago" stupor. Team Harrell is in the same treadmill routine that you describe...and I adore what you said about taking a 30 year view instead of falling into the pit of emotions contained in one week of junior high/high school. That's a coping mechanism that is so important when the news is either good or bad. So thankful for your perspective. Now back to finding that stinky shin guard under the seat of my car before practice...