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6 things I’ve learned in the first month of school

kids walking from school bus

As a kid, back to school was always my favourite time of year. I loved new backpacks, fresh notebooks, group projects, friends every day. (Yes, I realize I may have been the anomaly here.) But there came a point by early October that the sheen had worn off and it felt more like business as usual, instead of an exciting new beginning. I remember lamenting this to my mom, who told me instead to think about everything I’ve learned so far instead, and that beginnings are fleeting.

This morning in the school yard, after a frazzled, rushed sendoff, I watched my girls—Sophie, 7, and Juliette, 5—scurry off to their friends, and I started to think about the month behind us. The shininess has definitely worn off and we’ve settled into the routine of the year, and their mama is already tired. (It’s worth noting that I hadn’t brushed my hair and I was wearing my winter boots at drop-off this morning—that’s how frantic it was.) But my mom’s voice popped into my head: “What have you learned so far?” So here’s the roundup, and I’d love to hear what lessons have come your way, too.

1.My kids are capable of more than I give them credit for.
At the start of September, I sat the girls down and asked that they do a few more things for themselves this year. This includes things like making their beds in the morning, rinsing out their lunchboxes when they get home, and double-checking their bags before leaving in the morning. (These seems like easy things, I know, but my children equate them to running a marathon in a blizzard without shoes.) I was skeptical that it would stick, but so far, so good.

2. According to my children, forgetting to return a form is the worst thing they will ever endure.
I forgot to send the form and money for Sophie’s recorder (I really did, I didn’t “forget”) and I’m pretty sure Sophie will be discussing it with her therapist when she’s 45.

3. Lunches are hit and miss, and that’s okay.
I can make one thing for lunch one day and not a scrap comes home. Two days later, the same lunch remains untouched. It’s one of the great mysteries of our time, I know. (Though since finding Yumbox, this happens less. My kids are very into lunches that look like a bunch of snacks.)

4. Kids can get overtired, just like babies.
My youngest, Juliette, starts to turn into a gremlin when she’s past the point of no return on sleep. (Seriously, I’m afraid to let her near water or feed her after midnight.) But halfway through September, I started using a weighted blanket when she gets too far into tired and cranky, and it has made a noticeable difference.

5. Going to bed without being organized is done so at my own peril.
No one wants to clean out lunchboxes at 6 a.m. And I mean no one.

6. My kids continue to amaze me.
With what they soak up at school. With the strong, brave young women I know they will be in not enough years. With the kindness and compassion they show in the schoolyard. So yes, we’re four weeks in, the routine is in place, and it’s not new and shiny anymore. But the message here is a good one: back to school comes with so much promise, and if you look for it, you’ll see it delivers in spades.

Originally published in October 2019.

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