How Do Parents Really Feel About Back to School?

Me? I’m thrilled that my kids start school tomorrow and the day after.

I mean the summer was fantastic for my kids. Even though they had to be out of the house an hour earlier (than our usual school-time mornings) to get the bus to camp, their days were filled with fun and exploration. Each afternoon, they came home exhausted, filthy and happy. They ate their body weight in food for dinner each night, guzzled their milk and slept like babies. I absolutely believe they both grew a foot in height and gained a virtual pint of confidence and joie de vivre. Their bodies are toned, they have gorgeous tan lines and their hair is bleached. I look at them and see perfection, as only a mother does.

But I am beyond ready for a return to the regular routine of the school week. Our whole family needs the structure that the school week provides. My son in particular, given the latitude of the summer months and his tendency to take a mile if given an inch, really needs the grounding infrastructure – dare I say restraint? – of school: for him, the order and discipline of school helps to amplify and reinforce the behaviors we expect from him at home. For my daughter, starting kindergarten cannot come soon enough. She is extremely ready for this next stage in her journey. She is hungry to learn, eager to become “a big girl.” I am so incredibly excited for her.

And I wondered how other parents feel about this time of the year. Relieved and eager like me, I presumed? After all, I’ve seen tweets aplenty from other Moms expressing their bittersweet farewells to summer and their welcome embrace of the return to school.

So I decided to conduct some very informal, unscientific research among my networks and was actually surprised by the variety of responses. I asked parents to express from 1-10 how they feel about back to school, with 10 being the superlative (where I’m at.) Here’s some of what I heard:

0 – downright miserable:

I want them home with us and not have to get them up (which is torture for all of us) and then homework and routine and then we cannot go on trips and then we have to deal with the schools and then bus and I could go on, and the cold weather …

5 … reluctantly returning to reality:

The summer went by too fast! I want to play some more! I also don’t want to get back to the routine of rushing in the mornings, homework, sports and reality…..

8 … super excited:

I am super excited because my children are looking forward to school. It also gives one of the best people in my life some one on one time with my littlest one and hopefully more time for her to get everything that she wants to do, done ….

15 … (remember the scale was 1-10!):

The time has come. We need some structure back into our lives.

So, Moms and Dads, how do you feel? Will you be whooping and cheering as the school bus drives off or grumbling through the next few days?

10 Tips For Surviving Your Staycation & Having Fun

(This post originally ran on Framingham Patch.)

Ooof. Last week was a long week! The kids and I were staycationing and we had a full schedule that included swimming, bowling, butterfly visiting, mini-golfing, Jedi training, ice cream scarfing, hanging out and much more.

Friends and followers have remarked that I must have been competing for an Olympic gold medal in parenting and staycations. While I admit that earning the title of “Most Funnest Mom” was secretly my goal, the reality is that I wanted to fill my kids’ week with awesome summertime memories.

This staycation was primarily a cost containment exercise (i.e. no camp for two weeks) but it has also been a bonding experience as well as reconfirming that I am in no way cut out to be a SAHM!

If you too are staycationing, here’s some advice from me to you on how to make it enjoyable for the kids – and sane for you:

  1. Plan ahead: I do this by maintaining a list of all the interesting places and activities in and around our neighborhood. I’ve been doing this ever since my kids were toddlers so that I wouldn’t have to spend time thinking about what to do or where to go. As I embarked upon this staycation week, I was armed with a master list of options for destinations and activities.
  2. Use local resources to find timely events: I subscribe to these two site’s email newsletters and follow them on Facebook and Twitter – Boston CentralMommyPoppins Boston. And I also check my local Patch’s 5 Things You Need to Know each day. This way, I can learn about fun activities taking place on any given day. For example, we discovered a really fun Jedi training session that was running last Tuesday at a nearby public library. It was hoot!
  3. Don’t go it alone: Pair up with another family, if you can. By jamming into one car, you’ll save on gas and the kids can entertain each other, rather than pester each other and annoy you with endless “are we there yet?’ questions. Plus you’ll have a grown-up to converse with.
  4. Set a budget: It makes sense to figure out what your total budget for the week’s outings and activities should be ahead of time. Or set a daily limit. Or simply check out admission costs before you leave the house so you don’t get any nasty surprises. A couple of the places on my list were prohibitively expensive or charged entrance for adults. If you’re in and around Boston, check out the great free options made possible by Highland Street’s Free Fun Fridays in the summer.
  5. Check the weather before you head out: Nothing worse that getting rained on when you don’t expect it! Make sure there are some indoor activities on your list, just in case. We had to change plans twice last week due to storms!
  6. Say yes: As a Mom, I say no to my kids A LOT. This week, I’ve been trying my hardest to delight them by saying yes as much as possible, within reason. (Enjoy it while it lasts, kids.)
  7. Ice cream: On a daily basis. It’s summer, it’s vacation so why not? Yes, we built ice cream into every day! Also works as a great motivation for good behavior.
  8. Mix up the routine: I am a big believer in routine but staycation is the perfect time to throw routine out the window. Past bedtime? No worries. breakfast for dinner? Yes please. Watch a movie while eating dinner? Sure. Wear PJs until lunchtime? Yup!
  9. Be silly: This applies to adults and kids. How was I silly this week? Why, I had a light saber battle with a Jedi master, of course.
  10. Reward yourself: It’s hard work and patience-testing planning for, entertaining, driving and catering to your kids non-stop during a staycation. So go ahead, pour yourself a large glass of wine at the end of the day. Plan some much-deserved alone time once staycation is over. Meet a friend for lunch. Grab a mani/pedi

How did I reward myself? I went back to work and it was awesome!

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