After School Aftershocks

School is going well! The kids love it. They run into the building excitedly without any issue. They’re bringing home a crap ton of artwork and worksheets that I have to immediately destroy as soon as they’re asleep before A&E comes to film the next episode of Hoarders at our house. Olivia even requested to eat lunch in her classroom with her teacher, which could be more of a commentary on my lack of culinary abilities more so than her love for school, but either way I’m taking it as a positive sign.

Catholic school cuties

And how have I been doing? Well, I’ve been making the most of my few precious hours of freedom. The grocery stores are alive with the sound of no kids screaming from the cart. Silence is golden is a rule that’s once again abided in the car. Showers are hot, lengthy, and uninterrupted. Yes, I’m slowly driving myself crazy trying to shove eight hours worth of errands/cleaning/cooking/personal time into three short hours, but it’s my time. Mine!

But, if I had to be nit-picky – and I’m going to be – I suppose I would have to say that while I’m super pleased with the new school and how much my little raptors are learning, the few short hours after school and before bed can be brutal. It’s some frightening combination of exhaustion, hanger, and repressed misbehavior that comes to a hellacious head as soon as they burst through the doors of our home and begin making demands. I was not prepared for this. At all. School is sort of like a little a-hole factory. I drop my happy kids off and pick up these  over-tired jerks. Until bedtime, it’s an emotional minefield around our house that I have to deftly navigate lest I make a wrong move and set one of them off. It’s doubly sucky because I’ve missed the kids all day and sometimes there are afternoons where I am counting down until I can drop them off again.

I’m not unsympathetic to how they’re feeling. I get it. They’ve  gone from a lackadaisical summer filled with leisurely starts and plenty of time for their favorite things. Now they’re thrust into school five days a week and it isi a lot. Olivia is there for a few short hours in the morning, but she just turned three and they work those little toddler fingers to the bone. AJR is there for a full day, which equates to a lot of time to listen, sit still, and work that brain of his. He loves it though, thankfully, even if it totally wipes him out.

Lucky for all of us, it has gotten better as we’ve adjusted to our new normal. But the first month of school was awful. It felt like karma said, “Oh, did you enjoy that few hours of freedom, mom? Hope so because BAM here is a pair of temperamental honey badgers. Good luck!” I’ve learned the hard way that it’s necessary to give them time to decompress rather than interrogating them about their day. As much as it pains me to not get a full account of the events of their day, I let them watch a show or give them their tablets for a bit (yes, those have made a comeback) for 30 minutes while I prepare whatever snack it is that they’re craving. With the beasts fed, their crank factor is instantly dialed down a notch. This isn’t to say that I don’t tread lightly, because believe me, I do. I let them decide what they want to do next. I offer up suggestions to do this or that outside of the house because well, FALL. But mostly they want to play. Mainly with me, but also with each other since they’re not around one another as much.

As a result, we’ve been housebound a lot. It may seem like we’re anti-social hermits these days but I think doing less is helping to ease the school-to-home transition. Last year our afternoons were filled with trips to the park, farm, grocery store, you name it. But those were the half-days of yester school-year. They are tired and I don’t want to wear them out further. Not to mention it would be such a gamble given their fragile emotional states. I have no desire to deal with public meltdowns that I brought upon myself because I tried to make them do too much in a single day. I offer up suggestions of a trip to the park to see if they’ll bite, but if they don’t, I won’t push it.

The kids were off school on Columbus Day so we went apple picking. These sorts of adventures used to happen quite regularly last year. Now these tired kiddos are more content to stay at home, which means we have to save these for the weekend or days off.

Most of all, I’ve had to check my own emotions and summon up every dredge of patience and empathy in my body. This is not an easy task when you’re dealing with a tiny person that has face-planted on the floor screaming because you gave them the Cheez-Its they requested but on a plate instead of in a bowl. I’m not perfect by any means. I’ll still yell on occasion because sometimes their post-school raging just keeps coming at me in waves and zen is the last thing I feel. But I’m trying. There’s lots of hugs. There’s lots of calmly explaining things instead of a direct banishment to the timeout step. Partly this is my stay-at-home-mom guilt. I’ve got to be Mary Poppins for the few hours that I see them because I chose this school for them, as great as it can be.

So in addition to doing my emotional balancing act and ensuring the kids are fed the right amount of food to avoid hunger-driven tantrums I’m playing a lot of LEGOs and dollhouse and all the things they ask of me. It’s nice to have this quality time but I’m finding myself even more tired than when I had them home with me all day. How is that even possible? Sigh. I guess it’s taking a little time for ME to adjust to the new normal too.

Me trying to still enforce discipline without setting the kids off

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