Back to School

by Eileen Wacker on Aug 25, 10:06 AM

We need a bro code for moms.

I just pulled an all nighter. Not a partying all nighter with friends but a night spent staring at the ceiling with a giant ‘to-do’ list looping through my head. Eyes wide open, trapped in my worry vortex. It’s back-to-school season and I’m exhausted.

On one hand, having my four kids back with their friends at school will be blissful. We’ve had lots of together time, traveling to the East Coast to see family and friends, sleeping in princess beds and doing laundry on the fly. Stressful travel and time changes threw a few moments of suffering our way but it’s worth all the fuss to catch up and reconnect.

My kids miss the social aspects of school, aka their friends, when they are on a long break. When I drop the last one off at the school curb, I celebrate. I can finally get some work done. I can have lunch with a friend eating food that I want to eat. I can start to work out again. All the fast food, ice creams, meals out and barbecues add up. Building childhood memories is fattening and I need to lose weight. But when I’m really hungry, I lose patience more easily.

I was taking my daughters back-to-school clothes shopping today. Everything I pick goes into the Goodwill pile with the tags on after being buried in a drawer for a year. They are pretty fun to shop with when they get to pick out their own stuff. My oldest daughter said, “Can I ask you a question?” She had already asked me about 167 questions and I was sure I’d been asked over 300 questions from the four kids combined. “Can Asheley sleep over? Can you pick her up? Her mom works. Can I meet some friends at the movies tomorrow and go to the beach if there is no hurricane? Can we get pesto sauce so I can make pasta to bring the first day?” She doesn’t wait for answers. I want her to enjoy her last moments before school, but her proposed agenda times four kids makes me start to clutch the wheel and sweat. Her sister wants her friend to come over for two days for swimming, Dave and Busters and hide and seek. My son is all in on bowling and reminding me that he is absolutely the only eighth grader in his school or on this planet for that matter who is not allowed to see rated ‘R’ movies. My other son’s club basketball started and there is practice or a game every day all around the city.

My kids claim I force them go to summer school, tennis, running and basketball camps and National Geographic expeditions. They insinuate I stole their summer and owe them these last moments of fun. I want to yell, “It’s for your own good and I had to pay for it and get you there!” But I have to remain the bigger person, at least until I get them to the school gates. I’ve spent the last week getting school supplies and making sure they have the right clothes for the school dress code, PE and sports.

Thanks goodness for my mom friends. We all have slightly different versions of the same stories. We get together and we vent. This is the cleanse diet for stress. I can’t really vent to my husband or he gets out some random power tool ready to fix something, or makes the colossal mistake of saying, “You always over-schedule them. You need to cut this out.”

He doesn’t see the competitive chaos that has crept in everywhere. Lining up the tutors, coaches, instructors, and activities is the baseline. Then I hear about all the skills training and amazing adventures all the other kids had. Shoot! I should have skipped the relatives and sent my child to an academic boot camp or a total immersion language program. I start to second-guess myself. Am I doing enough?

I already have a pile of back-to-school nights on the calendar.

Back-to-school is one place a mom’s code would help.

The mom who asks at the sixth grade session, “What can be done to accommodate my child who studied math at John Hopkins and should really be working above grade level?” makes us cringe. Or the mom at the seventh grade session— “I think exceptions should be made for some children to take Latin and another language as Latin will help on the standardized tests but it’s a dead language,” adds too much pressure to the teacher’s meet and greet. Reserve this for a one on one with the teacher. Or at the fourth grade open house, all the good field trips are filled up before the event starts. And the pick ups and drop offs are a nightmare for rule followers. I think there should be some line, somewhere that moms feel embarrassed to cross.

School hasn’t even begun and the voice classes are full. Same for drama and dance. My kids sometimes change their mind about what sports or activities but then there are no spaces left! Things filled up months ago. How I can execute my strategic mommy agenda when my little monsters keep weighing in and asserting their strong wills against my over-scheduling and worry.

My kids aren’t worried about a lack of college prep or making a sports team at school. Or advancing a level in piano or starring in the school show. Or securing the best tutor. I worry that they are not worried about the right things. But deep down inside I know they are worried about the right things and I need to step back out of the competitive chaos. Keep some perspective.

I will participate to some extent because some of it is okay. But we need a few ground rules. I’m hungry and sleep deprived and don’t have time for the competitive nonsense. Or else I’m going to buckle and eat a bowl of brownie batter. And I’m only one day into my diet.

It’s time we admitted that we need a Bro Code for Moms. A Mom’s Code.