This is my kid passed out on the gym floor at the end of the first week of school last year. First-week-of-school Friday does not play. Although I have many years of experience tucked under my proverbial back-to-school belt, this is a fact I manage to forget Every. Single. Year.
I mean, yeah, I remember the kids will be tired. Who’s kidding––we’ll all be tired. I also remember that the jolt into early mornings and routine and performance expectations, though slightly traumatizing to our summer-saturated souls, is kind of a welcome change from the chaos. I remember how much I enjoy a peaceful house for a season and how productive I can be without the multitude of messy minions around to undo everything I just did, only faster. But I quickly forget how much it takes out of us at first.
I forget how exhausting it is to sit and pay attention for an entire day when your body has thoroughly adapted to the carefree, laid-back schedule of summer. I forget that while I’m at home living my best quiet, nearly people-less life (#introvertproblems), they're busy navigating the rules, relationships, and learning curve of a new school year.
If this is something I continually forget, perhaps you do, too. So here’s a friendly August PSA: first-week-of-school Friday is ROUGH. It just is. But that won’t stop it from trying to convince you otherwise….
First-week-of-school Friday (FWOSF) will whisper to you, “we just finished the first week of school! Yay! We not only survived, but we rocked it! Let’s celebrate!”
Just trust me when I tell you this is a terrible idea.
FWOSF will tempt you to think, we should get together with friends! Should we have people over for dinner? Or better yet, let’s go out to eat so we don’t have to cook at the end of a long week! And FWOSF will persuade you to actually plan something in the evening on the assumption that your already over-extended children will have any ounce of energy or good behavior left in their little bodies come 5:00pm.
This would be a mistake.
FWOSF may also try to cajole you into adding sugar in any of sugar’s delightful forms. “It will be so fun! Let’s create a tradition!” FWOSF will say. Friends, do not listen. Adding crazy fuel to this already combustible situation could result in a threat level red meltdown. Unless, of course, ice cream is one last desperate attempt to maintain peace and survive the evening (aka, a bribe). Then go for it.
Something I’ve learned over the years is the lower the expectations, the greater the joy. For us, a FWOSF celebration in any form other than an early pizza dinner at home and ice cream from our own freezer is setting ourselves (and our kids) up for failure.
Since we’re all friends here, I’ll save you some shock and misery and let you in on what FWOSF will be like. Obviously, the younger the child, the more extreme the effects of the first week of school. I’m a complete dork with too much time on my hands, so I came up with an acrostic––FWOSF will be R.O.U.G.H. Here’s what to expect of your little cherubs at the end of the week:
R––Reactive. Think of the kids as active landmines waiting to explode at the slightest application of pressure. If you look at them the wrong way, they will cry. If you say something with the slightest hint of a tone or anything that could be misconstrued as criticism, they will yell back through tears. If you move, blink, utter any words to any people, they will get upset. Just remember: it’s not you, it’s them. No really, it is.
O––Overtired. They will be so, so tired and lucky to make it through dinner without falling asleep. Plan on having an easy, uncomplicated dinner earlier than normal, if possible. Think about how you respond to life when you haven’t had enough sleep all week. So, yeah, expect the walking dead version of your kid.
U––Unreasonable. Y’all, instead of encouraging kids to grow in wisdom and stature, the first week of school reverts them back to their terrible-two selves. They will shamelessly overreact if you give them the red cup instead of the yellow one, or if, heaven forbid, you accidently order pepperoni pizza when all their little hearts wanted was cheese. There is no point in trying to reason with them, because toddlers. Just disregard the laments and keep your eyes on the finish line––bedtime. Also, earplugs aren’t a bad idea.
G––[require extra] Grace. Although hitting siblings and talking back and general rudeness are not acceptable forms of behavior, remember that this isn’t the time to pile on consequences with the hope it will deter their behavior. Because it won’t. That crabby train will keep barreling down the track until they’ve lost everything but the dirty, playground-stained clothes on their back and they’re grounded until they’re 35. Tonight they need some grace, so do your best to correct them and let it go.
H––Happy to go to bed early. Listen to me when I tell you, capitalize on this development. Take advantage of it for all it’s worth, because after the next week or two, they will have acclimated to the new schedule and you will not gleen this much evening alone-time until next year. Put the kids to bed early, mama. Tomorrow is a new day, thank God.
First-week-of-school Friday will be ROUGH for everyone, including you! Do yourself a favor and adjust your expectations accordingly. When the evening goes sideways and you’re left wondering if exasperated extraterrestrials have embodied your children or why a slice of pepperoni pizza would ever evoke relentless tears of despair, just remember it’s FWOSF, and that explains everything.
You’ve got this, mama warriors. Next week will be better.
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