Did you know that I once bought a $75 lunch box for my five-year-old daughter? She is twelve now, and I have some perspective. But in the moment of wanting to do the right things and be the right mom I let Pinterest, the mommy bloggers and her fellow five year old friends make me believe to truly thrive in Kindergarten this box was required.
I used to begin preparing and checking off the list from all four teachers, consumed by all 400 emails, weeks before the new year even began. I don’t think it’s bad to be ready. But through the seasons of parenting , when I couldn’t sustain some of the systems I had created or expectations I held, it was time to take a closer look at what was driving me.
I quickly discovered what caused me to purchase a $75 lunch box. I got to the bottom of why I bought back to school shoes three weeks before school started, which led to the frustration of constantly saying “No! You can’t wear them yet.” It wasn’t what I thought I should do or even expressed desires from my kids. It was you. Well, not specifically, but theoretically. It’s the mythical “they” that so often drives our decisions. And it’s hard not to get sucked in. Google search ‘back to school parenting tips’ and you will find a multitude of advice regarding filing systems and emergency kits for your students back-pack. As well as best practices for volunteer options and ways to connect with the administration team. It’s a lot. With all the information, how-to’s and you should haves, it’s no wonder I just settled at a $75 lunchbox and buying shoes way too early. It kinda felt like the minimum.
This year my oldest got her backpack the night before school started, and my son didn’t even get new shoes. He settled for the Jordans he got for his birthday three weeks ago and was delighted he didn’t have to wait to wear them. As for lunches; I’m not sure what they put them in. They now pack those all by themselves. You could say that’s about their stage of life. I say it’s me releasing my unattainable personal expectations and giving them responsibility.
So what’s changed? Well, not you. I mean, the “mythical they” stills spouts off the same advice when I type back-to-school in the Google search bar. The change is me. You see at the end of the day there is nothing wrong with buying a $75 lunch box or even an early purchase of NIKE sneakers. For some, those might be the perfect items and timelines for the family you are raising. And that’s why I decided to root myself in five things that guided me in how I would approach going back to school for me.
1. Know your values.
Knowing your top core values is like having a brighter flashlight to get you through the woods. A duller light may still get you where you need to go, but you’ll stumble more or be led astray. And buy a $75 lunchbox for a five-year-old. Just sayin’.
2. Stay in your lane.
It’s not my business what other people think of me, my kids or my back-to-school prepping. I love the mom who files all the papers. And the one who bakes bread for the office staff. That’s not me! But send me on a field trip or let me throw a class party. This is my lane, and I’ll win a gold medal for your school this way.
3. Own your own feelings.
When we base how we feel about ourselves on other people’s opinions, we are relinquishing the control of our own life. They become the puppet master, and when the strings are pulled, we feel good or we feel bad. I stopped making so much meaning out of peoples' responses or reactions to the things I did or the way I was doing them. It’s taken some work to detach from every little thing another person says or does, but it's been well worth it.
There’s a saying, “I’m doing my best with what I’ve got.” I like it until I don’t. I believe in doing our very best. The second part hangs me up. Go get more. Grow. This mindset shift has helped me. If I’m doing my best to grow as a mom, then I’m doing a good job. From the place of growth I make less decisions from lack or reaction, but more from a place of abundance and creation. Which really leads me to my final thought.
5. Nobody’s perfect.
You’re going to make mistakes. We will never get it all right. We live in a culture where we don’t often talk about how we feel. It turns out we all experience the same feelings, and we all make mistakes. Even if you are living in tune with your values, even if you are staying in your own lane , even if you are doing your best and growing, you will make mistakes. Have compassion for yourself. You're not alone. The productive thing you can do with your mistakes is to learn from them.
So this is it, mama. I'm not sure it will come up in your Google search. But I sure hope it helps you go back to school!