It’s a New School Year; Let’s Give Each Other a Break

With a 3rd grader, a 1st grader, and a 2-year-old at home, the weeks leading up to the new school year were filled with excitement, anxiety, stress —  and spending the equivalent of a mortgage payment on school supplies.

We sent our kids off to school a few weeks ago, and they’re doing great. But every fall, Instagram becomes a sea of back to school pictures, and if we’re not careful, it can feel like we’re all trying to outdo one another.

It’s cool if you’re the type of parent who spent an hour the night before school started making your kids the perfectly proportioned lunch, cutting each food into adorable shapes and packing them quaintly into their brand-new lunch box with a handwritten love note for them to swoon over at lunchtime.

But want to know what my kids took for lunch on their first day of school?

A thermos with a toaster waffle and a veggie sausage, some grapes, some baby carrots and a granola bar. I threw it in their 2-year-old lunch bags that are stained with who-knows-what while simultaneously sucking down a reheated cup of coffee and trying to get dressed for the day.

It’s great if Johnny still lets you dress him the world’s most adorable first day of school outfit. Meanwhile, my middle child put on a pair of leggings with a hole in the knee, a threadbare dress that she adores, and a pair of shoes that probably have a hole in them because she refuses to give them up.

I don’t think the “super parents” do any of these things intentionally to mess with us or make the rest of us feel bad.

If I had the energy/drive/money/desire, my kids would eat only the finest organic lunches and wear the world’s cutest outfits. But the reality is that I think there are far more important things.

I think it’s time we just all give each other a break.

We’re all trying our best. We’re all doing the best with what we have.

Maybe you’re a stay at home parent with endless hours of free time and endless amounts of energy. You’ve got the drive and ability to pose your kids for 539 pictures on the first day of school. You’ve coordinated backpacks, lunch boxes, socks and shoes. That’s great. More power to you.

But maybe you’re barely getting by, and most days your kids are lucky if they get out of the house with their teeth brushed and their shoes tied. You don’t have time to worry about all of those other superfluous things.

Or maybe you’re somewhere in between. You get up and make the kids pancakes on the first day of school, but that means they’re also fending for themselves in the clothing department because you can’t be two places at once. They’re still using the free backpacks you got from work last year because you’re not made of money and those backpacks carry all their stuff just fine.

Whatever the case may be, can we all promise to just cut one another some slack?

Before we go judging the mom who pulls out all the stops for her kids, or the dad who barely has the kids’ clothes on when he pulls up to school, lets remember that we’re all just doing the best we can.

Here’s to a great school year, whether it’s picture perfect or not. 

Stephen Carter is a writer, husband, father, & friend. He lives in Portland with his wife Rachel, and 3 beautiful girls, Avery, Rylee, & Hattie. When he’s not reading or writing, he enjoys a local micro-brew, or a strong cup of coffee. He is passionate about literature, theology, justice, Daniel Day-Lewis movies, U2 records (but with strong reservations about No Line on the Horizon), and believes that the right words can change the world. He can be found on: Twitter: @stephenedwardc

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