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Monday, September 9th, 2013
My kids, like, oh, a million others in New York City, headed back to school today and let me say, this day couldn’t come soon enough. Elsewhere in the country, schools have been in session for weeks already–in Virginia, say, where I have relatives, or in Kentucky where I grew up. But in New York, thanks in part to a pileup of Labor Day followed by the Jewish holiday of Rosh Hashanah, we seem to be starting later this year than any time in memory, even as the debate over whether the school year should be lengthened rages on. For our kids, the normal back-to-school excitement tipped over into the Anxiety Zone about a week ago, around the time the temperature changed from summer to fall(ish). And for me, the last-minute flurry of preparations (clothes shopping, drawer-tidying, pencil-collecting, laundry, laundry, laundry) has lasted a week longer than is typical–which is about a week more than I’d like.
We were all ready to get to it. The kids packed their backpacks and showered last night, anticipating having to to get up almost an hour earlier than they had been rising all summer. We were striving for a relaxed morning today and I think we achieved it. At least Leo looked relaxed as he headed down the street with my husband to meet the bus. But he may have just been sleepy. His bus comes so early this year he’ll have to work hard to get the right amount of sleep (10 hours per night according to this age-by-age sleep chart), especially with his late-night reading habit.
I love the unhurried days of summer…how my kids lounge in their PJs on some days, and on other days go to camp and try on new personalities, make new friends and experiment with new skills and activities. But that all got tired about three weeks ago. And I didn’t relish having to remind them, endlessly, about the math packet or the reading assignments designed to a)prevent summer slide, b)torture kids, c)make parents feel like nags or d)all of the above. I’m not eager to give up summer vacation altogether, but I would welcome seeing it shortened if it meant that summer could truly be summer again, free of math packets, liberated from abc’s, full of zzz’s. What say you? School all year ’round, vs a full-on summer vacation? Weigh in!
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Wednesday, September 4th, 2013
As summer draws to a close and our kids start going back to school, we enter a season of reflection and renewal. Labor Day is behind us, and at curriculum nights and school open houses across the country, teachers are giving us parents a glimpse of the amazing things our children will learn this year and a preview of the ways they’ll grow. And for Jews like myself, the waning days of summer and the beginning of fall also herald the start of the High Holiday season. Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year festival, begins tonight, followed almost immediately by Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, on Sept. 14.
So for me–like for many of you, I am sure–it’s a time of introspection and renewed commitments, change and new beginnings. It’s a moment to reset our schedules and priorities alike.
Change, of course, is hard, and personal change can often seem impossible. But I love this time of year for its confluence of back-to-school and the Jewish New Year. Because even as change—self-improvement—seems so daunting, we need only to look to our kids for inspiration and examples.
While we adults consult self-help books or therapists, try ever-new diet plans or promise ourselves that this year we’ll start going to the gym, our children evolve seamlessly and beautifully. That child prone to uncontrollable tantrums is now so calm, polite, and outgoing that it’s hard to remember the more difficult times. The child afraid of so much slowly faces her fears and takes the first tentative steps to overcome them. This year, the first grader will learn to read—in two languages!—while the 2-year-old will start nursery school and learn to share and make friends. The children who seemingly do nothing but fight slowly, slowly start to get along and even play together. In what seems like the blink of an eye, the crib gives way to a bed, the diapers give way to potty training, and the pacifiers will, eventually, make their way to the garbage dump. It’s not always easy, it’s never linear, but it’s always successful.
Yes, it’s harder for us adults. But at this time of the year, the hopes, fears, and expectations of a new year should remind us that change is possible, even necessary. As the teacher talks about teaching a new class to read on their own, will I make the time to read more with my children and to encourage them to make their own stories? For that matter, will I make more time for myself, to read the books I love but have mostly pushed aside in the busy-ness of life? As we pray in synagogue for a year of peace, what will I do it increase peace and reduce conflict, in my family and in our world? Will I model the behavior I hope to see in my children and teach them by example to avoid yelling, and deal with conflicts calmly?
It’s hard work, and I so admire those who commit themselves to it and do it well, such as The Orange Rhino blogger who has documented her now-574 days (as of today) of “loving more and yelling less,” as she puts it. I hope to find the strength and commitment in the new year to follow examples like hers.
My prayers and best wishes are with all of you for a school year full of growth and good things, for our kids and for us.
Image: Young man reflecting via Shutterstock
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Thursday, August 29th, 2013
One of my fellow-mom friends posted a picture on Facebook yesterday that made me LOL (for real). Picture this:
Five mothers, enormous grins on their faces, jumping mid-air, hands stretched to the sky. With this caption:
The kids are back in school!!!
I’m so glad I’m not the only one with a sudden urge to go airborne when my kids return to their previously scheduled lives. The bazillion likes and comments that followed the post included gems like this one, from a mom whose kids aren’t back just yet:
“I’m jealous I’m not in this pic!”
And this one:
“Only thing missing is the wine bottle!”
I don’t know about you, but I’m done with summer. So are many of my other friends, and I imagine so is the working mom I saw on my commute this morning with a not-so-happy preschooler in tow. (Like summer, camp’s over, too.) The only parents on my friends list lamenting summer’s end are teachers.
Okay, I get that.
But I’m sorry: I can’t apply sunscreen to one more wrinkled nose. I can’t take one more fight in the house between bored siblings. Even the kids seem over summer. I asked them if they wanted to hit the community pool one last time. Their reply? “Nah.”
Now is mom’s moment: when you make all those new school-year resolutions. Going to finally make those photo books. Try out those recipes. Exercise. Blog. Do amazing things at work. Do a happy dance on the table. The kids are back in school!!!
Inspired by my friend’s post, I say we moms start a campaign to add a new shot to all of those cute first-day-of-school pictures that are popping up in our feeds. Let’s capture moms in their various displays of euphoria after the kids have entered the building. Now wouldn’t that be one for the photo book? (Preschool moms who are seeing your little ones off to school for the first time: You get a pass. And tissues.)
Let’s enjoy this moment of freedom while it lasts, before the next chapter of the busy school year inevitably begins.
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Friday, August 2nd, 2013
The Children’s Health Fund’s mobile medical clinic.
Keeping track of my kids’ medical and dental appointments–making them, taking the kids to them, filing away the records–sometimes stresses me out. But I’ll never complain again after my visit to the big blue bus run by the Children’s Health Fund, which is devoted to providing health care for kids who don’t have access to it. This mobile medical center was parked on the sidewalk in the South Bronx on a blistering hot day last month, and Parents editors Diane Debrovner, Kara Corridan, and I stopped by.
I’d first learned about the clinic on wheels as we were preparing this story for Parents about how important good medical care is to a child’s school success. Inside the cheerful yellow-accented RV is a state-of-the-art two-room medical clinic, complete with a triage area and a nurse’s station. In 25 areas across the U.S., including New Orleans, Detroit and Washington, DC, facilities like these provide check ups, vaccinations, and treatment for a range of conditions to kids who have no other access to medical care.
“Our screening starts with ‘do you have enough food? Do you have a place to sleep tonight?’” says Delaney Gracy, M.D., M.P.H., chief medical officer for CHF. If families need either, CHF connects them with social services. Many of the sites where the buses stop are linked with schools, so that care providers can work with school nurses or administrators to help make sure kids get asthma medication, for example. The clinics use a state-of-the-art electronic health records system to store information about their patients, not because it’s the latest high-end healthcare fad, but because it makes it possible to track the care of children who are homeless.
The nurse’s station inside the bus.
This care helps ensure that kids arrive at school healthy and ready to learn, which is a key focus of the Children’s Health Fund. The connection between health and learning goes deep: Vision or hearing problems, poor nutrition, chronic conditions and even lack of sleep can make it difficult for kids to succeed in school and contribute to a cascade of future problems.
If you want to help the CHF make sure more kids get the care they need, visit childrenshealthfund.org to add your voice to the “Every Child a Chance” campaign on the site. And if all this is making you realize your own kids are probably overdue for a back-to-school exam, brush up on the vaccine recommendations for every age and read our advice on how to make the most of your child’s checkup here.
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Kids who visit the bus get a book to take home, a special touch for children who have few possessions.