Solving A Back To School Equation


Simpler times: first day of school 2007 (3rd grade and Kindergarden, respectively)

I’m stressing out. It’s almost back to school and this year is a big one for our family. See, my daughter is entering 8th grade and my son is going into the 5th and in New York City, that means we are beginning the high school and middle school application process for each respective aforementioned offspring. “What’s the big deal?” some of you many be asking–particularly if you live away from this insane place where middle and high school placement isn’t treated like college admissions.

What this does to me… Well, I’m a generally competitive person when it comes to my professional life. I will ignore my own achievements (sometimes I don’t even realize certain successes are achievements) and forge ahead seeking victory when others are rallying to celebrate the present win. I am 100% aware of this now and can even back-track when I’ve missed a “stop-and-smell-the-roses” moment and have even been able to channel this trait for good so it fortifies my life (whenever possible). This took some time and some very talented mentors, confidants and people today who can still call me out on it. So, professional life: CHECK!


First day of school 2008 (4th grade and 1st grade, respectively)

But a situation like school applications is like pouring fertilizer all over my competitive nature, and I have to be very aware and conscious of my emotional garden’s state or weeds will grow…fast…and it can turn into one big tangled mess. Again, I’m aware of the risk.

Here’s the blessing: I’m not a pushy mom, this particular defect of character does not manifest by forcing my children to study harder, get a team coaches and tutors, buy a case of ridiculous flash cards, or engage in other unsavory behavior I won’t even go into (but I have heard about) preparing them for a test that–I believe as smart and educated kids–they will either perform well on or not (and if they don’t, perhaps that isn’t the right school for them anyway). I am, and have always been, in fierce combat with myself, primarily, and I can be pretty harsh with my opponent. This life-long contest has taken many forms, but in the currently state and situation it resembles an equation that looks like:

(My Ability To Take On As Much As Possible * My Ability To Know As Much As Possible)/How Much Help I Can Avoid Asking For = How Good A Mom/Wife I Am

Sound familiar?

I know this is irrational. I know I am not alone and this actually does not attract the love, patience and tolerance of others…in fact, it does the opposite.

My husband’s willingness to help me in spite of my past unwillingness to accept his help is a generous gift, and one that may make all the difference during a stressful (and exciting) time for all of us. They say pain is inevitable, suffering is optional. I think the same is true about stress… it too is inevitable, but panic is optional. I have found the same variable hurdles me from pain to suffering and from stress to panic, and that is isolation. Isolation is dangerous for me…it allows me to convince myself that I am alone, it gives me permission to indulge in ideas and thoughts that are not true and it keeps my family at arms length, which is not fair to them. “Shouldering the burden” is ultimately unfair because it keeps those I love away from me.

So as a gift to my family and myself this school year, I am calling b*#%+&!t on that equation and resolving that…
– I am going to fight the desire to shoulder this alone by making the decision to rely on my husband.
– I’m not going to question, judge or micro-manage what he does or how he does it
– Finally, (most importantly) I’m going to THANK him for his efforts

Related Posts:
A Lesson In Graciousness
Inexpensive Date Ideas
Gifts From Mistakes
Dear Me: A Gift To A Younger Self


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