I love back to school time. Always have. I'm a total nerd that way. When I was a kid I would spend an hour in the school supply aisle searching for the perfect black pen. I grew up in a generation before a 75 bullet list dictated whether we put college or wide ruled paper in our Trapper Keeper. And it wouldn't have mattered if I had a list or not, because even at age seven I knew better than to write with a blue pen.
So while some people have chosen to complain endlessly or skip social media altogether rather than be bombarded with first day of school pictures this week, my inner nerd is rejoicing.
This is the one time of year that everyone not only talks about school, but is excited about it. For one glorious day, people unite in their genuine and visible support of education.
My Facebook feed lit up with adorable pictures of kids holding creative signs written on chalkboards with their grade-level and teacher's names. High school seniors posed holding their first day of kindergarten picture. Teens posed in front of the same tree where they had stood each year to show their growth. The creativity was endless!
With pictures complete, I, like so many other parents, drove the kids to school and walked them to their classes. And at the end of the day we sat down and debriefed about every detail of their day. After a home cooked dinner, and a mountain of district and campus paperwork, I bragged about their amazing day on Facebook, we said our prayers, and prepared to do it all again.
I went to bed Monday night with the hopes that this year would be amazing. The Facebook pictures and back to school pep talks and parody songs had once again filled me with the optimism that only a new school year provide. I was prepared to be a better mom this year. To limit screen time to an hour a day. To volunteer more. To make a healthy breakfast every morning. To complete homework before it was due. To make healthy lunches in the shape of cartoon characters.
And I was on track too. Until yesterday morning, which, if you are keeping track, was exactly the second day of school. The kids had been awake for about 90 seconds and I was just heating up breakfast when I heard our daughter yell, "Mommy, the toilet is overflowing!"
I'm sure there have been times when we could have had a conversation with our children about how many times to attempt to flush a clogged toilet, and the best times to have that conversation would have been anytime except at 6:37 a.m. on the second day of school. The very day when I woke up confident that Tuesday would be as smooth as Monday had been, kids smiling and laughing as we all sat down and ate a healthy and balanced breakfast. Based on the amount of water on the bathroom floor, we have never had this conversation and I am guessing our daughter flushed the toilet at least six times, leaving us standing in two inches of toilet water.
Richie plunged, and we sucked up water as the kids ate their somewhat less healthy pancakes on a stick and I tried to calmly explain why you need to call mommy or daddy after one flush, before the water goes everywhere.
As calm as I tried to be, the flooded bathroom set the tone for the rest of the morning, from battles over the new toothbrush that spins and how long you actually have to brush your teeth and if you have to use toothpaste (a conversation I would have preferred any other time than while mopping the newly dried flooded bathroom floor) to the last minute lunch that didn't get packed thanks to the flooded bathroom, as I literally pushed the children out the door, my heart sank. One day. We made it one day before it all fell apart. It wasn't going to be our super year after all. It was just going to be another year of mid-night trips to Walgreens to buy poster board for a project we just found out was due in 8 hours, peanut butter and jelly for dinner, and me mumbling in frustration under my breath because the kids can't find their shoes and we are running 15 minutes late.
But then something happened. My kids came home at 3 o'clock and told me about their day, and as they did, their eyes lit up with that back to school glow that I had just a day before. As I listened to my daughter tell me about the science experiment her class was doing tomorrow, and my son tell me about his new kindergarten buddy, the disappointment of the morning started to fade and I realized I had the power to help keep this momentum going or to stop it dead in its tracks.
I had the power.
And so do you.
Believe me, I get it. The third day of school is not as exciting as the first day, and the 30th is not as exciting as the third. It's tough. Managing work and a family and a marriage is draining, and single parents, I don't even know how you are still standing at the end of the day with all that you are juggling! And the farther we get into the school year, the more difficult it becomes. Homework gets harder, extracurricular activities require more time, there are tests to take, bullies and boyfriends to contend with and it feels like Thanksgiving break is never going to get here. That new school year feeling fades and you are left to navigate all these realities, and sometimes that means standing in two inches of toilet water.
So take this momentum that you have right now, today, and let's push forward together. Let's keep posting pictures of our kids doing great things at their schools, be it public schools, private schools, or home schools. Let's encourage our kids and encourage each other. Let's give teachers and administrators our undying support and gratitude, not just on the first day and the last day, but every single day in between. Let's get involved and stay involved in our kids' education, by volunteering in our schools and by working with our kids at home.
This week, right here, right now, this is as good as the feeling gets for education. Let's keep it going, no matter how deep the water gets.