5 ways to survive the may (school) calendar

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.

Here’s why…

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”.

Nope.

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!

 

 

 

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#60: talk about your future

We just got back from our anniversary trip to San Antonio!

And I’d say we were both incredibly excited about it. One of the things we discussed while dating was how much we enjoyed traveling and were looking forward to doing it together. And our first year of marriage, we traveled like travel agents; or how often I imagine travel agents traveling.

Anyway, during our last Date Your Spouse Date#60: Talk About Your Future, we did just that. And spoiler alert, traveling is still a big part of our lives and the things we enjoy.

For this date, we sipped red wine and snacked on appetizers (my hubby’s version of a charcuterie board) and we talked about our future. In our office/2nd bedroom on the desk that we work from. I share that to tell you, it wasn’t about being fancy – for us – it was about the opportunity at hand.

red wine

selected by my personal sommalier

charcuterie

he did it all on his own

Before I tell you about some of the things we came up with, I wanna say something to the wives…

It was Mister’s turn to plan the date. And he did a great job. His style is not mine and his “presentation eye” is different than my own. And that’s okay. HE DID IT!!! He planned the date, he purchased the wine, he purchased and chopped all the things that needed to be chopped and he showed up and was fully present to discuss our future.

It’s really important for us as wives to let them do it their way when it’s their turn.

For those of you who don’t feel the need to micromanage this kind of thing, go ahead and skip to the end. But for those of you who feel compelled to share your displeasure when your husband’s talents and strengths don’t look like yours or match what you think it should look like, be warned.

If it must be to your liking and you correct and over-correct, your husband may want to quit serving and dating you. There are even scriptures about being this kind of wife in the Bible and they convict my heart + soul.

Let go of having the “perfect date” or the date as you think it should be and be grateful that you have a husband who is willing to learn your preferences and act on them; that you have a partner who is trying, and making the effort.

When I get snooty, lacking contentment and gratitude, I have to stop myself and replace it with a reminder that I can be…complicated. And be thankful that he is willing to show up and try again.

An aside, he’s not perfect and has his things too – he’ll openly admit that – but since I’m the one writing, I must share about it from my perspective in an attempt to shout to all other women who might hear. This is me: a woman speaking from personal, failed experience which I hope will be a “success” or “win” for you. You can learn from my mistakes, just don’t gloat, k?

Our talk about our future included discussing dreams, fears, and insecurities in the unknown. It also included faith, encouragement, and courage in looking backward to see evidence of how far God has brought us – before we even came to know one another. There is travel in our future, there are talks of work-related goals and there is giddiness in imaging experiences we’ve never had.

For me, this date revealed how much more content and grateful I need to be while in the “in-between” when things haven’t yet happened or maybe even seem like they aren’t going to.

Nonetheless, we’ve had another intentional date – we’ve actually had a few, I’m just behind on sharing them here – and am still so incredibly thankful for this thoughtful wedding gift from a friend and the grace we give ourselves as we work through the dates.

Oh and if this is your first time reading about these dates, hop on over to my whole page on dating your spouse for more date ideas – our experiences, freely shared with you here.

 

 

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4 reasons I’m writing as a “Titus 2” woman

If I were to write a book, it would be called something like, “A Hot Mess + A Dumpster Fire: Inside My Thirties & My Faith”. It would basically be about how very hard life during this decade AS A CHRISTIAN.

a blogger's tools

my outdoor workspace

It no longer shocks me how many people think that becoming a believer in Christ means that your life becomes easier. Don’t agree? Think about how many people distance themselves in their relationship with God when something really painful or unexplainable happens to them or someone they love.

From about 31 years old to 41 years old, most of my days were difficult; filled with so many moments of pain and hard to comprehend tragedies. I often questioned God’s power, plan and sometimes I even questioned His love for me.

Before I was a widow, we’d had troubles in our marriage.

And then he died and I was grieving and struggling with those marriage troubles. I was ashamed and embarrassed in my grieving. I attempted to numb the pain by drinking and traveling. I was vulnerable in every arena that I found myself in – with women who were close friends, church members + leaders, employers and co-workers, peers and even some family members.

And because of what God has brought me through, I just know that I have to share my story.

Here are four reasons I’m attempting to write my story as a Titus 2 woman:

1 • I longed to talk to a faithful woman to who could listen, hear and relate

I felt desperate to talk to a woman who had experienced even a sliver of what had happened to me and who would be real about how hard and messy it could be; how emotionally unglued I would be for so much of that decade as I attempted to get my feet back under me.

I was often longing to have a woman hear my story and not feel sorry for me, try to fix me or make it about them. I often shared my story with women who were not to be trusted with my story because I was so desperate to make a connection to another woman who could understand that kind of pain.

While going through it, my healing was often stunted by well-intentioned (or what I need to believe were well-intentioned) folks who detonated more grief by their unknowing. They would want to help but would compound my hurt into harm with what they spoke what they would do if they were in my situation or when they would liken it to their own thing which seemed planets away from what I was feeling. (Don’t tell me about your grandparent who lived to be 89 years old dying when I’m blubbering about burying my 33yo husband. Not right now, thank you very much.)

2 • I longed to talk to a faithful woman who would help me make tough decisions without attempting to control me, taking advantage of me or shaming me

It was not just these kinds of things that made that time difficult. I made tons of horrible decisions that were often smothered in rebellion, desperation, and fear. For example, saying yes to a second marriage that neither one of us should have been in.

I have needed to ask for forgiveness for the things I’ve done to others in my own hurt, escalating an already difficult situation. Many of my poor, impulsive, pain-driven decisions turned a very tragic loss turned into a whole decade of hot messes and dumpster fires. Maybe I will write that book. Perhaps, it’s time to tell that story.

All of it.

3 • I long to help other women know that they do not have to walk through hard things alone

Because every time I sit across from a woman who thinks I can help her better navigate her life’s challenges, grow in her faith in spite of her circumstance or just hear her as she speaks her hard realities aloud, I can relate to her pain. I can hear her hurt and instantly, I feel connected to her.

And in that, I long to help her know that she can survive “it” (whatever it is). And that if she really wants me to, I can help her do the work she needs to in order to experience the victory and then thrive.

4| I long to believe that my story is not just for/about me.

I don’t want my experience to go to waste. I don’t want to believe that all that I went through was just to make me a better person. I also don’t want women to feel like they have to figure everything out on their own or navigate new spaces and seasons as if they are needing to do it independently, laced with comparison and competition.

It makes me think of the scriptures in the Bible that talk about these kinds of relationships between women.

“But you are to proclaim things consistent with sound teaching. Older men are to be self-controlled, worthy of respect, sensible, and sound in faith, love, and endurance. In the same way, older women are to be reverent in behavior, not slanderers, not slaves to excessive drinking. They are to teach what is good, so that they may encourage the young women to love their husbands and to love their children, to be self-controlled, pure, workers at home, kind, and submission to their husbands, so that God’s work will not be slandered.” | Titus 2:1-5

Y’all, I have not perfectly achieved this. And that is not really my goal. But in the past 6 months, as I sit and talk and connect with women in their deepest areas of hurt and shame, it’s clear to me that almost every conversation I have with women can be connected to these verses; especially the part about my showing up as an “older woman” encouraging younger women in their hard seasons and spaces.

I’m not proclaiming that I have anything all figured out. That would be laughable. But, I have learned a lot about the “reverent behavior” by doing a lot of not so reverent things. Wondering if you’re a Titus 2 woman? I appreciate this insight: 10 Signs You’re a Titus 2 Woman.

I thank God for His grace (one of my “one little words” for the year) which helps me to see myself more honestly and to share my story here without shame or apology. And to love women as a Titus 2 woman as a few godly, powerful, amazing gems have done for me.

That’s my heart. To share boldly and without fear for the encouragement of other women, especially as women and for women in the church. And because I believe in the power of God’s forgiveness, love, and mercy for His imperfect creations – us. Us who are messy, inconsistent, rebellious, disrespectful, hard-headed, prideful, overzealous, judgmental, critical, undisciplined, divisive and hurtful people. And that’s often before we have tragic things attempt to wreck our souls.

I am and have been all of these things through some horrible, tragic things and want to share with other women to be of help and encouragement as they navigate these hard spaces and places. In the words of Erin Davis, Bible devotional writer, “These aren’t things we inherently know. According to God’s Word, these virtues must be taught. And who should be our teachers? Other women! Women who’ve walked the path of faith ahead of us and can turn and say, ‘Follow me as I follow Jesus.'”

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