I don’t know about you, but my family has wrestled with the transition back to school. Trying to find a workable rhythm and a sustainable structure with this new schedule has been difficult. In many ways, it feels like trying to keep your balance while standing on a rolling log in the water. Catch my drift?
At the end of the previous school year, my sons enjoyed their new school. They were excited and thankful for school, and the time with teachers and friends each day. Now, here we are at the beginning of a new year, and things have changed.
I wake my sons each morning at the crack of dawn. The first words I hear are, “Mommy, can we please stay home today?” followed by, “We don’t want to go to school!” then, “I am too tired!” and, “School is too long!” If and when these don’t produce the desired results, the Ace of Spades comes out, “But Mommy, we miss you too much!”
I attune with their feelings and credit their creativity. Then I remind them how much they enjoy school. I invite them into the day where joy is just waiting for them to show up. My husband Chris reminds me they are learning essential maturity skills, such as learning to do hard things along with some practice doing hard things they don’t feel like doing.
Because of the previous two years with the school, I knew we would eventually find our rhythm. In a short amount of time, the boys would wake up on their own, dress before I check on them, and have extra time to play before we leave for school. Here is what I call the sweet spot. Things are where they should be. As you can imagine, I was eager for all of us to find this place!
Now that we are entering our third Fall and the start of school, I have learned that changing routines is taxing on the kids. Simply, the transition drains their capacity. This change is a big adjustment where they must go from a care-free summer with late evenings, lazy mornings and the option of “jammy days” to a more structured day with the early wake up calls, leaving the house for much of the day to learn, listen, and grow. I can understand this takes a little time.
Paying attention to emotional and physical capacity is vital during seasons of change. The sudden turn in the road with long days, new schedules and added stimulation can be demanding. By the end of the day, my boys come home weary, restless and hungry. It becomes my focus to synchronize with their needs and support them through the transition. I have learned what restores their capacity and preserves my sanity.
First, I meet my children with food. Second, I provide the opportunity to run and play without structure. While the needs can be different for each child, I have one son who thrives when he completes his homework right away then has the rest of the evening to play. My other son does better with some play before starting his homework.
I have noticed one-on-one time is crucial, especially for my youngest who often wants to interact, play or talk. He often tells me how he missed me at school because “the day was just too long.” Even 10 to 15 minutes can make a big difference in how well the evening goes.
The most important ingredient to restore their capacity is sleep. For my sons, they still need 10-11 hours of sleep each night, and sometimes more during high-stress seasons like a transition. Since my sons need to be up at 6:30am to prepare for school, this means getting to bed each night between 7:00 and 7:30pm so they have the opportunity to catch all the rest they need in order to function well.
As you can imagine, this schedule can be a challenge because it significantly limits after-school activities, especially while they adjust to the new routine. For the first few weeks of school, we purposefully planned low-key weekend activities close to home with protected time for “jammy mornings” as well as unstructured play time. Part of increasing a secure attachment with our sons has been synchronizing with their needs and not simply expecting them to synchronize with our needs. This is a delicate dance.
I am delighted to say we finally found our sweet spot as a family. The boys are now waking up on their own in the mornings – earlier than I would have gotten them up. This provides time to play in the morning. The incessant, desperate pleas to stay home from school have disappeared. The boys are now caught up on their needed rest, and they are ready to start the day with joyful anticipation of good things ahead.
Paying attention to our individual capacity as well as our family’s capacity can be hard because it means saying “No” to things we enjoy. It means we learn to protect times for rest and we stay tender to one another’s weaknesses so joy can increase. Finding the rhythm of joy and rest along with work and play is essential to the well being of a family.
Where do you need to say “No” in order to free up some space in your life? Are you synchronizing with the developing needs of your children or expecting them to synchronize with your needs? Are you providing opportunities for rest?