Back to school means back to busy.
As the spontaneity of summer gives way to the more predictable rhythms of fall, it’s natural to feel regret and relief. We long wistfully for the fleeting freedom of summer but find comfort in knowing where we’ll be as the hustle and bustle begins.
If a full fall calendar has you teetering between dread and delight, take heart. Here’s how some local families embrace the seasons’ busyness without losing their togetherness.
Redeem the commute
The drive to and from school, practices, appointments and other commitments can take a big bite out of your family time, so don’t waste these moments on mindless online games. Instead of handing your son a screen as he slides into the backseat, give him a snack and ask about his day. No parent or kid looks forward to working on school assignments after a late game or long rehearsal, so train your children to get after it on the way to after-school activities. “I have a snack for all my kids, and then I encourage them to do their homework — read, spelling words or worksheets,” said Abby Peterson, a Rapid City mom of three. “That way, when they get home, most or all of it is completed and they can have more downtime.”
Don’t put off until morning what you can do tonight
Forget the fantasy where you rise before dawn to awake your crew with hot, out-of-the-oven breakfast, gourmet lunches and freshly laundered clothes. Reality looks more like repeatedly pushing the snooze button and frantically grabbing PopTarts while pushing your children out the door. Teach your children to think through what they might need tomorrow and pack it before they head to bed. This includes anything from piano books to permission slips. Abby has trained her 12-year-old, 10-year-old and 7-year-old to make their own lunches, fill water bottles and pack gym or other sportswear for the next day.
Be flexible with family meals
Sitting down for a nightly meal is key to staying connected when fall schedules send family members in different directions. That could mean delaying dinner until everyone is finally home at 7 or 8 p.m. or eating early before the kids rush off to a game. “We eat together at the table as many nights a week as we can,” said Sarah Causey, who is raising two busy teenagers with husband, Chris. Sports schedules sometimes demand the Causeys eat in shifts at home or grab something to-go, but dinner at home is always the goal.
Make chores less of a chore
The Peterson children follow rotating chore lists that spread out their responsibilities over the weekday in order to create more hangout time on the weekend. “If they do one thing a day, then by the weekend the house is maintained, laundry done, rooms clean and weekends are left for fun and relaxation,” Abby said.
Celebrate without breaking the bank
Several local fast-food chains sell discounted drinks in the afternoon. Take advantage of the sales and swing by with the kids right after school. There’s nothing like a cold slushie on a warm fall afternoon to bring out smiles and stories from the backseat.
Pencil it in
That cool calendar app on your phone may tell you what’s going down this week, but your kids may not have a clue. Invest in a wall calendar that everyone can view. Even better, find one with columns for every family member and let them pencil in their programs, practices and outings. When kids see the bigger picture, they better understand the coming weeks aren’t all about them. Mom, dad and siblings all have places to be. Based on what they see on the calendar, your kids may have some suggestions for sticking together through the back-to-busyness.
Be intentional about being unintentional: It’s smart to stay on top of where and when your family is going this fall so you can be intentional about family togetherness. But sometimes the best family moments happen when we least intend them to. So give yourself grace to do something fun and flighty with your kids this season. The homework and housework will always be there.