And all through the house... children are whining, mom is quiet as a mouse. I'm not sure who dreads going back to school more - me or them! I haven't been to the beach enough this summer, there weren't enough star-gazing evenings marked on my calendar, and I definitely need a few more giggle-fests with my girls. My youngest daughter is going to be a freshman in high school. When exactly did that happen???
Along with the excitement (it's not all doom and gloom) comes the return to crazy schedules, filled with hours and hours of homework, as well as all of those extracurricular activities that demand even more of their time. What's a family to do? Ours tries to manage the insanity with a little pre-planning. Here are our House Rules.
#1 Family time is still sacred. I try to keep the girls from becoming too over-scheduled by limiting their outside activities. I'm old enough to know that you really can't do it all. We eat dinner together several nights a week because we just can't manage more than that. Instead of beating myself up, I've come to accept what I can plan and what I can't.
#2 Communication is key. I'm fortunate enough to be able to pick the girls up after school. During the ride home (and again during dinner), we catch up. Of course the first words out of my mouth are "How was your day?" followed by "How much homework do you have?". But I do try not to just talk about the have-to's. Once the work has been spelled out and we're all up to speed with schedule adjustments, it's all about trying to find a way to laugh about the day.
#3 Homework is done right away. I do let the girls relax for a bit in front of the TV or the computer, but then it's time to hit the books. If they have an after school activity, homework then needs to be done right after dinner. And I check to make sure it's actually getting done. Not because they wouldn't do it, but because we can all get distracted if we're surrounded by stereos, ipods, and a closet full of clothes you just have to try on again and again. I wish when I got sent to my room as a child it was half as much fun.
#4 Breakfast and lunch can be tricky for teens. They don't exactly skip out of bed in the morning, so I've cut them some slack. A piece of fruit, a cereal bar, or even a glass of Carnation instant breakfast works for me. I just want them to have something fairly nutritious in their bodies to fuel their day. As for lunch, I leave it to them. Salads and hummus are (thankfully) mainstays of my daughter's diets.
#5 Organize the night before. This is our biggest challenge. My youngest daughter loves to organize herself for the next day, the older one... not so much. But, if I can at least run down a check list of what needs to get packed for the following day, I've done what I can.
#6 Early to bed, early to rise. Teens need more sleep than they think. And although I can't really make them sleep, the girls are in their respective rooms by a certain time, regardless of their expected grumblings. I also remind them that if they didn't have such wonderful parents to drive them to school in the morning, we'd be happy to set the alarm an hour earlier so they can get out the door on time.
Believe me, it's not all sunshine and roses here. Just like your home, it's filled with arms and legs and furry beings just trying to jockey for position. But in order to manage the day, even the tiniest bit, you have to have a game plan. This is ours.
Good luck with yours!