With Ella back in school and Hendrix attending school for the very first time, our little family has officially entered uncharted territory. There are increased school runs, new wake up times, bathroom rush hours, a significant decrease in beloved, much-needed nap times and paper (artwork, homework, student handbooks, forms, etc) is scattered around our house as if it were an unmanned post office. These first few weeks have been an interesting and exciting change of pace for all of us in the best possible way.
Ella is an old pro at the school routine and as such our new schedule doesn’t affect her too greatly other than the need to rise and shine earlier than she’s accustomed to. She’s in her last year of middle school (which is still super unbelievable) so she’s enjoying a wonderful moment of being on top of the school totem pole before starting from the bottom all over again. Next year, she’ll enter a new realm of teenagedom for which I’m completely unprepared save for this really awesome mom slogan I’ve created with the intention – for maximum embarrassment – of shouting out each time I drop her off at school, football games, mall trips, movies, etc: Books yes! Boys no! She’ll thank me later.
Other than a couple first-time-at-school-related mishaps early on, Hendrix is adjusting really well and learning new things every single day. I think the addition of kids other than his little sister learning alongside him on a daily basis and another authoritative voice outside the family in the form of his teacher have been invaluable the past four weeks. It’s like he came to the realization that it’s not just mom who wants him to write and draw and learn stuff in which he normally wouldn’t even fake interest for the sake of receiving heaps of praise for a job well done. Now however, he’s genuinely interested and he’s always happy to wake up each morning and prepare for another day at school.
And finally, for the first time in forever (Frozen vibes), I get to spend extended one-on-one time with Sadie and it’s been magical. We’ve picnicked at the park, read without the Battle of the Books (during which Hendrix and Sadie fight over whose book we’ll read, who gets to sit closest to said book and who’s first to point out the answer to questions I ask while reading), and had some nice Mommy and Me times as we follow along with Cosmic Kids Yoga videos on our matching mats. She’s always calmer when Hendrix is away (even when he’s just at grandma’s or on a quick outing without her) so it’s been a bit quieter around these parts lately which is totally not a bad thing.
All in all, we’re adjusting nicely to this new chapter in our lives. The kids are happy and I am also. I feel an increased sense of purpose now that there’s loads more to do. I wake up every day at 4:30/5am, enjoy some time to myself (coffee, TV, shower, etc) and prep for the day before waking the kids. When Sadie and I return from the school run, she has playtime, snack time, a little bit of learning/reading time and if I’m lucky she’ll take a nap after lunch. Most days, I’m cleaning, trying to blog and (this past week) resuming my adventures in painting our house. In previous years, I’ve always been the kids in the Staples Back to School commercial dreading the end of summer vacation but this year I was the dad, merrily acquiring supplies and awaiting that “most wonderful” time when the kids are in someone else’s capable hands for several hours each day. While it still doesn’t beat the holidays, this year’s back to school season has been a gift.
AND NOW, A LESSON IN OVERCOMING ADVERSITY…
Despite being in a good back to school groove right now, this introductory period hasn’t been 100% satisfactory for us. On and off for the first three weeks, Sadie had some extremely unhappy moments during the morning drop-offs. Whether it was wanting to race to the playground rather than walk in an orderly fashion to Hendrix’s classroom or insisting upon plowing through other kids to hug Hendrix goodbye, it was always something almost every single day. I would leave the school sweating with my heart pounding due to a combination of the cardio required to wrestle Sadie’s strong will into submission and the extreme anxiety I felt as other parents bore witness to her tantrums. She was the only younger sibling acting like the school would disappear into a giant sinkhole at the end of each day and she’d never see her brother – or the playground – ever again.
We had a lot of bad days but I remember the last bad day moment most vividly. In an attempt to be ultra positive, I told myself the school run would go smoothly. “It’s a blink of an eye in the grand scheme of things,” I assured me, “Sadie will adjust in time and I’ll hardly remember all these difficult moments a few months from now.” Then doubt set in and I realized that even if I truly believed that this day would be better, Sadie may have other plans. And she did – in the form of yanking on my arm in an attempt to get to (you guessed it!) the playground before beginning to loudly object to my refusal and drop herself onto the floor in front of Hendrix’s class, his teacher and, of course, all the other parents.
This could have ended in another stress-filled morning, but it turned out to be a wonderful learning experience. Here’s what I learned and how…
Don’t Wait for Change
People and circumstances can be slow to change – if they ever change – so waiting around until things work themselves out isn’t always the best course of action. This isn’t to say you need to forcefully modify the world around you until you get your way, but you DON’T need to stand idly by while life (or people) tramples all over you and you DO need to take action where and when you’re able. While I was waiting patiently/impatiently/in-full-on-tears for Sadie to change her behavior, it didn’t occur to me to do the following…
Make Your Own Adjustments
Here’s where you need to get thoughtful and creative and start to modify actions and reactions that haven’t served you well in the past. Instead of putting on my angry mom voice or giving in completely when Sadie started to throw a fit, I found another, more effective option. I offered a firm-yet-calm “you can cry if you want to” response to her outburst, scooped her up into my arms and moved on with our day. Within seconds, she settled down and made her own much-needed adjustment. Finding new ways to handle sticky situations and making modifications to your own behavior (rather than worrying over the behavior of others) are key to overcoming crappy circumstances.
Stay Positive + Grateful Always
Sometimes writing down what I’m grateful for feels silly – like I know I’m thankful for what I have so why do I need to put pen to paper to prove it? The reason is, as humans, we can be terribly forgetful and we’re creatures of habit. When we’ve just witnessed something disastrous, it puts everything into perspective – how vulnerable we all are, how much other people matter and how someone somewhere has it far worse than we do – but those feelings tend to fade over time and we often revert to making mountains out of mole hills and crying over spilled milk. Making notes – either mentally or on paper – on that which makes you grateful on a daily basis, keeps your mind in a thankful state. If you’re constantly acknowledging the good in life, it’ll be far easier to spot it when times get rough. And as far as positivity goes, I’ll try to explain the concept as I’ve explained it to Ella on multiple occasions. When something doesn’t go your way and you react with negativity, you cut yourself off from other – quite possibly superior – options. It’s because of positivity and gratitude that I was able to see Sadie’s back to school adjustment phase as simply a temporary situation and stay focused on all the amazing moments in my life that heavily outweigh the bad. In addition to warding off negativity, it’s important to avoid overthinking things that have yet to occur. I have a habit of operating in worst case scenario mode most of the time in an effort to be as prepared as possible but all it really does is stress me out unnecessarily. Be prepared but don’t go crazy worrying over hypothetical situations and events that haven’t even happened.
Sadie still has her moments and Hendrix does too (i.e. not listening when I tell him 100+ degree days are not the best for playing after school and we really need to get back to our air-conditioned home immediately), but it’s no longer overwhelming or tear-inducing. The other piece of advice I’d offer after this month-long learning experience is to stop worrying about outside opinions. I mentioned the other parents a couple times above but I also realize it doesn’t matter what anyone else thinks. You do what’s best for your children and you move on – no matter how award-worthy your child’s dramatic performance may be. And, if you pay close attention, you realize that many parents are in the exact same boat and you’re usually in excellent, empathetic company.
Well guys, that’s about it for this late summer Sunday post. I really hope you enjoyed it! I’m off to do a little laundry, sort out dinner and prep for the week ahead. How about you?
P.S. You can see the photo from this post plus more over on Instagram (see the latest from my feed at the bottom of this page!). I’m trying to post every day now (either to my feed or via IG stories) so give me a follow if you’d like to connect with me further!!