I know you’re feeling it, mama.
Because I have some dear friends who are feeling it right now too; that notched up, wild ride that comes with having kids in school during the month of May.
It’s the time of year where it seems perfectly acceptable to squeeze all the things into the last few weeks of school. Breaking the schedule, incentivizing and sugar-hyping our kiddos and wreaking havoc on our capacity to be present and mindful for all the things.
I’ve been on both sides of this crazy. As a teacher/educator and as a parent (both married + single). I want you to know dear mama, that I see you and no, you’re not crazy, it’s simply too much.
THE MAY CALENDAR CRAZY PRESSURE
Whether you think it’s a big deal or not, there is pressure to participate in the May (End of the Year) Calendar Crazy.
The field days and field trips. The teacher and assistant appreciation weeks. Prom for the older kiddos and programs + parties for the littles. There are permission slips to be signed, fees to be paid, graduation parties to be planned, gowns to be purchased. There are even some schools who are selling supplies for the coming year. And don’t even get me started on Kindergarten “graduation”…
It’s too much.
And our kiddos are watching. They are listening to and are affected by how we respond we respond it all. And because they don’t have the filter we ought to, they carry that stress with them – some even share your complaints and concerns aloud. With their friends. In front of their teachers. Let’s be real, some of your kiddos straight up tell the teacher what you’ve said or how you’ve responded.
They are watching the pressure we put on them as a result of the pressure we’re putting upon ourselves. We say that it doesn’t matter what they wear or how they do their hair, but who they are and how they treat others. Yet, we are frenzied. Baking and buying for their teachers because of the pressure that has been added in the most recent decade. Trying to proclaim that all of this this is how we care for those in this profession as handle the end of the school year.
THE ROOT: WHERE DOES THE CRAZY STEM FROM?
One of the things I like to write about in this space is tending to one’s soul. Which essentially means digging deeply beyond what’s happening on the surface, beyond what someone is saying or how a child may be behaving to get to the root of what is happening; essentially to learn “why”.
I don’t think the children are at the root of the May frenzy. And I don’t think the teachers or schools are either. I believe it’s the parents.
There are thousands and thousands of schools in our country that do not have the luxury to give up instruction time for these non-academic activities. Many of the kids that even get to experience field trips and parties with non-GMO, peanut-free zones are children from upper-middle and upper-class homes. And while it is not bad for parents to want to have and offer these things to their kiddos, even if the school did not take the field trips and give them outside experiences, the parents could afford to – and do it themselves or pay someone to do so.
This is a way that we impose what we think happens in our homes on others. Changing what is “acceptable” in society, shifting the bar on the “shoulds.”
It’s pressure. Absolutely unnecessary. And in my opinion, working against what is most beneficial to our children. Feeding into what is important to us as adults, rather than what is best for the kids.
They are so much more simple in their desires until we load some of our own on them.
5 WAYS TO SIMPLIFY & SURVIVE MAY AT YOUR CHILD(REN)’S SCHOOL(S)
I’m not here to cause trouble, strike up disunity or create tension in your schools or in your homes. I also know that I’m not speaking for every child, teacher, school administration or parent.
But, I want to encourage you to take a breath before you agree to any or all of the things this May. And if this post is too late and the thought of bucking the system (even a small part of it) is giving you hives, then this year, I just want you to let some of these ideas swirl in whatever brain/soul space you have for it. You can come back to it next year, or tackle some or one of the things for one of your children.
1 • Draft ONE letter or email to all of your child(ren)’s teachers telling them your new approach to May and why you’re doing it this way.
Create a draft/template that allows you to leave room and personalize some of the qualities and talents that you really appreciate about that child’s teacher or your child’s experience in that classroom or school this year. Be sure to save it because you’ll likely want to keep it for next year.
This type of gift for the end of the year is going to be wonderful for the teacher who feels loved by “words of affirmation”. And it costs you some time, but also saves you some if you do this annually.
Don’t feel comfortable telling them what you’re gonna do (it took me years, friend)? Then send a very short email – one paragraph max – asking them to select one thing from your personalized list; be sure you know you can deliver all of the options you offer. Be sure your list avoid more stress and crazy for yourself and your people.
2 • Game plan with your kiddo(s) ahead of time which events are most important for them to have your support for.
Explain to your children that you’ll be taking a more strategic approach to ending the school year this year. That making it through May without a meltdown, a crying jag or eating all of the treats for their party is going to be better for you, but also for them. And then let them know that you will all celebrate together in your own special way when school is over.
Try to lay out all of the school requests now and ask your kiddos to choose one or two that they would like you to be present for and why. Then choose the activities that are going to allow you to be present without feeling like you’re trying to do it all or letting down the other people who rely on you.
If your children are in the second grade or younger, I suggest you tell them what you’re going to do. Third – fifth graders? Give them a couple of “workable for you too” choices. Sixth – high schoolers? Be grateful if they want you anywhere near their school and move heaven and earth to get there.
3 • Simply say “no” to your PTA/PTO Pals.
Not, “I’m so sorry I can’t help you bake 2,400 cookies by next Tuesday”. Or “I can’t this year but you can count on me for xyz”.
It’s just “no”.
Not sure what to say no to this May?
If you have to switch around what your kiddos are most excited about to help this person, then the answer is just simply, “No sweet friend, I’m unable to help you make that happen.”
It gets easier, I promise. Giving your friend that sweet, direct unapologetic no means she’s that much closer to finding someone else that can say yes.
4 • Plan a day of rest for yourself before the kids are out of school.
Don’t deprive yourself of an appointment to do something you enjoy in order to help keep the crazy train going. Schedule yourself in now. Like, right now. Try to avoid waiting until everyone else is scheduled before you schedule yourself.
For some, it may seem that you are bucking the system. For others, maybe even just one sweet mama new to how this all works, you may be the breath of fresh air and hope that she needs in watching you give yourself permission to step off the rollercoaster.
5 • Speak up about this stress in a loving, constructive way.
But, do it in October…
While you’re in the drive-through lane, pull up the Notes App on your phone and jot down your thoughts about why this time of year is not working or is stressful for you, your bank account, family and especially your children. And then, in October, respectfully reach out to the PTA board and/or an administrator to let them know that you have some thoughts and concerns you’d like to share.
This is a tricky one. You can end up meeting a lot of resistance or end up with a new position on the board (or both)! If that’s your goal then I hope it goes well for you. But if it isn’t, be sure to include that what you share.
If you need an extra boost, think of a friend with more kiddos than you, now your back and open your mouth.
WIELD YOUR PARENT PULL LOVINGLY
Parents have a lot of pull in our schools. I’ve seen it from the inside as a teacher and especially as an administrator.
The “right” children have the “right” parents who are often more vociferous advocates. They are louder, more present, more certain. And though we aren’t “supposed” to, oftentimes administration caves to what those parents want, forgetting to advocate to have what’s best – in a learning environment – for kids.
Keep this in mind.
Advocating for your child doesn’t mean getting everyone on board with your way of thinking. Speaking up and sharing what you will and won’t be doing for the benefit of your child is your responsibility – as long as it isn’t about bending the law or breaking the rules, the school should be willing to hear you.
While speaking up for yourself and your people, you may be inadvertently helping that single parent who is overwhelmed with just getting their littles to/from school, keeping money in their lunch accounts and managing the household on their own (speaking from personal experience on all of those). They may not have the capacity to juggle all of the things and your pulling back and voicing some “outside the box thinking” could be a way to lovingly advocate for them and their kiddos (their bank accounts, the schedules and their mental health) too.
I hope that at least one of these tips can help you survive and quite possibly thrive this May – your kiddos too! And that they can help you put some solid practices into place for the benefit of your family throughout the rest of the year.
Some of you are ahead of the game and have your May mastered. If that’s you, please share some of your recommendations in the comments below.
And no matter what, keep your eye on the prize. Summer is within reach!