Cancel that dinner and pull up some couch
Of Mess and Moxie author and blogger Jen Hatmaker is no stranger to the beginning of the school year tango. With five kids ranging in age from college to middle school, she knows exactly how to survive the chaos of back to school without losing your mind in the process. She claims the secret to success is spending the first weekend after the start of school doing absolutely nothing.
“Listen to me: do not go to ‘celebration dinner’ Friday night, do not go to the late football game, do not decide to run errands, do not make big plans, do not ask one million questions, do not force them to talk about everything, do not attempt to execute ANYTHING AT ALL in which your expectations include children who are pleasant,” she writes.
She says the best way to kick off the first weekend of the school year is old-school — with pizza and a flick. “Your Friday night plans after the first week of school need to involve a couch, some blankets, a pizza, and a movie, ” she writes. “That is it. That is all anyone can handle.”
And don’t argue too long over what to watch. She claims you’ll be able to swap out that kiddie film for Guardians of the Galaxy 2 in no time, because they’ll be snoring before you know it. “Your kid will make it past the first twenty minutes tops. They are all goners. Do not put them in the car and try to go somewhere, because they will turn your car into the Crazy Train.”
Her advice may be disappointing at first. We want to go out and celebrate our kids’ new school year, plus maybe we want to treat ourselves to a dinner with cloth napkins after a week of filling out forms in triplicate and writing our kids’ names on everything they own in Sharpie. We’ve earned it, damn it. But Hatmaker does have a point. After a long week at work, cuddling up on the couch sounds better than going out. And to kids, school is work.
Her back to school PSA has been shared over 12,000 times and has over 39,000 reactions, meaning there’s plenty of other veteran parents who agree with her “do nothing” plan. And it’s not just Friday’s plans that have been cancelled. Forget about apple picking on Saturday or taking a trip to the zoo on Sunday morning. Hatmaker advises giving kids the entire weekend to chill out and get ready for the year ahead.
“Your mission should you choose to accept it because you are a Smart Person is to do and plan nothing the first weekend after school starts,” she says. “Let their little bodies catch up. They are exhausted after their summer of being sloth children who now have to think and pay attention for seven hours a day.”
She reminds us that the start of a new school year is so much more than a new teacher and new textbooks. Our kids are adjusting to giant social changes too. It’s enough to make anyone want to hang out on the couch for a couple days. “Plus, new scenarios and teachers and students and schedules. Plus, that one mean girl,” she elaborates. “Plus, figuring out where to sit at lunch. Plus, all the new rules. Plus, recess politics. Plus, homework. Plus, did their clothes/shoes/hair/backpack fit in right. Plus, the bus. Plus, they learned the F word on the playground and everything feels weird.”
Looks like this weekend’s homework is to chill out and do nothing.