There went summer. Flew by in an instant. Camp, sports, late nights and lazy afternoons - they all come to a screeching halt as the school year calendar awaits.
Every outgoing summer I say that I'm “ready for the structure of the school year.” But as that reality approaches, I remember all of the anxiety that the school year ushers in along with the cooler weather.
As I write this, I feel the pit in my stomach. How does a working mother of busy teens get the kids to and fro? The instability of schedules, school work, dinners…….
I think what most plagues me is all the unknown of the year. What do new teachers bring? How will the little one do at her bat mitzvah? How will this year treat my high school aged child? Will she be able to handle the stress that junior year brings? What little traumas will happen to each of them at school this year and how can I help? Can I help?
The answer is often no.
I am trying to keep “Zen” this school year. I want to ask myself different questions and hopefully, asking these questions will help to reframe my mindset around school year.
As an avid reader of “Grown and Flown’ (which is amazing, by the way!!), I am reminded that these years are precious and few.
So, here are my new questions:
1. How will I grow this year?
Instead of being afraid and anxious, how can I grow -- not only as a parent, but as a wife, a friend, a mother and a therapist? The school year can be a restart for us adults too. We can learn as much as our children from their little traumas:
- how to persevere without control
- how to sit in discomfort
- how to show compassion
- how to support and not fix
In other words, all of the things that as parents we HATE to do but all the things we NEED to do. This year, I vow to continue to practice (without mastering!) these skills. (And you know what? We don’t need to master these skills - we just need to be good enough.)
2. How can I help my children grow?
See above. Wash, rinse, repeat.
3. What are our family’s priorities?
After a bit of a health scare, my husband and I have spent a lot of time reassessing our life and priorities. Our number one priority? More fun. We know we need to command family time - it doesn't have to be a ton of time, just once a week. It doesn't have to be a fancy vacation. Just a place to play, have fun, and create family inside jokes. Time set aside to connect without having to teach lessons….just to have some good old fashioned fun….screen free. That creates memories.
4. How to embrace my imperfections as well as the imperfections of those I love and care about?
I LOVE Brene Brown. I PREACH her work. Do I follow it? Not as much. The amount of pressure I put on myself to produce - not even to be perfect - is astounding. Homemade, healthy dinner on the table (thanks to the health scare - a priority), get everyone to activities with required equipment, on time (even when the schedule changes on the fly), be funny, caring, have the cleanest house, make sure the dog has her prescription food…the list goes on.
How about we practice self-compassion? Maybe the dinner is the leftover chicken and veggies from the night before. Maybe little one wears the wrong color jersey to practice. I may forget to sign a waiver that is necessary. Maybe the older one has to wait 20 minutes for the pick up. I am good enough. My kids are good enough. And that has to be enough to for all of us.
As I write this, as a mom and a licensed clinical social worker, I became aware of what the pit in my stomach signifies - fear. Fear of imperfection, failure, falling apart, trauma - my own and those I love. Let’s make a pact with each other - we are going to practice self compassion without fear. It seems like that is the antidote to the pit in our stomachs. Self compassion translates as compassion for others. And that helps combat the fear.
Let’s be ok with good enough - with ourselves and with our children. Let’s have more fun this school year. Let’s create imperfect memories.
Brooke Fox, LCSW, is a co-owner of Fox, Levine and Associates, Learn more about Brooke here.