Whatever your emotional response is this fall, let me suggest five practical things I would be sure to do this year before the kids head off to that first day of class. They aren't rocket surgery as I like to say, but they just might make a big difference this year:
1. Pray. Yep, just pray for your kids. Thank God for them, confess that you probably can do better as a parent at times, then pray specifically. Pray for their teacher(s), their friends. Pray for their school, safety every day and for them to be able to be themselves whether it's in the classroom on the field, in the practice room or just having a good time. Pray that they will make a difference in someone else's life and not be impacted by the often cruel and mean comments of others.
There is lots to pray for. You know best what your child needs so pray to God for it.
2. Commit to less hovering this year. Yes, you know who you are, the parent who has to know everything their child does every moment, who fights all their battles for them and thinks that one taste of unhealthy food will kill them. You're the parent who practically does your child's homework lest they not get an A and who won't let them sit and waste one moment not being productive.
Of course, I'm not suggesting that we ignore out kids and give them free rein on everything. But sometimes we just need to let our kids be kids and quit demanding some sort of perfection out of them or fearing that their weaknesses will somehow reflect on us.
3. Picture yourself spending more quality, meaningful time with your kids apart from their activities and commitments. Think of some ways now that you're going to program in time with your kids - time for a lunch together, a family getaway, some personal time each week, whatever. Think about the ages of your kids. How many times will you get to do this age over? The answer is easy. Zero. No mulligans.
What is it this year that you don't want to let the tyranny of the urgent cause you to miss? I remember that when he was 13 I started climbing mountains with our son Tim. Sure we could have waited until later and maybe started earlier but I knew that thirteen was going to be a prime age for us to begin. I'm so glad we didn't miss that year and the years of climbing that followed.
4. Figure out how to slow yourself down. Part of the reason we miss special moments (and I'm not talking here about being at every game or practice - that's nuts) is because WE are too busy. We have no margin for more. So what will you give up or put aside for a time that will free you to enjoy your kids more and really spend the quality, special time I talked about in #3? Answer that question NOW.
5. Finally, I would have a heart to heart talk with your kids about the first four things. Let them know that while the activities and opportunities they have are still important, your time with them is more important. Tell them that you want to model what you hope they will do with their kids someday and be more than a spectator or helicopter parent.
Explain that you are going to make some memories this year that they will never forget, not necessarily because they are so big or special, but because you will be together.
Lovingly let them know that your being their parent isn't just a spectator sport. It takes work and you're going to be working at it as much as anyone.