Today marks three whole week of the kiddos being back at school—and lemme just stop for a moment to do a praise dance while I sing:
“THE LORD HAS BROUGHT ME TO A LAND FLOWING WITH MILK AND HONEY AND QUIET!”
Hallelujah! The kids are back-in-school. God is Good.
In spite of my newfound glee over structure and order in my home once more, I know the novelty of September will wear down, and we won’t truly hit our groove until October… maybe by Christmas break.
I’ll just have this getting-the-kids-up-and-out-the-door, filling-out-forms, signing-of-reading-logs, and homework-helping thing under control, and then they’re back for another break. Oh gracious.
Even though my kids have been back to school for a few weeks, I still don’t feel like we’ve transitioned fully into the school year. So, I’ve decided to offer myself grace and consider the first four weeks back as the entire “back-to-school” season.
Have you noticed that in the first few weeks of school, you’re constantly pouring out information about you, your kids, your family’s schedule, you and your partner’s blood type and weight, the kids’ food preferences, your preferred route home, and who you’re voting for in the next election cycle? No? Maybe that’s just our school district?
But, really, it’s non-stop, right? It feels like I’m bleeding words about back-to-school on a screen.
A few years ago, I started a practice of sending five emails for creating borders of peace around us in this stressful season — a Back-To-School Shalom. Shalom is the Hebraic concept of wholeness, goodness, and harmony.
Here are those emails.
1. Back-To-School Solidarity
This email is specifically to rally my people, to see how we can tackle the new school year together.
I ask my friends, “What do you need to not lose your mind this school year?” In the past, I’ve helped with after school care, morning pick-ups, and coffee and snacks at my house right after drop off, and I’ve even filled in for someone on a field trip.
This email is to create a community of support around me.
Some things I know I’ll need? A weeknight dinner potluck with another mom. My husband works late a few night a weeks, and on those nights, our evening schedule completely falls apart.
There’s something about eating Ramen or cereal for dinner that makes my kids lose their ever-loving minds, while I ultimately hiss in Parseltongue,”SSSSSSSSSSSTOOOOPPPPP FIGHTING AND GET IN BED!”
(If you can’t tell, I hate the mid-week chaos.)
This email invites friends whose husbands works late, too, to bring their kids over for dinner. We’ll pool our resources — someone brings the salad and Capri Suns, I make the lasagna. We go in on a great bottle of wine and eat a home-cooked meal together.
When they go home, I get the kids bathed and showered, and when hubs walks in, there’s actual dinner for him. C’mon, you can’t win back-to-school better than that, right?
Think about what would help you this school year. You might need a clothing swap, homework help, or an invite to a carpool. Write out all the things that bring you anxiety, then invite your friends to help relieve those for you.
And then, offer your help as well! Ask how they’re doing, what their needs are, how you can pray, and offer to organize a couple of meet-ups over the first semester to support your needs as women who want peace in your lives.
2. Advocating For My Babies
Ever since my son was called the n-word by a coach at school, I’m not afraid to speak up on behalf of my kiddos about anything that’s been hard or frustrating for them.
This email invites the teacher to partner with me in my kids’ flourishing.
Recently, when I let them know my kid is sad about our recent move to Saint Paul, or that we’re looking for a therapist, they’ll offer resources and guidance. What I’ve learned from sending this email? Teachers love their students so much, they almost always welcome partnership and support from parents.
In this email, I also send info about any family values, convictions, or beliefs we may have that might affect their school day.
For instance, our family’s personal conviction is we don’t place our hands over our hearts when we say the pledge of allegiance. If the teacher knows this ahead of time, she won’t correct my kids in front of their friends, nor think they’re being disrespectful.
The key to this email is my tone and posture. I want to communicate, “How can we be on the same team?” not, “Make sure you don’t jack up my baby, m’kay?”
3. Whatcha Need, Teach?
This is a separate email from the advocacy email above — I don’t combine them in one email because they have two different objectives: this one is all about the teacher.
What are her needs? What are her preferences? What supplies does she NOT want to buy this year AT ALL? How can I support her?
I’m not offering to be room mom here, just her advocate.
I love this My Favorite Things print from Etsy. I attach it to all these emails and ask the teachers to fill it out return it to me in my kids’ folders whenever they get a chance.
I also give them my cell number and tell them if they’re having a rough morning and could use a coffee, please text me. I’ll grab it on my way to drop off the kids and will deliver it to them.
I like being empowered to care for the people who are caring for my babies.
4. Dear Ms. PTA President
This one can be a little tricky because it requires knowing your limits and wording things clearly.
As scary as the notion may be, I also write our PTA president (or school/family liaison) to introduce myself, my students, and offer my help.
A PTA exists to enrich our kids’ experience at school, and for the most part, they’re led by really amazing parents. I think the PTA gets a bad rep because of the many, many, many emails for help. It can be overwhelming.
My practice of peace here is to set boundaries before desperation hits the fan.
If I send the first email, I’ll introduce myself and tell her I only have space to help with one thing during the fall (not the whole year; I’ll send a second email in the spring), so that when I say, “Yes!” to a volunteering op, it’s a “Heck yes!” and not a, “Errr — okay…. I guess.”
This is the most sustainable way I personally can be part of campus life without losing my kindness at a PTA meeting, quitting dramatically, and then running against the president on a “Bad Mom” platform.
5. Sign Me Up.
This last email is for personal growth while the kids are at school.
Wanna know my nerdy confession? I’m a little jealous of them when they go back. I think about all the new things they’re going to learn and I simply can’t stand it — I want the new of Back To School, too!
This season, one of the best ways I can care for myself is to learn something new. I made my list of things: mixology, building up my podcast so it’s an encouragement for peacemakers, mastering my Instant Pot, and discussing Henri Nouwen’s, Life of the Beloved with girlfriends.
Then, I start emailing around to find groups or classes. What have you always wanted to try or learn? Send an email to that dance studio or adult ed school and get more information.
Sending these five emails gave me some peace and excitement at the start of this school year.
With a little planning, a few conversations with your people, and these five emails, perhaps you can enjoy more deeply the peace and quiet of back at school, too.