It’s the 80s and I imagine standing waiting for the bus, clutching a metal lunchbox with matching Thermos filled with red Kool-Aid. We lived down an old dirt road and we rode a bus that would not pass emission standards today. School was simpler back then and so was parenting. As a child I don’t remember the stress of homework or academic achievement. The biggest goals I had were to be first to the monkey bars at recess and last in line when the nurse gave immunizations at school or called the class in for a lice check. I spent hours reading The BabySitters Club series and I loved my Trapper Keeper that actually never contained homework. I watched the Brady Bunch after school and then rode my Huffy bike for hours in my neighborhood.
Parenting is not so simple anymore and neither is childhood. I have learned a lot over the years about raising kids and I’ve decided that our parents did it right. So in an attempt to help moms live simpler, I’ve compiled a list of things to help make transition from summer to school as painless as possible. Many of these tips I have borrowed from my mother, because I think she and her friends had the whole parenting thing down. As a new mother, my first years of school with my offspring were not pretty, but I have since become more proficient and dare I say, more 80s!
First day – My first Kindergarten drop off with my oldest daughter was emotional. I held back tears and clustered with a group of other new Kinder moms. We had to be encouraged to leave the classroom and then I sat for awhile in the parking lot in case they needed me. I would have stayed all day to make sure my precious, fragile baby would be successful in Kindergarten. However, I realized that sitting in a school parking lot for the whole day listening to There Goes My Life by Kenny Chesney while sobbing looks a little manic and possibly reportable to some school authorities. I have since grown less needy and fearful and have learned to take the 80’s mom approach, because my mom did it best. My mother took a first day of kindergarten photo at her friend’s house (I cannot actually guarantee this was the first day of Kindergarten, she may have snagged a picture from something else and wrote “1st day of K” on the back in blue ink) and then walked me to my class and hugged me good-bye. My Kindergarten year was not about academic achievement and it certainly did not involve reading logs and homework. I learned to keep my hands and feet to myself, not to suck my thumb during story-time, and that the white paste on the tongue depressors tasted like mint. My mom picked me up and asked me about my day and I cried, and she wiped my tears and I went back to school the next day.
School Supply List – Oh my freaking word! If I purchased everything on these lists for each of my six kids, I would need to take out a student loan. Serious, do you think they have student loans for this type of thing? So, honestly I don’t do it and part of the reason is that half the stuff I purchase comes home in their backpack at the end of the year. Unused pencils, paper, #7 latex and gluten-free erasers, collegiate graph paper with indents and margins, wide-ruled composition book with interdisciplinary sidelines,..serious my kid can’t read yet and he likes licking things that aren’t edible, we are screwed. So, I have stuck to my mom’s plan and each child receives a backpack, notebook, crayons, markers, and pencils. After a week in, the older kids give me a list of a couple things they actually need and we go from there.
Spring Cleaning – Don’t do it! Serious, your kids are going to be home all summer. I prefer to do Fall Cleaning. Yes, organize and clean right before school starts. Your house might actually stay clean for more than 1.5 hours. And after you drop your kids off for that first day of school, invite your friends over for brunch!
Lunches – I am going to drop this tidbit and run. Don’t waste your time packing a nutritious, intricate lunch. My mom packed a white bread sandwich, a baggie of potato chips and sometimes threw an apple into my metal lunchbox that sat and warmed up for several hours before lunch. The matching Thermos would always take on a bit of a funky smell by mid-year and the white spout was stained from the red Kool-Aid. I probably didn’t eat more than a few bites of anything and the apple was used on the playground to toss around or kick when all the red dodge-balls were already checked out. You know that expensive, organic, non-GMO, preservative -free sandwich you lovingly made? It was traded for a Hostess Ding-Dong. There is a reason children come home from school ravenous.
After School Play Group – No, No, No! I don’t do organized play groups, I actually can’t stand playing Barbies and Legos. The truth is that dressing a Barbie is a feat I haven’t mastered, kind of like 40 year old me trying to fit in my acid wash Guess jeans from 8th grade. As for Legos, I can build a Lego tower and then I lose interest. Yep, 12 blocks in and I’m finished. Let’s take a lesson from my 80s mom on after school play. The rules were to play outside, let your brother tag along, and be home by dark. We were a dirt smudged band of bikers out to conquer Middle Verde. Our neighborhood band drank out of hoses, climbed every tree in the neighborhood, and ran WILD. But the reality is that we didn’t run wild. Our moms collectively parented us, they knew where we were because they were “mom”ing together. So, if you’d like your kid to play after school, I’d love for him/her to join my tribe. Just know I won’t be helicoptering over their play and someone may get a skinned knee or fall in the mud.
Sleepovers for Kindergarten to 3rd grade – Okay, I have banned sleepovers at this age. I just cannot parent well past 9:00pm. If you want your child to sleepover, just know that it is a free for all after 9:00pm, and they are given free access to the pantry and the television. There is a possibility that your child might watch Jaws or Goonies late into the night and eat Ding Dongs and Pepsi (yes, it was my kid that traded the Ding Dong for your kids sandwich). There is a reason my children have a bedtime at 7:30. My theory is that they will finally stop getting out of bed and asking for water, or the bathroom, or my personal favorite, “I need to clean up the toys I left out”, by about 8:55 and finally sleep. At 9:00, you will find me passed out on the couch rereading the same chapter of a book I started months ago. Probably titled “Pecked to Death by Children” or “Pinterest Cooking Ideas that Don’t Involve Actual Cooking”. So, if you are good with free-range parenting post 9:00 pm, then we would love to have your child sleepover. I will forewarn you that I watched Jaws at a sleepover when I was a child and unfortunately it was the 80’s and my bed at home was a waterbed. I slept in my mom’s bed for months, enough said.
Can’t we just go back to when life was simple? Do we have to endure the countless hours of homework, the worrying about whether our kids bring home an E, E+, F, N, or X, Y, or Z on their report cards, and the emotional roller-coaster known as standardized testing? Isn’t it possible to bring back the good ol’ days? You know, the days that kids actually had time to play outside, hang out with neighborhood kids and play kickball in the street? The days without so much anxiety, anti-depressants, and crying? At this point I am going to confess that I am becoming a non-conformist. I am going to do my best to give my kids a childhood like mine. I will attempt to not really care what their report cards say, or what some stupid government invented test score says about my kids. I want them to be able to come home from school and be KIDS. I want them to play hours on end, until they come home at dark to scarf down dinner and crash into bed. I want them to be emotionally secure in who they are, and confident in their own abilities. I want them to learn how to play well with others, deal with conflicts, develop leadership skills, communicate, and live life to the fullest. My hope is that in the future, they will look back on their childhood with fondness, and an appreciation for the challenges their parents faced raising kids in the 21st century. I also hope that you will be encouraged to parent like it’s 1980. There is way too much guilt and baggage that comes with parenting these days, so lets remember “Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.” – Ferris Bueller’s Day Off