Back to School Anxiety

THE END IS NEAR!!! I can see the light! School starts this week!

One could interpret that in two very different ways:

busPositive: “Hooray! I survived summer break without a visit from DCFS or jail time! There is light at the end of this never-ending tunnel! Is that bus headlights coming toward me?? *Sniiiifffff* I smell diesel! Hallelujah!!!”

 

Negative: “I’m dying! The Four Horsemen are coming! That light is so beautiful…but why do I see my ancestors beckoning me to come hither? Yep. The non-stop fighting and complaining of the inmates has finally killed me.”

First Born and Young Son go back to school on Wednesday. (Meaning Tuesday is Supply Drop-off/Meet the Teacher day, and we all know how much I loathe THAT day.)

But even more stressful than that is the fact that First Born starts middle school this year. I know he’s looking forward to some aspects of it, like feeling grown-up and having more independence. But I can tell that the reality of it has been starting to sink in over the past few weeks. Let’s just say he’s been far from a joy to live with lately. I need to remind myself that this isn’t all toxic pre-teen hormones making him surly and short-tempered. All. The. Time. A lot of it is anxiety oozing out of him in the form of asshole-ish behavior.

I remember when I started junior high 35 years ago (ugh!) I was terrified. The entire summer before I was sick with fear, dread and so much anxiety that I had trouble sleeping and was nauseated most of the time. My teacher the year before had drilled into us how hard and different junior high was going to be, she made it seem like we were going to be going directly to college instead of 7th grade. We were going to have insane amounts of homework heaped upon us, expectations of us would be exponentially more difficult, we’d only have four minutes to change classes and they would be located 3 miles apart (don’t even think about going to your locker or the bathroom)…and worst of all, we would have to change and shower in front of our peers for gym class!

But after the first few days, I found out that my teacher was basically full of crap, and junior high wasn’t nearly as bad as she had made it out to be. Sure, it was a change and a little confusing at first, but it was a good thing. I wasn’t stuck in the same classroom with the same idiots and same cranky teacher day after day, hour after hour. I began feeling more grown up and started gaining a bit of confidence…which was immediately snuffed out by hellacious adolescent peers who still live in my nightmares to this day. (That’s a post for another time.) Best of all, we did not have to shower after gym class. We all quickly learned how to do strange contortions with our clothing so that the least amount of skin and underwear showed, doused ourselves with Wild Musk perfume and and Tickle deodorant and called it a day.

Is there a pedagogical reason why some teachers put the fear of God into their students to prepare them for the rigors of the next step in their schooling? I get that students need to understand that expectations will be higher and things will be different than what they are used to. But so often what is lost in translation for the student is that all the work they have been doing and the skills their teachers have been teaching them are what makes them prepared for the next step. Instead, so many (like in my case) are left feeling overwhelmed and terrified that they aren’t ready and are going to fail miserably.

I get it. When I get frustrated when First Born’s immaturity peaks out sometimes, I find myself saying things like, “You need to get more organized and on top of things! In sixth grade you won’t have your teacher holding your hand all the time! BE RESPONSIBLE!” Instead of getting him to shape up, I’m sure I’m just adding fuel to the fire of his anxiety of not feeling ready, mature or smart enough. Don’t get me wrong. I know this is going to be a big change for him and there are going to be some pretty big potholes along the way. But I need to keep my anxiety in check so I don’t add to his.

So next time he’s acting like a total beast and feel like ripping his head off and using it as a bowling ball, I need to remind myself to pull him in for a hug instead of yelling. Maybe it will help to ease the anxiety for both of us.

To my fellow parents sending their kids back to school: congratulations! You made it through another summer! And to those teachers going back to the grind and craziness of the classroom, good luck, God speed…and have mercy on my inmates! Just remember: I am their mother, and they can’t help a lot of it.

 

 

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Pausing for the Funeral Procession

Yesterday as I was driving through town to take the inmates to their eye doctor appointments, a funeral procession came to the intersection where I was stopped. I pulled over and waited for them all to pass.

But while I was waiting there, multiple cars went around me and continued on their way, either oblivious to, not caring about or annoyed with the somber string of cars with their flashing lights. It saddened me and made me angry.

Later I went home and looked up the law on what you are supposed to do when you come upon a funeral procession. You are not allowed to cut through or cut off a funeral procession, nor should you honk (one would think this should go without saying.) But you are not required to pull over as a funeral procession goes by, it is merely a custom that so many seem to forget more and more often.

While I had somewhere to be and things to do, it was still important for me to take the time to acknowledge the mourners passing by. Even though I did not know the person in the hearse or their loved ones following behind, I took the time to respect their grief. This was not a trundling, never-ending train carrying lumber or coal from point A to point B. No, this was a long line of people accompanying their loved one to his or her final resting place. A few minutes of my time to respectfully pause and bear witness to the loss these people were suffering really seemed the least I could do.

This was a good reminder for me though. How many times have I impatiently waited in line while lost in thought with all the little things I need to get done, plan dinner, get who when and where, instead of bothering to have a nice chat with a fellow shopper who could use a kind word in that moment? How often have I wasted time scrolling through Facebook to keep up with what friends are doing instead of actually calling them to meet for coffee to really see how their life is? How many times have I obsessively read news article after news article, yet never seem to do enough with my outrage over the treatment of my fellow humans near and far.

We all need to be reminded to pause

…To pause and notice what is going on around us.
…To pause and care more for our family and friends.
…To pause and ask ourselves, “Am I doing enough, loving enough, giving enough?”
…To pause and really appreciate the amazing gifts we have been given in our lives
…To pause to just breathe and take it all in.

Perhaps if we all pause in our daily lives, our world can become a kinder, gentler place while we are still in it, before we become the one in the hearse, or become the mourners following behind.