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The Start of School Can Be Tough for Parents Too!

The Start of School Can Be Tough for Parents Too!I’ve gone soft in my old age. Once upon a time I’d pop out of bed with my alarm and make it into the office before anyone arrived, getting a jump on the day. And then came grad school and new parenthood. As my bedtime slipped later and later, my get up and go started lying in to all hours. Well, all hours from a parent’s point of view. You know, like 7:30, 8:00 in the morning. Maybe — maybe — 8:30 on a weekend.

But with pre-K, which my son began on Monday, Felix has to be out of the house by 8AM. No more can I say to him, “Tell your mom I’ll be down in five minutes,” and then sink back into sleep. Now, I have to get downstairs and start breakfast while Felix (full of complaints) dresses and my wife showers. Our once leisurely breakfasts — “You want to play? Sure. You can eat your pancakes later.” — have become leaner and meaner — “No you can’t build LEGOs, you have 5 minutes to finish that toast!” So long leisurely stay-at-home dad routine.

While it’s been an exciting week, what with Felix liking school and transitioning well there, it’s also been an exhausting one. Not just for Felix, but for my wife and me too. The rhythms and routines of our family are in flux. We’re aiming for a harder start-time to dinner, since we see that Felix needs a full night’s sleep and now we can’t allow him to sleep late. The past four years we’ve kept a schedule, but not one that required us to be many places at specific times. It’s like, after four years of just taking it easy, I’m suddenly back to being a responsible adult again. I’m in shock!

Of course, Felix is the most worn out of all. As the director of his school put it, “starting school for a little kid is like an adult getting a new job. It can be stressful!” Simply existing in a classroom environment — keeping a lid on all that intense energy and emotion— drains him, which makes him difficult to manage in the afternoons, just when I’m starting to drag. He’s spent a few afternoons placid in front of the TV, recharging.

This isn’t quite how I expected it would be. I knew school would mark a big change for our family, but like having a kid itself, it was impossible to predict how it was going to affect us, or how completely. I’m sure in a month or so we’ll have established a new normal, and by the time Felix is in middle school we’ll be old hands at this. But for now, my wife and I are battling just as much transition related stress as Felix is. People always talk about how you might feel choked up, or lonely, or nervous about your child going to school. I think the overarching feeling I’m experiencing is: tired.

I’m happy the weekend has arrived, when I can turn off the alarm and sleep in till 8. No, make that 8:15.

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