Have you seen what parents are packing in their kids’ lunch boxes lately? The ratio of time spent preparing versus time spent eating has got to be skewed. Sure, it shouldn’t be the norm to just toss a bunch of prepackaged things from the snack aisle into a Ninja-go lunch box, but you don’t need to feel ostracized because you packed that box with processed foods and plastic baggies and not one single organic item. A mom’s got to do what a mom’s got to do sometimes. And it’s not just lunchtime, the entire school year has major exhaustive potential for parents today. Since when do first graders have nightly homework, and who decided our kids need to have an activity every night? It’s time for a real mom’s school guide. Let’s make it rain perspective.
First, if you can convince your kid to eat the school lunch, this is ideal because you aren’t scrambling around half awake trying to reinvent the PB&J. If your kids are on the pickier side and keep a 10-foot radius between them and the hot-lunch line, we can make that work (with some of the options, you can’t blame them).
When packing a lunch, your goal is not to outshine the Bento Box Champion; you have three goals:
- Make it as balanced and nutritious as possible. Yeah, sometimes that means fruity snacks count as fruit. Forgive yourself in advance.
- Make sure your kids will eat it. The fanciest, most nutritious lunch you can muster is useless if it just gets traded for a pudding cup or tossed in the trash. In the long run, you need your kids to eat something. You do not — repeat, do not — want a hangry kid walking through the door at 3 p.m.
- Make it in as little time as possible. If you’re late for work because you’re making five-star lunches, stop it. Think sandwiches, wraps, or leftovers in a thermos. Keep baby carrots or some veggies and fruits you chopped the night before on standby.
Homework sucked when we were kids, and — guess what — it still sucks, only now we can’t admit it. Instead, we have to preach how important it is and remind our kids not to rush through it.
Some experts say it’s best to do homework as soon as kids get home. Some say have a brain break and a snack first. But, this is a real mom’s school guide, and we know our kids better than any experts. If you and your kid are both banging your head on the dining room table during nightly homework, something is not working.
It might be unconventional (and it certainly wouldn’t work for older kids with an hour or more of homework), but sometimes real mom’s have to break the mold. Why aren’t we talking about doing homework before school on the day it’s due? If your kids are still early risers, they have plenty of time in the morning anyway. Wouldn’t that time be better spent warming up their brains with a refresh of yesterday’s lessons instead of watching whatever is cued up on Netflix?
All the Activities
The absolute best line from Friends happens in the first season when Phoebe is invited to help Ross set up his Ikea furniture after his divorce. She replies with “I wish I could, but I don’t want to.” Why on earth are we overcommitting ourselves and our kids, especially when we reach a point where it isn’t even fun anymore?
If you’re already the spouse club president, walk quietly away from the PTO signup table. If you’re the room mom, do that — just that. You don’t need to be involved in everything; make sure you have time for sleep too.
And the same is true for our kids. Let’s get one thing straight, your kid is special and talented, but he or she — sorry to be the one to tell you — is not going to be an Olympian in four sports while getting a full-ride in a STEM subject and have a concert-pianist side gig.
If you’re rushing from gymnastics to soccer to piano in one night, it’s time to re-evaluate. Sit down with your kids (because when you throw in multiple kids with multiple activities, it starts to get real interesting) and decide which sports and clubs they really like. If we’re forcing them to do things because it’s expected, we’re shaping them to be overcommitted adults, which is part of the reason this real mom’s school guide has to exist in the first place. Leave enough time for them to just be kids and ride their bikes with the neighbor kids.
Teacher gifts (yes, gifts — plural) have gotten way out of hand. If you’re giving your kids’ teachers a Thanksgiving gift, really think about that. Thanksgiving break is their gift; they don’t also need an apron with your kid’s turkey handprint on it.
Pick one or two days to give teachers a gift — maybe Christmas and the end of the year because they survived a year in a room full of kids; that is something to celebrate. Don’t feel pressured just because other parents are showing up with potted plants on Arbor Day or green-themed gift baskets on St. Patrick’s Day. When you do give your kids’ teachers a gift, don’t overthink it. Teachers like Target gift cards just as much as you do.
If you’ve gotten nothing out of this real mom school guide so far, get this: If something isn’t working this year, don’t just deal with it. Change up the routine if necessary. A school year is a long time to power through an agonizing routine. Use your mom instincts. Tune into your kid. Keep the homework, activities, and lunch prep in perspective. If you don’t want to do something or your kids’ don’t want to do something and it isn’t mandatory to their progression to the next grade, cut it out!