Sept 7, 2023
Sept 7, 2023
The back-to-school season is, for me, always a replay of the same script: Sometime in August, I notice that the bright green of the trees has faded, that it's getting dark before 9 pm, and that everyone is talking about "one last big outing before the machine starts up again"... and I start to be haunted by a vague sense of doom. This is ridiculous, given that a) I have been out of school for decades; b) I did fine in school even though to me it felt like jail; and c) my husband and I home schooled our kids when they started elementary school, so it's not as though I have someone to be anxious FOR.
My kids did go to preschool, though, and it was then that my beginning-of-school blues became more than just background noise. So the question became—as it so often does because parents have feelings too—Do I hide it, or do I show it? Do I paste on a smile and hype the coming school season, or acknowledge the darkness? Can I be genuine at the same time as I ensure my kids don't shoulder the burden of my emotions?
I found the following three strategies useful, not just for school but for any difficult subject: 1) I reminded myself, over and over, that my kids are not me, and that just because I like or dislike something does not mean they will; 2) I turned on my radar for the good things about each situation, and pointed to them as often as I could; and 3) If the subject came up, I'd say, rather than show, my negative feelings. This meant, for example, to admit (cheerfully) that the season triggers my own complicated memories about school, without bursting into a resentful, bitter rant. This also validated the idea that blessings can be mixed (after all, not everything is awesome, no matter how positively you spin it) while giving my kids space to feel the way they feel.
I think everyone who manages life successfully does so by pep-talking themselves through the rough spots, and I'm sure I'm not the only parent doing it right now. No matter how distant the image is in my rearview mirror, September mornings still can make me feel that way.