Bittersweet "Back To School" Season

You know that feeling when you ask someone a question and they say NO. But you know that they really mean yes? Or when someone is saying “stop it” but it’s almost as if they are really trying to wave you on? That’s how I feel about this whole Back to School season that is upon us. There is a part of me that is already mentally packing the backpacks, planning my first day of “freedom” (via a colorized excel spreadsheet) and strategizing how to get my kids to go TO BED at a decent hour again.

I’ve had the privilege of having many different experiences with the whole school world. We did a Private Preschool, Public Grade School, a Homeschool season and now we’re in an International Private School. In all of these circles I have had a range of bittersweet memories.

Nothing will ever touch my heart like the way my children’s Preschool Teachers loved my children and cared for them and taught them about Jesus. They were amazing and had the amount of patience that well, only someone who signs up to teach Preschoolers can truly have. Our many years with all three of our kids going through that beautiful school taught us more about Jesus too. It was a joy seeing their little persons grow and develop in such a nurturing way.

Then we jumped into the world of Public Schools. In my usual nature I was "gung-ho".

I was happy to schlep my baby into the Kindergarten room to help cut our crafts. Well, I was happy the first time. Until I realized that trying to be productive with a baby (turning toddler) in a stroller was like trying to put “socks on a rooster” (I’ll give credit to my hubby on this saying), I mean what was I thinking? That I could get the Kindergartener off to school at the crack of eight AM, then bus (or via mini-van) my 3-year-old son to his nine AM drop off at Preschool and then get back to the Public School to “volunteer”, which should have read, “I’ll show up but my productivity will be about the same as if you asked one of your Kinders to do the cutting out.” Then after a whole 43 minutes of “work”, I’ll use that term loosely because I probably had to change a diaper during that time frame too. I would then pack up my Kinder girl because her day was over at the late hour of 10:40. I.am.not.kidding. Thankfully that gave us roughly about 50 minutes until we needed to pick up our little man from Preschool. Well, you know how much you can get done in 50 minutes, with a 5-year-old and a baby? Yay, not much. We would “squeeze in” a trip through the drive thru at Starbucks, pick up little man and call it a day at 11:40 when we rolled back to the house.

As the Public School years went on I become more and more involved.

“Yes, I’ll teach Art Lit!” Because I have no interest in art whatsoever and I love attending monthly late night meetings where you train me in all things art and make me draw. Can someone please get me a Margarita? And, I should mention that MANY of the parents who sign up for Art Lit are really, really artsy, like talented - ARTISTS. So it’s really fun when all the parents have to practice and “do” the assignment together and me, Miss. Linear, is sticking to her boxes and grids and NOT feeling the “artsyiness" at all. Talk about pressure.

"Yes, I’ll do Teacher Appreciation.” The teachers work so hard and they need to be appreciated! I’ll never forget the time my friend and I carted in loads of Burritos from Chipotle for the Teacher Appreciation week (baby in tow mind you) and we were bombarded with questions about what was in each burrito? How should I know? Do I look like I’m wearing a Chipotle uniform?

Sigh.

NO. I will not be in charge of Teacher Appreciation next year, that is beyond my skill and tolerance set. And bless all of you parent volunteers, or should I really say “Artists”, who drag in art supplies and teach art to students month after month. And I apologize to the students that I was given to teach, for multiple years mind you. You were seriously shortchanged.

Although, I was fascinated by Frank Lloyd Wright.

I loved our Public School it was only two blocks from our home. We could hear the school bells ringing, see the buses speeding through the neighborhood and there was a real sense of community. I loved so many parts of it, minus the burrito nonsense.

Then we, or should I say, “I", homeschooled.

Was I qualified? Not at all. Don’t ever quiz me on geography, politics or history (I’m probably forgetting some other subjects), you’ll be sorely disappointed. Although, I discovered that one of the great things about homeschooling is that you as the teacher actually become smarter. Mainly because you have to study and teach the stuff. (Or at least know how to look up the answer in the teacher guide, shhhh….)

So, really I should just say that I homeschooled myself.

To be completely transparent with you, I didn’t have the patience or personal discipline for some of the aspects of homeschooling. When one of my children would beat me down (not physically) about not wanting to do any assignment whatsoever. I was weak, I would cave all the time. It was tough to have to wear yet another hat of teacher/disciplinarian. Which is why when they jumped backed into school (note a private international school) they were in a bit of a shock. Talk about some high standards. (I might have chuckled a little bit to myself and said something like “I told you so.” - but only in my head.)

What I miss from homeschooling was all of the quality time we had together. We volunteered, met families we would have never otherwise met (let’s just say I started to look like the preppy one and I’m not that preppy), we had time to watch a variety of DVDs (where again, I learned a TON) and life was just way more relaxed. I actually considered getting some Birkenstocks. I kid. NOT that there is anything wrong with Birkenstocks.

I am forever grateful for the two years that I homeschooled my kids and I wouldn’t trade those two years for anything. And I trust that despite some of our relaxed academics that the overall experience they received from our time at home together and the plethora of field trips that they received enough “life-school” to make up for any of my lack of homeschooling.

Now, at their current school, the International Private School, I am nothing like the Preschool phase we’re I knew the teachers personally and exchanged cards. In fact, I was asked last April who my son’s teacher was and I could NOT answer. I could not recall the name of his wonderful teacher for the life of me. Yes, please nominate me for “Mom of the Year”! What mother doesn’t know their 5th grade son’s teacher’s name in April?

Apparently, that would be me.

I have gone from the over involved to the under involved. My kids asked me yesterday, at the Back to School Orientation, if I was going to sign up for the PTO.

I pretended like I didn’t hear the question. (Been there, done that, got the T-shirt.)

In all serious, I AM involved. In the sense that my kids have their school supplies, their lunch boxes are washed and ready, and everyone knows what they are wearing for their first day of school. Because let’s face it the “outfit" is really important, maybe the most important piece of the Back To School Puzzle.

Am I ready for the first day of school? Yes and No.

I will NOT miss the fighting or the “I’m bored” or the, “Why can’t we go bowling, ice skating, see a movie, take a cruise…” questions that I have been hearing daily. Apparently I’m a cruise director and no one has provided me with a fun uniform or the perks of living at sea. Where I hear that some of the ships now have water slides?

I will miss the sunburned faces laughing as they play by the pool, the impromptu board game that gets pulled out from time to time and the creative play that seems to only happen when the preciousness piece of time is in the mix.

When one season begins another one is always ending. That is the bittersweet part. You have to say goodbye to say hello. You have to accept that the next step will take you forward and that you have to leave something behind.

 

I pray that this next season for my three blessings will be a fruitful one, that they will be an addition to their school and that their lives will bless others. And, I pray that I will not be that mom anymore that can’t remember her son’s teacher’s name and that maybe I’ll get a bee in my bonnet and look for some ways to volunteer a bit from time to time, but not if it has anything to do with burritos.

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