On the Eve of My Children Returning to School

school

On the eve of my children returning to school, my feelings are a bit unexpected. I’m not sure if it’s simply a result of the 16oz blood orange margarita I enjoyed last night at Taco Tuesday, or if I’m really feeling all of the feelings. All of them.

We are going back to school. Full time. Face-to-face. On campus. Our school gave us a virtual option but we decided not to take it. We are going back face-to-face for a few reasons.

One, my husband and I both work outside of the home; making the idea of at-home virtual learning a stress-filled, anxiety producing non-option. We did this back in the spring — working from home while teaching from home. All I can say is that I didn’t do either job very well. Both sides suffered in some way.

Our kids really want to go back. In fact, they cannot wait to get back on campus! They are ready for friends. They are ready for some sense of normalcy. We have been buzzing with that back-to-school energy all week. Cleaning out and loading up book bags, trying on uniforms, and even waking up early. They are ready. Honestly, I’m ready, too.

Also, my husband and I feel really confident in the plans laid out by our school. Every possibility is accounted for and risk is being mitigated. Under the current circumstances, I honestly couldn’t ask for more. I’ve sought insight from our pediatrician and she fully supports sending our kids going back to school.

So, we are going back.

I’ve felt confident and strong about our decision…until today. It’s the unknown and man, that’s a real mind-field.

What if? What if? What if?

The truth is, there is no perfect decision for this school year. There is no risk-free option for any of us. All options suck in some way. We just have to make the choice that sucks the least for our families, and that, well, sucks.

The start of the anything new is always a charged time and I was prepared to feel the normal mix of uncertainty as our children embark on the new years of 7th and 3rd grade. I was prepared for that. But this year is different. It’s filled with an entirely new set of uncertainties bringing on a new wave of anxiety.

When I feel this way, I want to micromanage my family. When life feels out of control, I look for ways to control things even though I know the hard truth — control is a fallacy. So instead of making my family nuts, I work things out in other ways.

Bizarre ways, maybe, but hey — you do, you, right?

That bag of $10 caramel chocolates that tasted slightly waxy? It needs to be returned to the store TODAY.

Does my daughter have enough black pens for school? I think so, but just in case I’ll buy her two additional packs.

Don’t we have oral, ear, and tympanic thermometers at home? Yeah but just in case this laser beam one is probably a good idea.

Those book bags we happily packed? Let me just check, double check, and then re-check that special pocket of COVID supplies one more time.

All of those half empty laundry baskets? Yeah, it’s probably best to run multiple small loads today just to ensure every last bit of clothing owned by anyone in my home is washed.

That errand I had to run today to return chocolate? It’s best to blare Bruce Springsteen because only he has the words to sooth my soul.

None of us have control. The lack of it can make us feel crazy nuts. Like today, I’m feeling a bonkers sense of hope and excitement, sprinkled with sadness, anxiety, and worry. But feeling the need to control life, and actually trying to do so, can have disastrous affects. Trying to control life can ruin relationships.

So for today, instead of smothering my children, or forcing things upon them, or filling them with my stresses, or making them scared or fearful, I’ll be running random errands and doing unnecessary loads of laundry. Those chocolates I returned? Good thing, because I’ll probably be eating half the bag while hiding out in my laundry room.

Bottom line, ya’ll, the only way we are getting through this year is through faith. Without faith I am nothing. I am letting go (which takes my breath away) and leaning in to my faith.

So if you are feeling out of control these days, remember how I’ve handled things today. Give yourself a ton of grace and hang in there.

***

This piece originally appeared on Facebook at Melanie Forstall – Stories of Life, Love, and Mothering, published with permission.

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Melanie Forstall
Melanie Forstall is a full-time mother, full-time wife, full-time teacher, and never-enough-time blogger at Melanie Forstall: Stories of Life, Love, and Mothering. She holds a doctorate in education and yet those many years of schooling have proved to be utterly useless when it comes to actual mothering.