back to school family

We’re prepping our kids for back-to-school. But what are we doing to prepare ourselves?

Photo above by Sugden Guy sugden via Unsplash.

You can already see it approaching in the distance, can’t you?

The back-to-school freight train, slowly returning to speed after idling since last year’s end-of-summer run. It’s ready for us to jump right back on and dive into all our glue-stick bin hunting, our teacher wish-list fulfilling and form-filling-out-ing, our school-shopping-day scheduling, our mom-text bantering about “who got who” for a teacher and our dusting off of the color-coded kids activity schedule.

The whistle is already blowing. Yep, there it is again.

Better hold on tight, parents — it’s about to get real. But you know what else is real?

The OTHER things that happen like clockwork this time of year, but sitting quietly on the side of the track as we tighten our grip … hoping to make it to that first-day terminal.

For me, it’s the familiar ping of stress that starts to creep in as I anticipate the new homework, activity and sports schedules that my family will have to navigate.

It’s knowing from experience that it’s guaranteed I’ll melt down somewhere around week 2.5 because I refuse to delegate any of my mental load to anyone else.

It’s knowing that even though I tell myself I’m fine, there’s always a hint of grief I navigate as my kids get another year older and I wonder if I’m doing any of it right.

It’s also remembering how bad I felt last year when October hit and I realized I had let “busy” get in the way of family time that I know is good for all of us.

These are ALL things that affect my mental health and affect the way I’m able to show up for my kids, my husband, my friends, my work … and myself.

But every year, I don’t prepare for these things.

Every year I do all the things to complete the “to do” list before the school year starts — and every year, as I love my kids through another school year, I find myself in the same place of frustration because I choose to not pack with me the things I need for MY own wellbeing.

Sound familiar?

I know I can’t do it anymore, and I wonder if some of you feel the same. My mental health deserves better, and I want to set our family up … for BETTER this year.

I will still buy the pencils and pack the lunches and paperclip the medical forms together. And although I am not naive enough to believe that NO stress will make its way into our walls, I am also making another list to try to keep it at bay.

It’s a list of the things our family needs as we enter back-to-school season together.

A list of things the kids need for their well-being.
A list of things my husband and I individually need for ours, as well.
A list of non-activity days we’ll set aside for the family time that we know rejuvenates us.
A list of people we’ll turn to when we can’t do it on our own.
A list of health appointments we will no longer put off.
A list of things we’ll do for fun when things get too serious.
A list of self-care tools to which we’ll turn when life gets too heavy.

These are things that can help our family create the opportunity for peace — for ourselves individually and as a family unit.

No, these aren’t the extra Oreos for the lunches or another dry-erase color to complete the rainbow on the activity schedule. They are the things we truly need to make this back-to-school season one where we can all show up as our best selves FOR ourselves, and for each other as a family.

Imagine what could happen if we are all as intentional on completing THAT list as we are getting every last marker, pair of scissors and pack of number two pencils on the other one.

Because while we know the school supplies are necessary and that organized family activity schedule is, too — this year, as the back-to-school freight train picks up speed and we all leap aboard, what if we make this the year to remember that focusing on our wellbeing along the ride… is just as important?