The countdown has officially begun in our household. 7 more days until the girls are back in school. Let me give you a quick overview of how we’re all feeling about this right about now…
Lila, my five-year-old who has been asking to go to kindergarten since she was about three years old, has suddenly decided that she might not really want to be in school full day, because she would rather stay home with Mommy.
HJ, her eight-year-old sister, on the other hand appears to be most concerned with her backpack. She has decided that the brand-new striped Pottery Barn backpack with the special pink horse patch that her aunt has gotten her is not her style nor her signature color, and that she needs to purchase a new one. I am trying to keep her away from Target and Toys R’ Us so she does not beg for another Frozen backpack that will fall apart halfway through the school year.
Mr. Juice, slammed with work as usual during this time of year, may not really be aware that the kids are actually starting school in one week.
And me? I finally decided to open those school supply boxes that I ordered from the PTO after I read some panicked posts on our local moms’ Facebook page that some of them were missing crucial items and that they had to run out and get them. After years of waiting until the last minute to buy school supplies, I thought that I had done my due diligence, but it looks like I may find myself standing in line at Staples again with all the other frazzled parents, trying to grab the last colored folder and 8 oz. Elmer’s glue bottle.
In fact, I think that pretty much sums up how our whole summer has been.
This year, I vowed things would be different. No big vacations. Just summer camp and summer school, swim lessons, and no stress. I restrained myself from having a million things that I wanted to check off our list, because although “that’s the way Mommy rolls” as Mr. Juice put it, I knew that I would probably have to drag the rest of the family along as they complained about wanting to just stay home and chill.
Things got off to a surprisingly smooth start. Happy campers off to their first day of camp. Survived the girls’ birthdays by throwing one gigantic combined gymnastics party (which I recommend for getting it done and over with, but would not recommend for having over 30 kids in one place). Survived HJ’s transition to summer school with surprisingly few bumps. I think it helped that one of her friends from Girl Scouts was in her class, thank goodness, and that most of the teachers remembered her from previous years. I have to say, when I saw one of her aides from HJ’s very first Early Childhood special ed class five years ago, I nearly teared up. Although we had an issue with the bus — 40 minutes being the first kid picked up and the last one dropped off on 90 degree days on a bus with no air conditioning — it turned out to be a blessing in disguise as I got to watch her jump out of the car without hardly a look back at Mom. It was a far cry from the days of preschool where I had to carry her in while she was still wearing her Winnie the Pooh nightgown, or worse, the one time I had to have the principal physically remove her from my arms as she wailed her way to the classroom.
So yes, we have made a lot of progress over the years. I can’t deny that, and I’m thankful for every small step HJ has made. But there have been days this past month where I thought — I literally cannot do this anymore, and I feel like I have been doing the same exact thing for the past seven years!
Mostly the downward spiral started the week of our late summer vacation. The first mistake I made was my overambitious plan to use HJ’s Six Flags Read to Succeed free ticket before it expired on the day before we went on vacation. I knew it was a risk, but I was determined to put that free ticket to use, even if I had to pay $25 for parking and gather several other free tickets from a friend to make it work. Let’s just say we survived, but barely. It wasn’t Disneyland, but with the lines and stress, it felt a little too similar to our spring break “adventure.”
In any case, that set the tone for our “relaxing” return to our glamping getaway at Kinnikinnick Farm. This was our experience when we went two years ago, and while nothing on the picturesque farm had really changed, the weather happened to be 90 plus degrees this time around, and we discovered that heat, humidity, no air-conditioning, and being in open fields where there was no shade and where the sun seemed a hundred times more intense made for some crabby kids… and parents. To be honest, the pictures look like we are all having a grand time, but I think we may still be recovering from the heat of those three days on the farm. The best thing about the trip, though? No wi-fi. Meaning the kids completely forgot about their electronic devices and Youtube videos. A miracle in itself.
The day after we returned, I decided that we would all renew our passports if only for the reason that it was one of the rare days that Mr. Juice and I were both home and the kids were not at camp or school, and I had to pull off a Skype interview with the CEO of our company at 9 a.m. in the morning. Not exactly a way to ease back into things!
Somehow we survived the last couple weeks, with thank God, one last week of full-day camp for both girls. The girls made it through with flying colors except for the one day I went on a work trip and my mom had to forcibly put HJ on the camp bus. HJ had decided she wasn’t going to camp because she couldn’t find the swimsuit bottom she wanted. Thankfully my mom, who has seen Mr. Juice do the exact same thing during the school year when I happen to be out of town, managed to carry HJ on the bus, kicking and screaming, without shoes. I frantically emailed the camp director on a meeting break to see if HJ had recovered, and then had to listen to my mom tell me how she was never watching the kids again in the mornings. Then I thought, has anything changed in the past seven years or are we still just treading water, trying to keep from drowning from the everyday stresses?
I had that moment again this week when HJ refused to go back to swim lessons. Refused to put on her swimsuit on day one. Day two, got her swimsuit on, and she said she would do the lesson if I got in the water. I basically lied and told her I would, and when the time came, enlisted the help of another swim instructor who got in the water instead of me, and HJ somehow made it through the lesson, pausing halfway to look at me tearfully and half-heartedly begging to come out, and then ended the lesson doing an effortless back float and bragging about the ribbon she earned. Who knows what day three of the lessons will bring.
And such is the theme of our life these days. Despite all those days she didn’t want to get on the bus, get out of the car, or walk down the hallway, second grade was mostly a success for HJ thanks to an incredibly patient, incredibly supportive teacher. I’m just praying that things go as smoothly in third grade.
I guess that’s what I’m learning from all of my challenges with parenting HJ, although it seems I’m a pretty slow learner. There are some things this mom who really likes to be in control just cannot control… number one being my daughter. Through all the dropped violin lessons, unfinished gymnastic classes, and the head-to-head battles in the mornings, my little eight-year-old HJ continues to break my pride and keep me humble everyday.
But as I said at the beginning, thank God for the end of this very long summer vacation and thank God for the beginning of school, routines, early bedtimes, and a 9 to 5 (or should I say 8 am to 3 pm) where I will be gloriously alone in the house with just my computer and own thoughts to drive me crazy.
Ask me how I’m feeling one week from now. I guarantee you I will be a lot more chipper, and a lot more lively, and if you are a mom with kids going back to school, I will gladly celebrate with you as the teachers commiserate with each other about the end of summer break and the beginning of their school year. Believe me, I have the utmost respect and admiration for teachers (having been one myself) for having the hardest job in the world besides parenting. Good luck to you as all our overtired and sunburned children arrive in your classrooms. I’m just trying my best to make it to the first day of school over here.