Why do they fall apart when fall comes around?

Tired boy with head on a book

I don’t know about you, but I was really ready for the new school year to begin. I felt like old milk: expired. I had run out of things to do with my kids and the bickering between the four of them was putting me close to my breaking point.

Don’t get me wrong, the summer months made for some great memories, and I’m sure soon enough I will miss those days. However, right now I’m putting all of my energy into getting my kids back into their school routines.

Over the years, I’ve noticed a pattern in this transition time. In our house, the first few weeks of school are the easiest. My kids are eager to get up early, tuck their shirts in, wear their belts, do their homework as soon as they get home, get to bed on time — there is a peace and order in our household that feels reassuring and timely.

And then something happens around the end of September, almost as if the beginning of the fall season brings it in. I struggle to get kids out of bed in the mornings, apparently school is really boring, there are complaints about going to practice or too much homework, bed times are getting ignored and most of all, the children I’m sending to school in the mornings are coming home as cranky and irritable monsters.

I can deal with a lot. I know that being consistent around my expectations for morning and night routines will get my kids back on track. I’m also used to being the emotional punching bag for my kids. But I’m not going to lie; the cranky and irritable monsters that rear their heads back home can be challenging to deal with, especially when all four of them are acting up at the same time.

However, here’s what I’ve finally learned. My kids are really well behaved in school. They follow the rules, respect their teachers, do their work, and enjoy their friendships.  So when they get home, they need to let go, unwind, and release the “good student” handcuffs that have been keeping them in line all day. While it can make some afternoons pretty miserable, I’m learning to give them this space without over analyzing it or engaging with it. I’ve stopped complaining that my kids are like disgruntled workers at home because now I understand why.

So if your kids are like mine when they get home from school, try to remember that they’ve just spent eight hours keeping it together: following someone else’s rules, problem solving, reading, writing, getting to class on time, making good decisions, interacting with adults, and trying to fit in with their peers.

To be honest, just thinking about doing all of that is making me cranky. 🙂

– Andree Palmgren, Beaumont Parenting Volunteer and mother to kids ages 13, 11, 8 and 4

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