Wow, is the summer really over already? It certainly doesn’t feel that way when I step outside to go for a run and, instead, end up swimming through the humid “air!”
But, for the kids, it’s back to the grind. And for me, no more sleeping in that extra half an hour because camp drop off was later than school.
Return of the morning rush – trying to get two kids up, dressed, fed and out the door on time every day. Not to mention the after school chaos of completing homework, dinner, baths, bedtime – all while trying to ensure they’ve got time to just be kids and play too. The good news is that settling back into a routine seems to actually bring some sanity to my house. Every family is different of course, but for us, a definite structure means the kids know what to expect, and what I expect from them.
Especially in the light of a huge change, like divorce, kids benefit from the security of “normal” routines. Growing up already means things are changing constantly, and I believe that some specific structure allows children to feel a sense of control over their lives.
Does this mean we live our entire lives in a rigid schedule? No, of course not – but the simple act of knowing that it’s time to brush teeth because that’s what happens every day at this time, means that’s no longer a power struggle in my house. Likewise for homework – it gets done first, every day, before playtime. In reality, my school age daughter completes most of her homework in study hall or after school care because she knows that means more fun time at home.
Some rules are meant to be broken (sometimes), though, so there are evenings where we’ll head to the park with our Single Parents of the Triangle friends, homework in hand. The homework still gets done before playtime, but on these nights it happens on a park bench instead of at the table.
It’s difficult as a single parent, but I also try to incorporate some one-on-one time with each child every day. My youngest goes to bed earlier, so we try to have a bedtime story alone. My daughter understands that she’s next, because she gets to stay up later.
Sometimes the little guy will “help” with dinner, stirring or sifting or otherwise making a mess of my kitchen. Then, later, my daughter might help make a batch of cookies. Other nights we’ll do it all together, and these are the most fun deviations for me. Seeing the kids work together to accomplish something is such a great moment as a parent.
And this is already happening more often now that school is back in session and life is becoming more “normal” again. Another benefit of our rediscovered structure – less fighting and more cooperation!
Sure, back to school brings a new level of stress – especially with my daughter entering third grade (often touted as the year the kids really have to buckle down and work!) – but with that comes a renewed sense of control and balance in our lives.
As if we parents needed another reason to celebrate back-to-school time!
Stacy Lamb of Apex is the divorced mom of two. She also is organizer for Single Parents of the Triangle. Find her here monthly on Wednesday.