Two sisters, two coasts, one blog

Back to School Blues


As I write this I am sick in bed, on day three of a horrible back-to-school flu. Thankfully no one else in the household came down with it (yet) but I am still a little shocked that it took less than 5 days of the first week back for the BTS germ-pool phenomena to take effect.

Make that point #1 on my mental list of why going back to school doesn’t seem as fun as it used to.

Of course in the past, I was The Kid. The one who got the new clothes and couldn’t wait to wear them on the first day. The one who only had to wake up to a cooked breakfast and a miraculously already-packed lunch box.

Now I’m The Mom. The one working all that behind-the-scenes magic. The one coordinating the lunches, the homework, the car pool, the lessons. And let me tell you, it’s alot of work (and not always so much fun).

My husband, gently tending to me in my sickbed yesterday, waxed philosophical. “Maybe this is a sign that you need to slow down and rest” he said. Slow down? Rest? We’ve got 175 school days still to go (but whose counting?). We’re just getting this party started.

(image courtesy of RetroMama calendar)

I will say that for the most part this first week back to school went off fairly well. It’s a benchmark year for our family because all three of our boys are in school. Our littlest is starting preschool two days a week – something we had thought we might put off for a while since he only just turned three, but after a spending a summer trying to keep up with his exuberance and tantrums, we decided he absolutely needed it. Our middle child, not yet six, is doing a second year of kindergarten (more on this in a moment) and the oldest is in sixth grade.Three different developmental stages, three different sets of needs, three different opinions on what should go in the lunch box.

Facing the first day and the early morning sunlight, we hit the road at 7:45 a.m!

Luckily, because my husband is also a teacher in the school district, we are all on the same schedule now and the night before the first day back we were “locked and loaded” (as he likes to say). Everyone had their clothes laid out, the alarms were set and we were all in bed on time.

Well, everyone except me that is. To be fair, I had spent a better part of the evening at the emergency vet with my cat who had developed an abscess but truth be told I was not yet ready to let go of my ‘freedom’ and conform to routine.

I sabotaged myself by staying up too late indulging in my latest compulsion and watching “Jersey Shore”. Like a petulant child I knew I would pay for my bad behavior but something in me just didn’t care.

Point # 2 on my gripe list: going back to school demands rhythm, routine and consistency. It rains on my lackadaisical, free-for-all summer attitude.

My friend Kelly (herself a mother of three, high-school teacher and talented writer who can make even the most mundane experiences sound poetic) had this to say on her FB page:

“It snuck up on us as it always does. September has wrapped its commitments, schedules, and shorter days around a house that mourns the loss of freedom that summer brings. It is a gift to us…September…it teaches us to use our will force…otherwise we would get lost in the floating, warm breezes with no grounding to this earth and to this human experience…I am grateful (note to self-say this over and over until you believe it)”

"Shoes off children". Royal settles in for his first day at preschool.

So yes, reel it in Rucha. Hunker down. Submit to commitment, schedules and all those volunteer “opportunities”. Now, I don’t mean to sound all sour grapes about this (might just be my current flu-ish mindset) because there are many, many things that I do love about watching my children start the new school year with 9 months of growth, learning and experiences ahead of them .

We are blessed to have them in a school which, using a Waldorf curriculum, honors their childhood (no rush to grow up) and is designed to educate all aspects of the human being through movement, music, arts and experiential learning.

Case in point: Lincoln our middle child, had his first year of kindergarten last year. Due to his November birthday he was able to start at school as a part of their ‘early kinder’ program. All this means in essence is that instead of powering through kindergarten and on into first grade, he gets to do another year, with the same loving teacher as before.

He gets to be one of the older children in the class, instead of one of the youngest.He gets to shine and be a leader and be a helper, and guide the new children in knowing what to do. Instead of ending up trying to sit still in a desk for seven hours as is the conventional approach, he will be able to play and work and get just a little more time to really “be in his body” before he has to be in a desk. It is the gift of time and it is just what he needed. (Read more about the Waldorf approach in this kindergarten here.)

Community Service! Our sixth grader Maceo weed-eating the kindergarten yard before the first day of school.

A waldorf mother's work is never done: needle-felted birthday crowns for the kindergarten, in progress.

And so the first day came, with all it’s excitement and confusion. And then the second day. And the third. By then I had figured out where the best parking spots are, when is the last possible moment that we can get in the car and still make it on time and how many hours are needed to complete the nightly homework assignments.

The kids were hanging in there, but I was becoming more and more fatigued and despondent as I imagined the entire school year stretching out ahead of me. I flirted briefly in my mind with the idea of homeschooling. Would it be the same grueling transition into the “back to school” season or could we all just lay around on the couch indefinitely? But unless I could teach a class on ‘US Magazine versus People: a comparative analysis’, I’m fairly certain I wouldn’t be doing my kids any favors by keeping them home.

parents saying their final goodbyes, first day of kindergarten

The sixth grade!

I wondered, was I the only parent struggling with this shift into school routine? I put the question out there to my online community of mothers via FB. “How is the first week back to school for you?” I asked. Their answers were comforting and illuminating. Turns out I’m not alone in the feeling of overwhelm that school brings. Also turns out that other mothers have been dishing out alot more TLC than me:

“I’m making waffles from scratch for breakfast this morning”

– Valerie M

” I wake up every morning at 5:00 to make a wholesome breakfast and lunch for my son, I run the shower and warm his towel in the dryer. I lay out matching clothes and shoes. Give him a shoulder massage while he eats”

– Valerie B

[editor’s note:  I’m pretty sure she was not joking, as if so she deserves the eternal and undying devotion of her son]

“For us it all boils down to clear communication… and good sleep for all. So you know, sometimes it flows and other times it bites hard.”

– Georgia

” First week of school and my son already has a sore throat and runny nose. Honestly, this is becoming a tradition it seems and I’m not digging it. We’re sleeping enough, eating well, etc. but still a cold. Argh!”

– Sarah

Friday rolled around, and I limped through it by letting my kid purchase lunch at the cafeteria instead of packing something healthful, and donating frozen gogurts for the after-school market instead of baking something homemade.The heat of Sacramento’s indian summer was blazing down hard and even though I could feel this flu building in my sinuses and aching muscles, I took the kids out for ice cream to celebrate, like I had promised.

Despite the sugar rush, they remained mostly subdued at the table, processing in their own ways the achievement of surviving the first week back to school. Their stoic resolve inspired me. I can do it, I silently vowed. I can pack the lunches, I can hold down the bedtime law, I can crack the homework whip.

I reflected on my friend Georgia’s words of wise encouragement: ” Yay for small victories that feed the good vibes! Hang in there Rucha…this whole month is a challenge of laying down the fall rhythm, but so worth it, as I know you know”.

So… breathe, relax and remember to rest and take it easy. Oh, but before you do:


7 Responses to “Back to School Blues”

  1. Aunt Diana

    Darling, sounds likes you’ve got it sussed! And such care for your boys….I had to iron my own shirts, make my own lunch, get the bus….but yes, I was a bit older, and those were other days.
    Look after yourself though, as well as the lovely M,L,R and K.

  2. justine belson

    lovely as always my dear writer friend. and as we move into the second week of school we can settle into the rhythm a little more and count our blessings that summer doesn’t last forever. before i sign off thought i would share with you …. i got a note from our school sharing the news that lice is going around the school. ; )
    keep calm, carry on.

  3. frances Newcross

    Oh, Rucha! Not even a week! That’s tough! But, look, you did this blog and got then off to school. Hurray for Super Mommy! I enjoy this blog you and Oami do alot. I get a small glimpse into modern day parenting and your artful lives. Thank you.

  4. oami powers

    I’m so sorry that you are feeling rotten! And yet, still a stellar mom. How DO you do it? I still vividly remember those first days of school, and how you used to have a tummy ache for a week beforehand. I agree with Keith, if you can remember that it’s a marathon and not a sprint, and pace yourself. Love you!

  5. Norman Ross Powers

    That’s right,, you’re working so hard, unpacking the whole school year in one go. Take it a day at a time and the experience will unwind itself naturally. Picture the year as a roll of toilet paper where each day is one square. You know how quickly a roll of Charmin disappears! Also, I’m sure Valerie B. was being sardonic in her quote. You’re NOT a bad Mom if the kid’s towels aren’t warmed in the morning. Heck, they’re lucky they don’t have to walk five miles to school in the snow like their great-grandmother did. Talk about experiential!

  6. stef

    omy!! school has started??? gosh i missed it…. dang.LOLOLOL!
    hey…. all i can say is an echo of georgia’s sage words… enjoy the wee victories, don’t sweat the small stuff…. and give everyone a big pat on the back(not least of all your own self) O yeah and keep a stash of varied entertaining reading material close at hand …..(so u can give that racing mind o’ urs a break. )Something inspirational,something escapist AND last but not least, the tawdry vicarious pile o’ trash pulp.

    I love u&i love ur blog. keep up the good work and the marvelous insightful writing

    BTW Berkles starts “school ” 2moro …..i went out a bought a BIG wool rug for her “classroom” and her “teacher” comes from the county/ school district…. YAY Berk’s !!Yay Gwee-doo!!
    tell the boys their tantie misses um
    & soon….. SEEDBOMBS?

  7. Jacquelyn Marie

    Dearest Rucha, You do not have to be Super Mom! You are absolutely wonderful the way you are so please take it easy and try to live in the moment! My love to you all, GM Jacquelyn


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