Forget New Year’s resolutions, we’re too full and tired by January 1st. School year resolutions on the other hand—those make sense. We’re buoyed by a sense of optimism, and by that I mean after nearly three months of together time (and/or pricey camps), we get to send our sweet children off to class again.
Ah, yes, the routines of fall. Routines that include fussing over homework, meals, chores; routines that always seem to involve driving to a truly excessive number of sports practices/music lessons/tutoring each week. And there must be clean uniforms and why, why is one soccer sock always missing?
I’ll tell you why. The back-to-school tornado sucked it up and dumped it. You’ve seen its fury. It grabs everything in sight—bills, catalogues, to do lists, dirty socks, clean socks, sports gear, mail, school forms, kitchen disasters—growing ever stronger. The whirling vortex of debris whips through the house, haphazardly spitting things out until it’s off to find another target, leaving us survivors to wander helplessly through the mess.
Okay, so maybe we’re exhausted in the fall too. Maybe we need some truly practical resolutions to help us survive the school year. Resolutions that never once mention the word “gym.” Interested? Then repeat after me:
- I resolve to make my kids find their own stuff. They’re capable. Or could be. And truly, what’s the worst in the world? They wear dirty or mismatched socks to a game? We will all survive. Because even if we think our kids are getting soccer scholarships to college (they’re probably not), the socks won’t matter.
- I resolve to toss my martyr-board in the air and ask for help on the days I really must tidy the place (see: company, inability to find space on the dining room table for food). Because that steaming head of resentment we carry around from doing it all? That needs putting away, pronto. Those families of ours, those people who contribute mightily to the mess as well as our reason for being? They can all help, in some way. Get creative. Throw a laundry-folding party. Because if you drink milkshakes and fold t-shirts while watching Modern Family, it’s a party. And if your people don’t want to play laundry party, threats also work. Offer to bring the laundry to middle school back-to-school night and fold underwear while you listen to the teachers, and just watch your child embrace her household chores. (Bonus: the look you get will be Stephen King-worthy.)
- I resolve to make sure my kids have some downtime. When you’re in the midst of an unsolvable logistical disaster, there’s a simple solution. Say no to something. Give the kids (and you) more time to just be.
- I resolve to keep busy mealtimes simple. Yes, I’ve done it too–sweated over the carmel glaze for three-hour pork ribs that don’t hit the table until my people are past the point of no return (they are also no longer hungry, as they’ve each consumed 3 yogurts and Costco-sized servings of chips and salsa in the 3.2 hours it took to make the ribs). There is another way. Keep it simple, like Aviva Goldfarb’s Six O’Clock Scramble, which offers delicious recipes that don’t take a lot of time. The key: don’t stress. Save the ribs for Saturday, and try these fifteen-minute pork cutlets with mushroom-sherry sauce instead. Bonus: cooking with wine. Nicely done, Aviva. (Disclosure: Aviva is a friend. But she’s also been on the Today show 3 times. So there’s that.)
- I resolve to be ok with the fact that my house looks like it threw up on itself. Because even if we ask for help, get rid of some stuff, there will still be disorder. Accept it. I know, easier said than done. A good number of us like a little order—and the advertising world tells us that it’s essential to a good life. But there’s a trade-off. The more time we spend cleaning and tidying and organizing, the less time there is for fun stuff–hanging with family and friends. Going out. Watching a movie. Reading. Biking. Walking. Things we truly enjoy. Things most of us prefer to a sparkling, tidy house.
That’s it. We’re done. Hopefully you’ve seen the common thread in these resolutions. It’s giving yourself a break. And that, my friends and fellow sufferers, seems a good a start as any to the new school year. Being a little kinder and gentler to ourselves. Asking our families to pitch in and help. Seeing less of the mess and more of the people and things we love. Because there will always be laundry and back-to-school tornados. Choosing not to see them—well, that’s up to you.