Back-to-School!

By: Katie Washkowiak

Finally!  It’s the back-to-school season!  The kids will finally be out of the house, and all of us parents can breathe a sigh of relief knowing that we will actually be able to have a break from our children without feeling bad about it.  Because let’s face it, school is Heaven for parents. We send our kids there for eight hours, we work, we pick them up, and then we enjoy them more because “absence makes the heart grow fonder.”  

As a stay-at-home mom, my patience is very thin when it comes to my four-year-olds’ temper tantrums and pouts for whatever it is I just said “no” to.  During the day, I deal with him regularly not listening to me, crossing the line to see how far I’ll let him cross, and consistently telling me that he’s hungry and thirsty.  This kid eats and drinks more in a day than a hyena who has an entire field of fresh meat ready for him to dig in. My patience is so thin, that the very moment my husband arrives home from work, I hand our son off to him.  

“But I’ve been working all day, I just want to rest,” my husband will sometimes say.  

My response?  “I have had to deal with him ALL DAY!  It’s your turn. I need to speak to someone over 5 years old for a bit so I’ll be upstairs on the phone with my mom.”  And sure enough, I grab my phone, come up to my office, and call my mom. We usually chat anywhere from 10 to 30 minutes, and if I have any other phone calls that I need to make, I make those too after I’ve finished speaking with my mother.  Meanwhile, downstairs, I can hear my husband getting angry at our son for the exact same reasons I had to hand my son off to him. It makes me giggle because at least I know it’s not just me.  

In all seriousness though, back-to-school time is stressful for most parents.  There’s registering the child up for school, going to the open house to meet your teacher, buying school supplies, buying new clothes for school, figuring out if your child should take the bus or if you’ll be able to give him a ride every day, and so much other things you need to consider!  Instead of having whatever is lying around the house for lunch, you actually have to pack it…that is unless you’re going to pay for your child to eat at the school every day, but even then, that money stacks up! 

Parents have a love-hate relationship with the back-to-school season.  We love that our children will be gone for eight hours out of the day, but we hate the stress that comes with actually getting them to school with the right supplies, new clothes, etc.  It’s a win-lose situation, a catch-22 if you will. There’s so much to consider and so much to talk out with family and friends and daycare providers and the works. It’s a lot of figuring out schedules and what parents can or cannot afford to put their children in activity-wise.  

I am the mother of a four-year-old son, which is probably one of the best jobs I’ve ever had in my life.  It has its ups and downs, but the ups are worth every down that comes our way. However, I’m not going to lie to you, I cannot wait for my son to start his first year of full-day Pre-School.  Last year he was only in a half-day, so I literally only had about 3 hours to myself. This year, I’ll be dropping off early and picking him up early afternoon! Ah! I cannot wait!  

Yet, I know that on the first day of school, I will cry as I drive away from the school after dropping him off.  I know that on that day, I will be wandering around my house, lost and confused about what I’m supposed to do now that my son is gone for eight hours.  I will probably not stop crying.  

Parents will do anything for their children in a heartbeat.  There’s a bullet coming towards them? Yeah, we’re going to step right into it rather than run as “normal” people would.  Some kid is bullying them at school? Hell no! We’re on the phone to the principal and superintendent before anyone can say “waffles!”  Does my son have a crush on your daughter? Who the hell does this chick think she is, stealing my son from me after all these years of building the relationship we have….?  I put in long hours day and night for this kid, she better stay away from him! And as for my son? Oh, we will be having a discussion with him, mark my words! About what, you may ask?  A new basic rule of the house: No dating until you’re 21! 😊  (My husband and I have already begun talking about consent with our son, so in reality, we will probably talk more about that in a better way that he may understand).  

I guess what I’m trying to say is, we love our kids.  We love them so much it makes our hearts and brains explode with worry and concern and self-doubt and frantic misconceptions of whether we’re being good parents or not.  It’s a crazy job, being a parent, but it’s one that once you have it, you can’t imagine NOT being one. These kids fulfill our lives in ways we can’t explain, and that’s amazing.  But, at the same time, we are older, more intelligent, and better equipped to talk to people our own age rather than figuring out the babbling of a toddler. We need real conversation and not conversations about dinosaurs destroying the house and eating my legs as I’m washing the dishes.  So, yeah, we love back-to-school season even if it is a catch-22 with the stress of shopping, registering, etc. We love this season because it somehow makes us feel like we’re actually doing something good for our kids, while, at the same time, getting a much needed, long eight-hour break from them.  

Sometimes, I think parents love back-to-school season more than Christmas… And that’s okay!  Do not, and I repeat, DO NOT feel like a bad parent for being excited about your child going off to school for eight hours.  DO NOT feel like a bad parent for breathing a sigh of relief because you’re going to get a much-needed break from your kids. DO NOT judge yourself, but most important DO NOT judge other parents either.  

Remember, the heart grows fonder after some distance; you may be exhausted of all things imaginary and/or kiddy, but believe me when I tell you that when your child gets home from his first day of school, you will hug him in a way only parents can hug their children after not seeing them for hours.  It’s like one of our limbs falling off for eight hours and then magically appearing where it’s supposed to be afterward. Our children are better off by going to school, and you, as a parent, are better off sending them to school, not just for the sake of their education, but also, for the sake of your sanity.   Land ho!  School starts soon, and we, as parents, will finally feel sane again!  😊

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