The Most Wonderful (Or Not) Time of the Year: Back to School as a Parent

Thursday, September 9th, 2010

The immunization forms have been photocopied, a small forest of trees worth of paperwork has been filled out, the pristine supplies are nicely arranged in the backpack and the first day of school outfit has been carefully chosen. The kids are heading back to school in the Fraser Valley.

There are lots of things that people will tell you about back to school time. The newspapers, blogs, online lifestyle magazines cover Back to School lunches, best deals on school supplies and every other aspect of making sure your child succeeds in school. Your friends and family pitch in with ideas on before-and-after school care, extracurricular activities and tutoring. The malls trot out the styles in July (and somehow, we’re already seeing Halloween decorations now).

Everyone tells you what to buy, what to wear, what to learn, how to learn and what to do. But then there are those things you learn by living it out, just like every other aspect of parenthood.

Inside each of us there is the dad from the office supply store commercial, blithely skipping down the aisle, dragging reluctant children, singing “It’s the most wonderful time of the year!” but there is also the weepy parent, standing on the edge of the playground, hardly able to believe that we’re here already because wasn’t it just yesterday that that smart little kid couldn’t even hold their head up straight? We can feel both simultaneously. It’s an emotional time for everyone in the family during back to school: new routines, new teachers, new challenges, new things to learn, new friends.

It doesn’t matter if it’s your first child heading off to kindergarten or your fourth headed into junior high, how did you get here already? How is it possible that your parents and grandparents were telling the truth – they do grow up so fast.

And you miss them. You miss being around them every day. Even after swearing to yourself that if someone asks you if they can have a popsicle or go to the pool one more time may result in tears (yours, not theirs), even when you are rushing to get everyone out the door, looking forward to the routine of school, the paradox is that as soon as they’re gone, as soon as you’re able to “get something done,” all you want is to go pick them up and be with them again.

In a way, it’s in the school-age version of a new mother counting down the minutes to bedtime for her infant and then sneaking in to watch them sleep, missing them during naptime.

It’s the push and pull of parenthood to let them go, to feel both things simultaneously. Overwhelmed, happy for them, happy for you and yet realising another milestone has been crossed. It’s normal to feel wistful.

Heading back to school not just a lot to process for the small ones in your home – it’s a new world for us as parents as well. Take the time to adjust, give yourself permission to have a cry (or not) without guilt. Make the most of the time that you do have together with your kids and embrace the adventure of a new season of life – for all of you.

How did you handle back to school for your kids? Thrilled? Missing them terribly? A bit of both? Share your stories in the comments.

Contributor: Sarah Bessey

Sarah Bessey is a marketer, writer and blogger. She lives in Abbotsford for her husband and two children. Twitter: @emergingmummy

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