Summer’s over. There, I said it. And while I know it stings to hear the truth, you needed to hear it for your own good. Because you won’t be able to move forward into the next season unless you reconcile that this one’s over. Plus, if you’re anything like me right now, your brain is straddling somewhere between summer and fall and you’re afraid to make any sudden movements because the trauma of giving up the chillest season for the most chaotic one may push you over the edge.
So, it’s time for a pep talk to get our heads right for the ultramarathon we call The School Year. Cause it’s a long one, so we need to do some old-fashioned positive visualization to be able to get the job done.
The first thing we need to do is focus on the fact that we’re not alone in hating the ramp-up. Every parent (and kid) hates the fall ramp-up. Nobody likes to think about backing up bedtime or making sandwiches or filling out endless emergency contact forms. So hopefully you can take some comfort in that. Cause it’s a comforting thought that literally every family on the planet has these icky feelings in their belly when Labor Day hits. It’s just an inevitable, proven fact. (Proven by whom, I have no idea, but it’s legit. I can just sense it in my guts.)
We’re all buying baskets full of twisty pencils and highlighters and lunchbox freezer packs and back-to-school shoes and that can be a little overwhelming. Just know that there’s nothing wrong with you because you feel this way. You’re normal. This. Is. Normal.
Whether it’s our kids who’d rather scoop their eyeballs out with a spoon than go back to school, or us parents who dread the daily slog of homework and gym clothes and bedtime and finding the missing soccer cleat, we all have some kind of PTSD-like symptoms associated with going back to school. Which I say again, is normal.
And regardless of what kind of a kid we have—either the super-motivated-and-on-the-ball kind or the totally-not-into-school-in-any-possible-way kind—the school year is one hundred and eighty days of fast-twitch, high-intensity motion that takes a toll on everybody. Especially us, regardless of what kind of parents we are—the June-Cleaver wannabes or the deadbeat kind—those ten months can still suck the life right out of us.
That’s because it’s just not easy to shift those mental gears from summer break back to school. In a way, it’s like double-clutching a stick shift and grinding the gears to get them where you need them to go. It sounds and feels brutal when you start, but once you make the actual shift everything hums like a formula car again. (More or less.) So we need to slide ourselves securely into that high gear.
Look, in our heads, we all procrastinate committing to the long, ten-month school year that starts every fall, because it’d just be so much easier to slide into our flip flops twelve months a year and never touch a Trapper Keeper again. So, it’s no wonder it’s painful sitting on this side of the academic calendar with the spring and summer months pages and pages (and pages) away.
It’s never easy to trade the deliciously slow, mellow days of summer for the frantic grind of the school year. It just isn’t. And that’s because everything about the school year is so radically different than summer. Our clothes are heavier, our to-do lists are longer, the overall vibe of our day is more chaotic, and there’s just so much more to do. In other words, there are lots of moving parts when fall rolls around. And that can be tough to wrap our heads around.
But here’s the thing, fall is here. Like it or not. And I want you to embrace it. Hence the pep talk.
So I’ve done my research about how to deliver a killer pump-up speech that will motivate you to want to dive into the school year head first and crush it. In fact, I’m taking a page from the Harvard Business Review’s The Science of Pep Talks article, by Daniel McGinn, to pump you up. BIG.
In his article, McGinn says that most winning formulas [for a pep talk] include direction giving, empathy, and meaning-making language. All of which I’m going to do in the next paragraph. And it’s got to be energizing, motivating, and to the point. Here we go…
First, the direction: I’m asking you to take a deep breath and think back to all the successful school years you’ve helped your kid(s) navigate up to now and remember that you got through all of them. And you’ll get through this one too. You dug in, you kept your eye on the prize (your kid’s education), and you never quit. So this year should be a cake-walk.
Now here’s the empathy part: I know being a parent can sometimes feel like a thankless job—when no one’s listening to you and everyone’s pushing your button and pushing back every day, all day—but when our kids walk across that stage and grab that diploma, it’s all worth it in the end. Labor of love, baby. Labor of love.
And finally, here’s the meaning-making language: It’s important that our kids have a successful year so it sets them up for a successful future. Because a successful future for them means peace of mind for us.
BOOM! Don’t you feel inspired? Like conquer-the-world stimulated? Like I’m-gonna-be-the-best-parent-ever motivated? Good. Now go make some lunches. You got this.
Lisa Sugarman lives just north of Boston, Massachusetts. Read and discuss all her columns at lisasugarman.com. Or, find them on LittleThings.com, BeingAMom.life, GrownandFlown.com, Mamalode, More Content Now, and Care.com. She is also the author of LIFE: It Is What It Is and Untying Parent Anxiety: 18 Myths That Have You in Knots—And How to Get Free available at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and at select bookstores.