Before my first went to kindergarten, I'll admit, I was a nervous wreck. I worried about it all: him making friends, if there'd be homework, if he'd miss me too much, and if he was learning at a decent pace. I stewed over how he'd transition to school full-time. But honestly, no one, I repeat no one, warned me that the biggest adjustment to grade school would be all the damn paperwork that was sent home.
I couldn't believe it. It felt like every single day my son's backpack was overflowing like a volcano with paperwork — not with homework but things that parents needed to be in the know about. Daily, we received (and still receive) handouts about the next fundraiser, volunteer schedules, snack schedules, new apps that we needed to join for even more communication, spirit days, classroom parties, and much, much more. It doesn't end. While I'm incredibly grateful for the communication between my kids' teachers and home, it's just that it can feel very overwhelming seeing a phonebook's worth of information in my kindergartener's backpack.
The adjustment for my son to transition to school was hard enough. So, throwing in even more stuff to worry about was the tipping point. I mean, juggling all of the extra dates and things that go on top of having a school-age kid is impossible — at least it feels that way. So, after two full years of it (and a lot of failures like forgotten Crazy Hair Day), I think I finally have a system down. The only key I found to corralling this madness is to involve everyone. Remember, there's no "I" in team. Sure, as the mother in the family, I'm the captain, but I refuse to be the only one steering the ship.
So, I established a routine. Every day after school, the kids and I head right to the kitchen table where they slap their book bags onto it. They empty their bags, and together, we go over all of the extra handouts. We discuss fundraisers, spirit days, homework for the older child, and all dates that we need to put on the calendar. From there, we weed out what we can, and the important stuff stays out. I make sure to put it in a little pile on the kitchen counter for my husband and I to go over once the kids are tucked in for bed.
To me, this is the most important part. I have forgotten enough things in my life that I've learned to never attempt to run the show alone. Because in the end, all I'm doing is making myself miserable (and let's be honest, resentful) and enabling everyone else in the family. So, my husband and I go through every single paper that's sent home and organize their schedules together every night. We waltz over to the calendar that hangs in the middle of our kitchen and jot down the important dates. Then we set alerts on our phones. This way, my husband and I are a team. If something is forgotten, it's on the both of us — not just mom.
Running a household is a lot of work. And once the kids are in school, it gets insanely busy. I never would have dreamed that what would cause the most worry about sending my first off to kindergarten would be all of the damn paperwork. But its endless, so it's crucial that I get help from everyone in the family. They all can be held accountable — yes, even the 5-year-old. By getting everyone on board, it teaches them independence. I am a very imperfect mom, but I will not be one who coddles my children. Because once they're adults, I know they'll thank me for it. But until then, together we'll manage all of the paperwork exploding out of their book bags.