Back to school vibes and spiritual prep for the new year
August 14, 2018
It’s that time of year again. Starbucks is toeing the line of impropriety with the August release of the Pumpkin Spice Latte, Crayola is tempting mothers everywhere to pick up “just one more” 24 pack for an additional penny, (Don’t do it if you value your baseboards though. Just saying) and school children everywhere are eyeing with suspicion the mounting piles of clean and untorn clothing being amassed in their closets.
I am feeling the forced strain of the fake smile that is the end of summer with kids. They are bored of the trampoline, the slip-n-slide went home to the big recycling bin in the sky weeks ago, and mama has resorted to throwing cold hot dogs and chocolate chip granola bars on a plate every day at noon and calling it good.
I am looking forward in expectant hope to a more scheduled existence, one devoid of neighbor kids knocking on the screen door at 8 and 12 and 6, and 8, again, of too-late bedtimes and wet piles of swimsuits piled moldering in the backs of closets.
But I’ll also miss them. I remember putting our firstborn in his first year of full-day school, and what a shock to my system it was to have a limb missing for much of the day. How strange I found it to field comments of “you’ve sure got your hands full!” whilst strolling the produce aisle with “only” three in the cart.
I remind myself of this when someone is four inches from my nose asking for another episode of Wild Kratts and whining that his brother took his Beyblade apart.
I will miss you, darling child I mentally remind myself at bath time and bedtime and all the times in between, while tugging up somebody’s wet swimsuit and wiping poop off the pool deck and wondering if it’s too soon to start listening to Christmas music.
We’re trying a few new things after a summer of spiritual sloth, hoping that the upheaval of a new academic year will afford us the momentum to make some adjustments to our family prayer time. Since everyone is going to be shocked and awed by the sudden 8 pm bedtime/6 am rise time, may as well toss a family rosary in the mix.
We’re planning to surprise the kids tomorrow night with a big feast (read: not hot dogs) for the Feast of the Assumption, and then pop the full on nightly family rosary on them. We were talking last night during a rare moment of quiet about what we’d like to do to improve in our spiritual life as a family. We take our kids to Mass on Sundays and we pray with them in the morning, at grace, and at bedtime, but we are both feeling like there needs to be more, particularly in the midst of this current cultural and ecclesial climate.
I think it has helped to have a summer of lowered expectations for excellence, as bad as that sounds. We’ve sort of slid into mediocrity and have been going with the flow in terms of media consumption, friends over, endless fun activities, etc. Through it I’ve noticed a creeping sense of entitlement in the older three in particular, a restlessness after they’ve watched too many episodes of whatever happens to be on PBS Kids, and a sassiness when their neighborhood friends are over.
I, too, have seen my capacity for self denial and sacrifice plummet as I bury myself in my Instagram feed or mentally tune out while answering work emails instead of refereeing another sibling smackdown. I wave a hand at the offending party, my face hidden behind a screen, hoping that they’ll somehow resolve it amongst themselves.
I’ve also seen the first inklings of what will be true all too soon: that Dave and I are no longer Joey’s whole world, or the ultimate authorities on all the things.
I figure at almost 8-years-old, we’ve got maybe another two years of holding his complete attention until his peers begin to win every competition – maybe less since he’s a consummate sanguine. I want to savor his intense desire to beeeeee with me, but I also tend to mentally check out by about 8 pm most nights, and so his pleas for more quality time fall too frequently on cranky ears.
Some other things I’m considering as we count down the remaining days of summer:
Praying about/using Jen Fulwiler’s saint name generator to pick a patron saint for each child for the coming academic year and dedicating their year to his or her patronage.
Choosing a Scripture to memorize as a family each month of the school year (though I’d be happy with even a single verse. #cradleCatholicproblems.
Reading the coming Sunday’s Gospel aloud at dinner one or two nights during the week to prepare to receive the Word at Mass.
Making a specific sacrifice for each child during the school year, to correspond with a challenge they’re working to overcome or a virtue or quality I’d like to see them attain. What comes readily to mind is making it relevant to each child’s struggle/aspiration. So delaying my morning cup of coffee by 30 minutes and offering it up for Joey to grow in patience or focus, or giving up complaining about housework (not that I would ever) and offering it up for John Paul’s attitude about getting ready in the morning, etc.
I’m all ears over here as a still relatively fresh school mom, so come at me with your big ideas and best practices for preparing your little saintly scholars.
And finally, I would be remiss if I failed to thank my awesome, faithful readership for the two categories Mama Needs Coffee took home in the 2018 Sheenazing Awards: Best blog and Smartest blog (beating out Bishop Barron’s Word on Fire was a personal high for sure. Dave made sure to bring me down to earth by pointing out the heavily-populated-by-moms voting demographic. Thanks, honey.)