Beginning of the year check-in

Today is the last day for the early-bird discount on the next session of the online Writing Through Your Divorce workshop with Deesha Philyaw and me. Price goes up tomorrow, and the workshop starts September 30 and runs for 12 weeks. 

We are also accepting submissions for the Writing Through Your Divorce blog, which will be a collection of prose and poetry on divorce. Submission guidelines here. 

My friend Kristina at My Islamic Life (who I’ve known since we were 14), wrote the most bittersweet post about how hard new motherhood was for her and a beautiful review of my MoxieTopics that made me tear up. (Spoiler: Her Mr. Fox is almost a man, and he’s so wise and funny and sweet and perfect, as are her girls. Proof that you can feel like you’re making mistakes every day and still raise wonderful people.)

Now: How is school going? How is the start of fall going? Are you feeling caught up still, or have things gone off the rails a little bit? If you’re starting something totally new (school, or a new job or work situation, or anything requiring a new morning routine) know that it is going to take at least three weeks before you start to feel really comfortable with it.

I know some kids have been back to school for three weeks+, while others started back two to three days ago. And some people are celebrating Rosh Hashanah on top of all the school and post-Labor Day beginnings. 

So check in and tell us how it’s going, and if you need some troubleshooting, ask for it and we’ll help. 

23 thoughts on “Beginning of the year check-in”

  1. Well, it was a time of change around our house. My youngest started JK, so there’s that, but the biggest thing is that our daycare situation was pulled out from under us and changed without our input. In a nutshell, we were sending our eldest to a city-run school-age program that we absolutely loved. We dropped her off and picked her up there, they put her on and took her off the bus. They had our backs on PD days, snow days, March Break, summer, you name it. The teachers were experienced and loved our kids. They were so keen to get my youngest too when she started this fall.

    Well, our province, in the interest of supporting its new full-day kindergarten program, cut the funding to the city to run these programs. The school board jumped in with both feet, clamouring to take our money and run daycare out of the individual schools. So the decision was made to shut down city-run school age programs. We, and the staff, got notice in April. Everyone responsible for the decision mysteriously disappeared on vacation around the time the announcement was made. People we did speak to passed the blame around and it took us a long time to finally unravel the real story, as described earlier. We were not consulted in any way.

    The school program is costing us more, and does not include PD days, March Break, or the summer. The kids now stay at their school from 8:00am to after 5:00, instead of going somewhere comfortable and homey for the before and after periods. They miss the friends they had bused in to the old program from other schools (it was community-based, not school-based). Last Friday was the last day of the city-run facility, and everyone, including the teachers, kids and parents, was very upset. I couldn’t even take being there for that and my husband did the pick-up.

    But we’re trying to be open-minded, and positive for the kids. They are happy to see their friends, as always. These new teachers and ECEs do seem nice (although most are quite young) and they seem to be trying (they told us the kids will go to different rooms to do daycare and try different things). And me? I finished my antidepressant taper about six weeks ago and have in the last two weeks started having trouble falling asleep. Sigh. Big smiles, everyone!

  2. My daughter cried at kindergarten drop-off every morning for two straight months last year. She had so much confidence when this school year began a little more than two weeks ago, but it has lessened each day and she’s cried every morning this week. She is, by nature, a pessimist and she gets caught in cycles of negative self-talk. I teach her calming techniques and positive self-talk as much as I can, but it doesn’t seem to sink in. Worst of all, I don’t know WHY she is crying. Is she worried or anxious? Is she having problems with friends? She’s a star in the classroom and (thankfully) does not struggle academically. What can I do for her? I have to go to work after drop-off, so I can’t spend any time with her nor do I really think I should because, the longer I stay, the harder it is when I do leave for the day. I’m also confused, too, because I’ve never seen any of her peers cry like she does and she is not afraid to cry in front of her peers despite them noticing and commenting. So, on one hand, I’m glad she is resistant to peer pressure, but, on the other hand, I think sometimes peer pressure can have a positive affect and this is one area where I wonder why she doesn’t take notice that she is the only one crying each day (that feels yucky to say, but I’d be dishonest if I didn’t say that I wonder about this). She is a highly sensitive child as was I as a child/adolescent/young adult – we are two peas in a pod and still I don’t know why she cries. I work 30 hours/week and those hours are all while she’s at school, so I’m with her and her sister every morning and every afternoon. We have a consistent routine and lots of family time. I can’t figure out what she needs because she just says she wants to stay home and that she hates school. My youngest will be at the same school with her next year, so maybe that will help – knowing family is nearby?

  3. School started back last week here, then the kids had off for Labor Day and Rosh Hashana this week, so I’m looking forward to getting into a real routine next week. We’re just dealing with what I know is the typical "settling in to school" behavioral stuff at home. N is in first grade and a VERY active kid–his mind is always going and his body usually is too. Luckily, he’s usually able to rein himself in and behave very well at school, but that means he’s used up all his self control by the time he gets home. It helps to know what’s going on, but it’s tough to be a kind and supportive mom when he’s turned up to 11 all the way through dinner, homework, and bedtime.

    Homework is becoming another issue, because he DOES NOT want to sit and do it after being in school all day. It’s just a single worksheet each day–totally appropriate for first grade, but after dinner N will sit at the table and hem and haw and play with his pencil for 45 minutes instead of taking 10 minutes to finish it. My strategy is to mostly remove myself from the process, because he’s highly attention-motivated so if I sit with him he’ll drag it out as long as he can. I tell him that his name is on the paper, so he’s responsible for it, but that I can suggest things and help (like spell things for him). The super-achiever part of me wants to help him along more and make sure that it’s really his best work, but I know he also does need to start doing it himself. Any thoughts on how to strike the balance between a kid that just wants to be DONE with this (so much so that he doesn’t even start) and a parent who thought worksheets were fun and delighted in doing them perfectly?

    1. One of the things that has worked for us this year is working on homework in the morning before school. My daughter is not so exhausted, doesn’t procrastinate, and gets frustrated much less easily.

  4. My son started second grade last week and loves it. He likes his teacher and is feeling good. But the craziness is starting to set in. Homework, baseball, cub scouts, birthday parties, PTO stuff etc., that make life stressful. I’m sure things will fall into place in a few weeks, but I’m not looking forward to nightly homework battles.

    Also, my husband has been in a funk for the past few weeks and it’s really starting to get to me. He suffers from depression and anxiety and has it mostly under control, but still gets into funks now and then, so this is nothing new, but it’s so so frustrating for me. It makes me very resentful and bitchy. And, I feel like I have no good friend to talk to about it. I can’t post something like this on Facebook, you know? I just want to vent about it and I really don’t have anyone. It’s nothing that won’t work itself out (it always does), but it just sucks when we’re in the thick of it. Maybe it’s just that September thing that happens to people who have depression. The days are getting shorter, less daylight, etc. I should cut him some slack. But ugh.

  5. Over the summer moved, internationally with two kids, started a new job, traveled and visited my very ill mother, with whom I was not on speaking terms before she got sick; also, my step-father continues to be an ass-hat and more or less told me if my mother dies it’s all my fault (naturally!). My house has mostly been an empty box over the summer and we are just starting to get things squared away– it made a huge difference in my emotional life to finally get a dining table. School started a week ago for my first grader and my little one started a new preschool as well. It has been a very busy and emotional summer and I actually feel like things are settling down now. I love my new job and, after six weeks, feel at home in my new workplace and engaged and challenged by the work. I love my kids’ schools and have no complaints about the teachers– I’m on the Board of the preschool and love the community there, and while the parents at my son’s school can sometimes be a little clique-y, the teachers and school leadership are pretty awesome. My first grader is stoked about first grade and terribly excited about getting homework. I am not excited about homework– I think it’s worse than useless at this age and just stresses families out (and ALL of the research on this backs me up–WHY do they persist in giving little kids homework!?). I told his teacher yesterday that I think homework is between my son and her and while I am there to help if he asks, I’m not going to force him or correct his work. I hate assignments that more or less require the parents to do it with the fury of a thousand suns– I passed first grade 30 years ago, why am I being made to help decorate his writing folder? Why can’t they do that at school? We’ll see how it goes– I’m going to try to be hands off about it. But homework is pretty much my only gripe– otherwise, his school is awesome-sauce. Meanwhile, my little one is handling the transition pretty well, but I can see her pulling herself together and being brave each morning and letting all her big feelings out at pick up and it makes me feel wistful about her not being a baby anymore, but still being so vulnerable, you know? Anyway, sorry for the long misspelled ramble (I’m typing this on my phone in the train into work). The TL;DR version is that everything is going well, better than I expected even; lots of blessings to be grateful for, with some attendant stress. Eight o’clock and all’s well.

  6. Gah, that was supposed to be "Over the summer I moved, and traveled internationally with two kids, started a new job and visited my very ill mother…". I didn’t move internationally, just across town. That was bad enough. Typing on the iPhone sucks.

  7. I expected the start of this school year to be a totally unmanageable goat rodeo. And it IS a goat rodeo…but I seem to be managing it fine. Which is a pleasant surprise; I totally stink at multitasking. But I haven’t lost a child or missed an important meeting/activity/form yet! Hooray!

    We are in transition this year. We’re attempting to move both our kids (2nd-grade daughter & 5th-grade son) from their nearby public Montessori school (K-5) to a charter Montessori school (1-12) that’s way across town. Daughter lotteried in; son is on the waitlist, very near the top.

    So…daughter has started the new school and LOVES it, despite the fact that she’s having to make new friends and bus across town. It is everything we wish the public Montessori were (i.e., authentically Montessori, not hamstrung with meaningless tests & rigid rules).

    Son (the tuxedo-clad 10yo whom you met at Lake Harriet this summer, Magda) is happy with his teacher and his class but bored out of his gourd with the curriculum. He is a curious, arty little smartypants…just the sort of kid who would (and used to) love school when it is actually intriguing and challenging him. He is in dire need of a new environment — and we know he will get there eventually — but the waiting is frustrating. We feel caught between two school worlds right now.

  8. We are two weeks into the school year (elder in 1st grade this year). At drop off this morning I found out that the Parent Info night was last night. I had no idea. None. I’m still trying to figure out how I missed that memo. Elder has been a real jerk since school started. Lots of arm crossing and eye rolling. I’ve eliminated screen time until things smooth over. The last couple of days have been better. Younger starts preschool two mornings a week next week. Hoping it goes smoothly, but prepared for the opposite.

    On the plus side, I’ve been killing it with school lunches.

  9. Short of going back in time and having my children some time other than late August and early October, I don’t know how to fix Fall. The whole run from school starting (mid-August here) to the New Year involves frantically bouncing back and forth: school starting (with a ton of homework for kid 1 and a whole lot of school events to which I feel we must show up), daughter birthday, renaissance fair (with costumes), anniversary, son birthday, Halloween, Big Annual Work Conference, Thanksgiving, Dickens faire costuming, Christmas (travel) and New Years.

    (It doesn’t help that I’m one of those introverts who needs a truly crazy amount of private time to be sociable. I could drop the things I have control over, of course, but they’re also the things I love…)

    1. Oh, and soccer season. Starting Saturday and running until…Thanksgiving? And the practices conflict with a standing weekly appointment my son has, so I have to rely on the (thankfully lovely) Other Moms to shuttle my daughter back and forth. Not very confidentially, if kid 1 wanted to give up soccer, I wouldn’t mind.

  10. I’ve been dropped (slowly, and at least pretty kindly) by the woman who I thought was my one true local friend. It hurts, and I wish she would tell me why she doesn’t want to be close anymore so that I don’t continue to make the same mistakes in my future friendships… but Females Don’t Roll Like That, apparently.

    I’m regretting our decision to send our 5.75 year old boy to public K, for all of the various reasons people here have alluded to many times before (PTO drama, supply lists from hell, teaching to the test, the expectation for our wiggle worm to sit quietly at his desk all day.) His best friend from preschool is going to a private Montessori elementary and it so totally rocks. I’m incredibly jealous, because it would’ve been the answer to my family’s prayers in many ways, but I couldn’t convince DH to shell out the $6k/year in tuition.

    My coworker is pregnant and is driving me crazy with all the loud oversharing about her symptoms. Even my male colleague who has kids of his own said today "She acts like she’s the first woman to ever get pregnant." Trying to muster up more empathy… grrr

  11. Mr. Fox is now a Freshman in High School. Every time he makes a major life transition, he stops eating. When we changed schools from the Montessori environment we loved to a public school, he cried every morning for 4 months…it tapered off just before Winter Break and then picked back up again when school began again in the new year.

    Last year he told me that going to Public School was the best thing for him personally. He made some great friends, discovered his leadership potential and found his voice. It gets better.

    I’ve always wanted Kate and Pea to go to the Montessori School because I truly believe that is the best, most honest continuation of my parenting style. But, we could not make the numbers work and then ended up in a school that has some very caring teachers, but is so driven by statistics and tests that it makes me sad. They love their friends and the conservative environment in part because they know nothing else.

    Recently there have been changes made in the daily routine and the ladies are not happy. I can no longer walk them inside school, give big hugs and kisses and wait in the lobby until they walk upstairs. I am mourning this last little bit of tenderness I could give them each day.

    The biggest silver lining in this whole thing is that on the other side of the door is J.J. I know she gives my girls hugs for me when I’m not there. She takes them inside when I have to leave early for work, smiles at them, gives them my hugs and my kisses and helps them transition into their day. I know it will get better, but right now I still feel the bruises.

  12. Transitioning an academically uncertain first grader and a painfully shy kindergartener from their Montessori preschool to our neighborhood elementary school this year. We’re two weeks in and it has been rough. Many of our friends are in our old school’s new Montessori charter school (we didn’t get in) and we don’t know anyone at the new school… that combination really smarts. We’ve been struggling with homework/confidence with the first grader and lots of crying with the kindergartener. I am happy to report that I have not cried in two days! That is progress. Seeing the comments, however, I’m a little worried that the kid crying each day is something we might have to deal with for some time to come. I did get an encouraging email back from his teacher and that made me feel a bit better. Mostly, I’m feeling inadequate (because they both really need intense support right now) and also helpless (because I have so little control over what happens at school). I keep telling myself that they are resilient and that I need to trust that they can do this (and I believe this deep down), but it all feels a little soul crushing at the moment.

  13. This year, we switched schools, from our neighborhood school to a Waldorf-themed charter school and so far (fingers crossed) we are feeling really good about the switch. Our old school, where my second-grader went to K and first, was very focused on teaching to the tests, used lots of worksheets and (it seemed to me) very little creativity in engaging kids. So, big surprise–my son was bored, frustrated and generally not happy at school, for two years. It was pretty hellacious. This new school is almost the opposite so far and it is such a relief. There is no homework, no worksheets and if they care about the state tests, I can’t really tell. The environment feels nurturing in a way I never felt at his old school. It actually feels more like that warmth of a preschool.

    Regarding the kids who cry, Jennifer I was exactly like your daughter in first grade. At the time I had this vague rationale that my mom was gonna forget to pick me up, though she (or my dad) never had and never did. Years later, I realized that I was probably crying because of separation anxiety from my twin sister. (We’d been together in kindergarten and separated in different classes for first grade and beyond). Even if someone had asked me about that, I doubt I would have been able to articulate it and connect my missing my sis to my general feelings of anxiety and inability to cope. Maybe your daughter is feeling worry about something she doesn’t even realize and the crying is just the manifestation of that. It’s a tough thing, but I will say it eventually passed and I stopped crying. I’m sure my mom didn’t enjoy that phase at all though. Good luck!

  14. Reading these comments is really nice for me today. I’m feeling more than usual that we are all trying our best and dealing with so much. I’m lucky because my first grader is in a good (public) school and seems pretty happy. Of course I wish some things were different, but overall it’s good. Here’s something that may sound silly, but I wish that playground time could be a little supervised. When I was little, we played big group games during recess — Red Rover, Dodge Ball, tag, etc. My daughter seems to hang around this one (sweet but kinda crazy) girl during recess, and sometimes they play and sometimes they sit, and I don’t see that there’s anything I can do about it! As I said, not a big deal …

  15. Last year, the morning routine was filled with stress and yelling and pushing string and general frustration trying to get Miss M and R (mostly R since she has the sensitivity to clothes) out the door on time to make the bus. Several days of running to the bus stop to get the bus. So I wasn’t sure what to expect this year. I have Mr B now as the school has rearranged themselves. Aaaaand … the mornings so far haven’t sucked. Waking up goes faster, dressing goes faster, they are doing more of their lunches and breakfast. We’re out the door on time with time to spare.
    And when they get home Mr B is getting right onto his homework, the girls sometimes will, or will watch some TV and then get to it. Much less nagging and pestering. Nicer all around. What a difference a few months can make.

  16. Morning 5 in kindergarten. Drop offs have been pretty smooth. Pickups have been so-so. I’m giving him a pass because it’s a big transition. I realize I’m not going to get much feedback from the teacher re: behavior (unlike preschool). Maybe he’s enjoying the structure and is holding it together during class? Maybe we’re in the honeymoon period and the storm is coming? Ignorance is bliss right now, so I don’t really want to ask about how he’s doing. I find I’m less inclined to grill him about his day right now too, which is proving to be a great idea.

  17. First "real" week for us… and by us I mean DH and I. We’re professors and classes started just after Labor Day. DD is 2 and not yet in school. We’re still trucking through not having her in daycare while both working full time which means alternating schedules and only really seeing each other for a few hours in the evening after she’s gone to bed. Hopefully our last semester of that as next semester we try "morning" vs "afternoon" classes instead of MWF vs TR classes. Oh, and DD seems to think that she doesn’t NEED a nap, but then when she falls asleep it’s a 3 hour nap extravaganza that lasts until supper time and has her up until 9:30. At least she’s not an early bird and I don’t NEED to be up early too.

  18. We just switched day care centers for the 19mo, and so far it’s not going that well. Aside from her crying like a banshee at dropoff, I don’t feel like the teachers at the new place communicate very well, and I haven’t figured out what questions to ask to get the info I want. Her old center was much smaller and I could easily meet all the adults and remember their names on the first try. Here I feel like I’m leaving her with strangers.

    We made the switch because structurally the new place is better. Healthier food, more indoor space to run around in the winter, and various other tidbits. But we are really missing the old teachers, who seemed more nurturing. It will probably get better, but for the first time, I am wishing I could hang out with my kid during the day instead of going to work.

  19. My 3rd grader has been back for three weeks and it’s not nearly as hard as I thought it would be. I think his start in second grade was so tough, and that time was really hard for our family anyway, and this seems not bad at all in comparison. He’s taken a leap forward in maturity and self-organization recently (thank goodness) and it happened at just the right time. Something clicked with him, and he realized that if he gets his "to-do" list done in the morning and in the evening himself without parent intervention, he has more free time. I’d swear I’ve been saying this all along, but he realized it for himself, and the suddenly the sun came out, the skies opened, and I have a happy kid who knows how to finish what he needs to do and know he’s going to have enough downtime/me time.

    The only hitch has been the homework struggle. I think he realized that he was rusty on some of the skills he had learned last year, and couldn’t remember what he thought he had mastered last year. A few melt-downs over this, but I’m trying to teach him that review is part of the learning process.

  20. Sweet Abraham Lincoln, do I feel like September is trying to chew me up and spit me out! We’re in week three of school (after a summer of juggling camps and help from friends and working from home while the kids complained about being bored), and 18 month old son had an ear infection and rotavirus the first week, then 7 year old daughter had a stomach virus most of the 2nd week… Daughter has a strict and somewhat persnickity teacher who is hard on her very fragile (due to visual processing issues) academic confidence. Homework is stressful. Husband’s and my jobs are both blowing up with travel and crazy deadlines. We’re firmly in the two-income trap. My normally cheery and helpful husband has turned into a grumpy PITA – the same thing he did when Daughter was 18 months – and the lack of decent sleep is about to do both of us in… I know that most of this will pass, but I’m already looking forward to Christmas break.

  21. Sweet Abraham Lincoln, do I feel like September is trying to chew me up and spit me out! We’re in week three of school (after a summer of juggling camps and help from friends and working from home while the kids complained about being bored), and 18 month old son had an ear infection and rotavirus the first week, then 7 year old daughter had a stomach virus most of the 2nd week… Daughter has a strict and somewhat persnickity teacher who is hard on her very fragile (due to visual processing issues) academic confidence. Homework is stressful. Husband’s and my jobs are both blowing up with travel and crazy deadlines. We’re firmly in the two-income trap. My normally cheery and helpful husband has turned into a grumpy PITA – the same thing he did when Daughter was 18 months – and the lack of decent sleep is about to do both of us in… I know that most of this will pass, but I’m already looking forward to Christmas break.

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