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Be Kind, Decline (the extra stuff)

As a person who came of age in the 90's, I have fond memories of visiting Blockbuster Video on Friday nights, strolling through the isles and finding just the right movie.

This was back in the day when we still had videotapes. Yes, TAPES, the ones with a ribbon (?) in the middle. On the cover of the case, there would be a little note, “Be Kind, Rewind” asking the viewer to rewind the videotapes when they’re done with the movie.

“Be Kind, Rewind” is something I still say sometimes, even though everything is digital now (and we just pushed the “back” button on the remote) ;-)

In the last two weeks, many of us sent our kids back to in-person schools. Our unvaccinated, still wearing-mask kids. Our lives have been in a state of transition: getting the kids ready, starting new routines, and, for the kids that have been back for a few weeks - settling into a “new normal.”

I was thinking about the transition and how challenging it was going to be, for both kids AND parents:

Kid starting Kindergarten? That’s a tough year. The whole “getting-up-early-AND-packing-a-lunch” thing - not fun. Also, why are there SO MANY early dismissal days (in California)??

Kid moved to a new school during Covid? That’s rough too. New commutes (for parents) and a whole new set of random school closure dates, plus different early dismissal dates. Lots to figure out and get used to.

Kids started going to in-person school after not seeing anyone for 18 months? Ooof. I can’t imagine how surreal it must be for the kids, first told to STAY FAR AWAY from everyone, to now being shoved into a [possibly] crowded classroom, wearing masks for the entire day. For the record, I am pro-masks in classrooms, still, it’s a lot to ask of the kids when we ourselves don’t really want to wear a mask all day. My husband returned to the office for 2 days, then gave up going in when the County mask mandate returned.

Delta variant sending your anxiety levels up into the stratosphere? Yep!

So..... amongst the transition, anxiety, and challenges, what’s a parent to do???

Be Kind, Decline (the extra stuff).

Decline! Decline all the things in your life that don’t matter right now, and spend this time with yourself, your children, your spouse, and maybe your bestie(s), and that’s it.

Decline meetings you don’t physically need to attend. Watch/listen to the all hands video later when you’re on a walk.

Decline calendar invites to Zoom happy hours, or otherwise non-job-related events. Trust me, there’ll be another one soon - no one is going back to the office just yet.

Decline requests to become a room parent, PTA coordinator, or whatever thing the school asked you to do. Yes, you CAN do it, but you don’t need To. By the way, you can change your mind later and join when things are less…. pandemic-y.

Decline lunches with people that you don’t care about (but felt some sort of obligation to fulfill). You can see them later, or never.

Decline invitations to birthday parties (or any parties) of kids you barely know, or other kids’ parents who are just being nice. No need to make an appearance. Send a lovely note and say, “thank you for thinking of us, we’re sorry to miss this time around and wish you a very happy birthday!

Decline anything and everything that’s not about you, your kids, school, and your time together.

Now that you have all this extra time, here are some things to actually DO:

  • Walk your kids to school and/or pick up your kids from school. Take a moment to talk about their days: what’s going well, what’s weird/different? What’s something that’s challenging? Did they make new friends? What do they do at recess? What’s the new teacher like? What’s something your kid is excited about? What’s something he/she can use help with? Even if you have a kindergartner, they’re able to express their likes/dislikes, and if you have the time, there’s always something you can talk about

  • Talk about how you’re feeling, and ask your kids how they’re feeling. I think it’s okay to share that you’re worried about stuff; and maybe they’re worried about the same stuff, or different stuff. And maybe you can each/both come up with some coping mechanisms to help each other: “let’s go for a walk everyday at 4:00 pm!”

  • Reminder that tantrums are when the feelings are too big for your kids to handle, and they don’t know how to deal with it. Be there for them, show that you’ve got your back (even if you can’t help in the moment). Feel like crying? Sadness is a normal human emotion, and it’s okay to cry!

  • Remember that all transitions are hard. They are as hard (or possibly harder) on you than your kids. Give yourself grace: take a break, go for a walk, sit and drink some tea/coffee/wine, listen to music, or binge Ted Lasso. Just like all things, this period will pass and your life will be back to its normal pace in a couple of 3 weeks.

  • Finally, take pictures! Give lots of hugs, kisses, and say all your “I love yours.” Today I told my little one, “I’m SO proud of you!” and really meant it. He’s been through a lot in the past 2 years: his daycare closed, he had no school for a while, then he started a new daycare, and now a new new school. And so far, he’s handled it all in stride. I am SO proud.

As for me, I’m going to take my own advice and SLOW DOWN. Besides my usual workout routine, I’ve made no social plans (and this ME, who sees about SIX friends a week!) and no work plans. I’m chauffeuring my kids around, figuring out a new routine, chatting in the car about whatever is happening, packing snacks (and lunch once a week), and noting all the holidays on calendar, and, and, and. It’s a strange turn for me, going from working 100% to….. Not. But I’m relishing in this time. It’s literally TWO WEEKS of my life, and I know I won’t regret having spent it with my kids (and occasionally took a nap, too)

So this week, do yourself the favor and DECLINE anything that does not matter. You can get back to it later, I promise.

What things are you letting go of? Share with us in the comments.

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