Confessions of an Honest Mom: This is How We Survive Back to School

You guys, September is here!

(I like to start out my letters to you by stating something boring and obvious. It just really gets those creative juices flowing, you know?)

But do you know what this means?

It means Fall is here!

Isn’t Fall just the best?

It’s my absolute favorite time of year.

Not because of pumpkin spice (ewe) or the cooler temps (yes please) or even all the football (I’m a little peeved after losing in my fantasy league last year. I was literally The Biggest Loser. I now drive with a license plate of shame).

No, I love fall because it is the biggest re-set of the year.

I loooooove me a fresh start.

All the things get an overhaul. The schedule, the routine, the bedtimes, the… okay I just realized that was three different ways to say basically the same thing. So I guess my favorite part of of Fall is just the fact that I get my structured schedule back. Sue me.

Over here in southern Oregon the kids don’t go back to school until Sept. 5th, which is apparently like, an entire month later than the rest of the world? I don’t get it. Not only are we always behind because of time zones, we’re also behind in just about everything else. Which is why fidget spinners only became a thing for us like, five minutes ago. There’s probably already a new Taylor Swift song out that we don’t even know about yet…

Anyway, I’ll just be honest and admit that normally by the last week of August I am so ready for my kids to go back to school. Like, packing-up-their-backpacks-on-a-Saturday-even-though-school-doesn’t-start-until-Tuesday-ready.

I start off the summer feeling like Leslie Knope on a Monday morning- full of hope and good intentions…

but then I end the summer a lot more like Sunglasses Amy, trying to care that she’s supposed to be hosting the Oscars right now.

This likely has something to do with the fact that Nate usually takes his annual weeklong hunting trip this last week of summer, leaving me to hold down the parenting fort while he does manly things like bow-hunt in the crisp mountain air and beat his chest in the wild. I don’t actually know if he beats his chest. I don’t understand much of what goes on during these trips other than:

1. He’s going to require a whole lot of peanut butter & jelly sandwiches to sustain his sojourn through the wilderness.


2. He’s going to come back with a killer story about how he rode on the backs (plural!) of a herd of wild elk straight into the river while shooting an arrow at a bear across the prairie.

Or something like that.

Again, I don’t really know if this is factual. I do try to follow, but I sort of lose interest right around the point when he stops talking about peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.

I do know that these hunting trips are life-giving for him and the best way he knows how to recharge so I happily kiss his cheek, make his sandwiches, and send him on his way, knowing that my own re-charge is coming the next week when I’ll come home to an empty house at 8:15 am.

At which point I’ll be free to drink a second cup of coffee, head into my office to write, go to the gym, Vox friends, or do any number of other life-giving things like GO TO TARGET.

This year his hunting trip isn’t happening until later in the fall, and as a result I was surprised to hear myself telling Amber that I wasn’t actually feeling ready for summer to end this year. Not that my feelings have much bearing on the seasons anyway, but like everything else in my life, I insist on processing my feelings by talking them out.

And staring out windows.

We’d just gotten back from a romantic getaway for our 15th anniversary (Nate and I, I mean Not Amber and I) and I was having all those warm fuzzy feelings of missing the kids. I was still basking in that glow of reuniting with them in a pleasant fog of of lazy mornings and lingering snuggles.

That glow is now gone.

Something in the air has shifted just like it always does during that last week of summer and everyone is getting… how shall we say… a bit squirrely?

Yes, “squirrely” is definitely the nicest way I can describe what the children are being.

It sounds so much better than “fighty”.

We’ve all been cooped up indoors for weeks because wildfires are rampant in our state and the air quality has been deemed “unsafe”. The air is so thick and heavy with smoke that you literally can’t see the mountains for the trees.

So we’ve played board games. We’ve colored and painted. We’ve read books. We’ve watched movies. We’ve done crafts.

I’ve driven all over tarnation in a futile attempt to track down “citric acid” at three different stores when one of those crafts is a homemade bath bomb and a certain preteen is coming unhinged at the thought of an fizz-less bath bomb. (insert all the eye rolls)

Do you know how long all that fun, bonding stuff took?

3 hours.

Do you know how long I’ve spent dispelling arguments, fielding complaints over our lack of “good snacks”, and reminding them (with a little extra bass in my voice) that “if they don’t have anything nice to say, then they shouldn’t say anything at all”?

7 thousand hours. 

I am done. Summer Fun is over.

Fall, come quickly. Please. Sweet Fall, with your crisp leaves and your early bedtimes and your fresh TV lineup. I miss you so.


The problem is, I love Fall so much that I usually go a little overboard with it.

I get overambitious and try to be way too productive in that first week of school.

I “spring clean” the house.

I re-organize all the cupboards and drawers.

I make way too many plans with way too many people leaving no time to be alone and then wonder why I feel so wrecked and grouchy.

I expect the children to fall easily into new patterns and get frustrated when they meltdown at 2:20 pm on the third day of school because “the car smells weird”.

I always forget to remember that transitions are hard.

For all of us.

But especially for the kids, who are contending with new teachers, new friends, new rules, new routines, and worst of all, no more Cocoa Puffs because mom decided that part of our Fall re-set includes a healthy breakfast.

I always set my expectations way too high that first week, inadvertently setting us all up for disaster at worst and for some light drama at best.

But not this year!

No Siree!

This year I’m going to go ahead and just lower my expectations for a while.

I am going to do NONE OF THE THINGS until the second week of September.

I am not going to deep clean the house and then get uptight when no one puts their hairbrush or deodorant in the right drawer.

I am not going to insist we all eat healthy and get to bed precisely on time and become completely different people than we have been for the last three months.

I am not going to plan anything. With anyone.

I am not going to lock myself in my office and try to make up for all the writing I wasn’t able to do over the summer.

I’m just going to coast.

I’m going to let myself and my family off the hook and I’m going to be chill until we all get our bearings.

Im going to sip coffee on the porch and I’m going to peruse Target and I might even watch a little bit of tv during the day.

There, I said it. Just doing my civic duty by lowering the bar for you, folks! You’re welcome.

So I raise my glass to all you frazzled moms with big plans. As we navigate these turbulent back to school waters, may we all go a little easier on ourselves so we don’t capsize on The Sea of Mothers Who Died Trying.

Here’s to lower standards and smoother transitions!


I’ll see ya the second week of September when I’m all about being productive again. ✌🏽

One thought on “Confessions of an Honest Mom: This is How We Survive Back to School

  1. Alyson

    Yes!!! Thank you Amber! Brilliant idea and I’m following suite. Bar lowered at this house, only in my mind so far but already I feel a flood of relief

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *