During the school year, my weekday morning routine looks something like this:
Wake up. Check that kids are awake and moving. Dump lunch ingredients onto kitchen island. Check that kids are still awake and moving. Start breakfast. Encourage lunch assembly, being fully dressed (matching socks are nice but not essential), filling backpacks, and hair styling (our glove compartment houses an emergency comb, just in case). Corral everyone together for morning devotional and prayer. Encourage and/or coerce healthy breakfast consumption (well, at least on test days). And finally, conduct breathalyzer tests for even the slightest whiff of toothpaste smell.
Say goodbye to my high school kids by reminding them to drive safely, be nice, be good, be happy, work hard — and that I love them. Advise my two elementary schoolers and one middle schooler that if they don’t get in the car right this very second, the younger kids will be late.
During the drive, discuss the day, allay concerns, and toss a few spelling words or math problems around to see where (and how) they land. Say goodbye by reminding them to play safely, be nice, be good, be happy, work hard — and that I love them.
(On the days when “I love you!” sounds more like “Pull up your pants!” or “Your shoes are on the wrong feet!” trust that the kids catch the general drift.)
Hope that their days will go relatively well, while fully understanding that lousy days sometimes just happen. So, pray that inevitable bumps in the road will be softened — at least in small measure — by what I “fed” them (physically, spiritually, emotionally) that morning.
Take a nap. Except that it’s only 7:50 a.m.
My school morning routine probably looks a little different (and possibly more insane) than other parents’ routines. But I’m guessing we all share one commonality: we love our kids, so we all do everything possible to set them up for success while they’re at school.
Because after our kids walk out the front door or car door or bus door, what happens during the next several hours is, by and large, out of our hands.
Which is why I’m enormously grateful for the many individuals whose hands and hearts work tirelessly during those hours to help my kids have safe, happy, good, loving days. Successful days.
Take the crossing guard at our elementary school, for instance. He high-fives and greets each student, waves to all passing cars, and chats with every parent. On Fridays, a hand-lettered neon poster on his windshield announces, “It’s Friday!” I’ve never once seen him without a smile, but my kids’ smiles immediately turn into looks of concern on the rare mornings when someone else takes his place. This delightful man begins my kids’ days on the most positive note possible — and I adore him for it.
One of my sons suffers with more than his share of anxiety. In first grade, he approached his teacher’s desk to inform her that he wasn’t feeling well. As it turned out, words were unnecessary; the vomit that suddenly covered her desk told his story in much more detail than words ever could. That dear teacher won my heart when she dried my son’s tears and calmed his over-anxious mind, never once showing the slightest negative reaction to what had to have been, well, pretty negative.
In fourth grade, my daughter was the regrettable casualty of an unexpected social rearrangement on the playground. Casualty, as in she found herself with no one to play with at recess — a socially painful situation that lasted for several weeks. The tears I cried at night on her behalf didn’t help much. But the kind, sensitive words and actions of an observant teacher gave my daughter the invaluable gift of restored dignity.
For the teachers, coaches, administrators and staff at my kids’ secondary schools, I have two words: bless you. Since I think it’s been scientifically proven that human brains are invaded and replaced by alien ones on or around most kids’ 13th birthdays, the adults who are in daily contact with those kids — and help shape their lives and futures — have my utmost respect and empathy.
The verbal vomit that sometimes spews spout of a teenager’s mouth can be, well, pretty negative. So I’m immensely thankful for those adults who respond appropriately yet take it in stride, understanding kids’ brain swapping troubles and loving them anyway. And I’m forever grateful for those who recognize when kids’ dignity or self-esteem being is being battered, and proceed to rebuild and restore it.
Because this world is populated with imperfect parents, kids and teachers, frustrating situations inevitably arise. But it’s been my experience that these are generally the exception rather than the rule.
Summer is fast approaching, and our morning routine will soon change dramatically. But as the school year winds down, I want to personally thank all the adults with whom my kids spend so much time during the school year. Please know that your efforts don’t go unnoticed or unappreciated. You have my deepest gratitude for spending your time, lending your hands, and giving your hearts. All in behalf of my kids, who walk into your lives each morning having just heard their mom say goodbye with a parting, “I love you!”
Susie Boyce is a mom, writer and public speaker based in Highland Village. Read her column each month in The Cross Timbers Gazette, visit her website at www.seriousmomsense.com or her Facebook page, Writer Susie Boyce, or follow her on Twitter @Susie_Boyce.