Whatever back-to-school looks like for you and your family, one thing is for sure: this year is different from any other year.
As we get our masks and hand sanitizer packs ready, alongside transparent glue and endless colored pencils, our collective stress level is mounting. How are we going to survive this?
The short answer is — I have no idea. The longer answer is, I’ve put together some sayings that we can whisper to ourselves under our breaths in the closet, or scream at the top of our lungs in the shower.
I urge you to join me in survival mode. Clothes are allowed to be mismatched in school pics. Laundry might be on the floor during Zoom classes. This is about getting through the day. When you see your six-year-old practicing the hula hoop during math class, just shrug to yourself and think “Whatever works”.
“You do you”
This is not the year to try out bento box lunches or cut passionfruit into star shapes. Or maybe it is! Maybe turning your hard-boiled eggs into miniature bunnies is exactly the distraction you need. You understand your family’s needs more than anyone else does, so please ignore everyone who’s telling you that you’re trying too hard, or not trying hard enough.
“More kindness, less judgement”
COVID has me thinking about the old sitcoms we used to watch, where nosy neighbors peered through windows hoping to catch a glimpse of some infraction. Please. Do not be that neighbor. You might pass a schoolyard and see kids not social-distancing. You might see a university student skipping their Zoom class to catch some sunshine. When this happens, and you find yourself passing judgement, think about taking the opportunity to think kind thoughts instead.
“Sit with it”
I have a bad habit of trying to make my negative feelings disappear. I’ve been working on reminding myself to just sit with sadness, or disappointment, and you know what I’ve learned? If I just sit in the moment, it does eventually go away. If you are in reaction mode, looking to solve everyone’s back-to-school problems, you may be absorbing all the undesirable energy. On the other hand, sitting with some discomfort, and encouraging your family members to do the same, may help you let go without trying to find solutions to everything.
“God, grant me the serenity…”
…to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference.
The Serenity Prayer is one of my favorites and is a basic tenet of the 12-step sobriety movement. As I discuss in my book I Wanted Fries With That, this prayer reminds us that some things are just out of our control. We can’t control which teachers our children have, or who is in their classroom this year, or whether the uniform policy has been relaxed during COVID. What we can change depends on our particular situation. It may be your family homework policy that needs changing, it may be your “no pajamas after 8am” rule. This is a good framework for talking to your kids about back-to-school stressors and reviewing with them what we have to accept and what we can improve.
As you ride the roller coaster of back-to-school emotions, I hope some of these words will resonate with you. And if not, you can always make your hard-boiled egg into a bunny.