What are your kids packing for school?
Sweet September…the return to normalcy…. or perhaps, just the closest we get to it. I remember as a child how I looked forward to returning to school! Yes, I was one of those kids who liked school and fortunate enough to have done well in it. The lazy days of summer were always welcomed but by the end of August, time off had become mundane and my older sister and I were running out of things to fight about! I did not come from an affluent family, but the return to school always meant one new outfit, new runners (as we affectionately called them) and shiny new school supplies. No tablets, no cell phones in those days, just a zippered pencil case and notebooks. As the years passed and I became a parent, I remember the stress of back to school shopping with my children (mine…not theirs) and the anticipation of the first day. Our home now quiet and our children grown, I will quietly sip my morning coffee next Tuesday while other households will be echoing with orders and reminders of “eat your breakfast, lets go and did you remember everything?”
Many kids will don their new backpacks, outfits and excitedly board school buses on their first day…. but what happens to that child who doesn’t greet the coming year with an eager smile? What about that child who struggles in school, the girl who didn’t develop over summer (like the rest of her classmates), or the new kid who has no familiar faces to greet him? What do the coming days feel like for them? Being the mother of a child with a learning disability, I remember how my son’s personality would change as the summer’s last long weekend came to an end. His mood would get more sullen and the carefree expression of summer would slowly fade from his face. The new school year did not feel like promise for him. It was filled with anxiety and fear and that gnawing feeling of trying to keep up. As other kids were packing their bags with great anticipation…he was packing fear into his! My experience with my son, makes me wonder how many other children will be packing fear into their bags on Tuesday? As parents we don’t always notice it. The additional tasks of returning to a schedule and getting them ready for school can easily become just another thing on our “to do” lists. We send them off on that first day with a kiss on the cheek and the greatest intentions but are we tuning in to what they may be feeling? New beginnings are scary for everyone, children as well as adults. As parents, the stress we experienced in school pales in comparison to what our kids are experiencing. Adolescents are using terms such as “time management” and “finding balance” when it comes to their schoolwork, activities and social life. Terms far too adult for such young lives! Is this the example we’ve given them? Life will provide our children with experiences we cannot protect them from, nor should we! Experiences such as disappointment, broken hearts and failure are the real teachers and it’s those experiences, which will shape them. Our job as parents is to give them the tools and support to face those moments. Let the tools we give them be compassion, mindfulness and understanding and let us strive to be an example of what really matters. After all………..what are you packing in your bag?