Let me stay home a little longer, he won’t be this little forever

I love knowing the majority of my time is with him. That when he asks me, "Mommy sit down with me," I can do it and not care about the pile of dishes.

Let me stay home a little longer, he won’t be this little forever

There are dandelion seeds trapped in my bra. My 2-year-old has taken to eating them, rather than blowing them. And I can't seem to want to put him down as he does this. I'm sure there's a metaphor in there somewhere.

Am I the only mother who is relishing this? That delights in slow quiet mornings making play-dough creations with my son as I sip on the coffee I had time to make myself instead of yet another dash through a Starbucks drive-thru? Sure, he decided to wake up at 4 am, but there was only home to be.

I would rather such a morning than the usual struggle to get to daycare when inevitably he poops as soon as I put him in the car seat, and I still had half a dozen stops before even making it into work.

I craved these timeless moments pre-coronavirus. Daydreamed about his smile and so ever eager to get home for his hugs and banshee toddler screams.

I love having an excuse and saying that I need to be home to care for my son. This is, at least somewhat, more acceptable because of limited childcare options. I'm allowed to say that and not feel inferior or be questioned about how much I value my career. As if caring about my work and caring about my child are required to be mutually exclusive.

I get that it's not the same for everyone. I don't have a school-age child and lesson plans to worry about. I do have some childcare help in the form of a trusted sitter, not much help, but enough. I have an employer who is receptive and supportive to our needs. I am so grateful.

And yes, of course, we need breaks. The couple of days I go into the office I've taken to keeping the car windows down whatever the weather just to breathe in air not saturated with toddler, cat or dog smells. I take ridiculously long toddler-free showers just for a few extra minutes. I do what I can with the options I have available. Then I regroup and go paint the window with my kid. Yes, the window. What are clean bodies for, but to get messy?

I love hearing about the moments we are flexing that muscle of compassion with one another about parenting demands. But they have felt few and far between. So I am going to be the one to say it. I LOVE THIS. I love being at home with my child. I love knowing the majority of my time is with him. That when he asks me, "Mommy sit down with me," I can do it and not care about the pile of dishes.

This will not be forever. Nothing is.

This is how we’re defining success this school year

Hint: It's not related to grades.

In the ever-moving lives of parents and children, opportunities to slow down and reflect on priorities can be hard to come by. But a new school year scheduled to begin in the midst of a global pandemic offers the chance to reflect on how we should all think about measures of success. For both parents and kids, that may mean putting a fresh emphasis on optimism, creativity and curiosity.

Throughout recent decades, "school success" became entangled with "academic achievement," with cases of anxiety among school children dramatically increasing in the past few generations. Then, almost overnight, the American school system was turned on its head in the spring of 2020. As we look ahead to a new school year that will look like no year past, more is being asked of teachers, students and parents, such as acclimating to distance learning, collaborating with peers from afar and aiming to maintain consistency with schooling amidst general instability due to COVID.

Despite the inherent challenges, there is also an overdue opportunity to redefine success during the school year by finding fresh ways to keep students and their parents involved in the learning process.

"I always encourage my son to try at least one difficult thing every school year," says Arushi Garg, parenting blogger and mom of a 4-year-old. "This challenges him but also allows me to remind him to be optimistic! Lots of things in life are hard, and it's important we learn to be positive during difficult times. Fostering a sense of optimism allows kids to push beyond what they thought possible, like biking without training wheels or reading above their grade level."

Here are a few mantras to keep in mind this school year:

Quality learning matters more than quantifying learning

After focusing on standardized measures of academic success for so long, the learning environment this next school year may involve more independent, remote learning. Some parents are considering this an exciting opportunity for their children to assume a bigger role in what they are learning—and parents are also getting on board by supporting their children's education with engaging, positive learning materials like Highlights Magazine.

As a working mom, Garg also appreciates that Highlights Magazine can help engage her son while she's also working. She says, "He sits next to me and solves puzzles in the magazine or practices his writing from the workbook."

Keep an open mind as "school" looks different

Whether children are of preschool age or in the midst of high school, "going to school" is bound to look different this year. Naturally, this may require some adjustment as kids become accustomed to new guidelines. Although many parents may wish to shelter our kids from challenges, others believe optimism can be fostered through adversity when everyone is committed to adapting to new experiences.

"Honestly, I am yet to figure out when I will be comfortable sending [my son] back [to school]," says Garg. In the meantime, she's helping her son remain connected with friends who also read Highlights Magazine by encouraging the kids to talk about what they are learning on video calls.

Follow children's cues about what interests them

For Garg, her biggest hope for this school year is that her son will create "success" for himself by embracing new learning possibilities with positivity.

"Encouraging my son to try new things has given him a chance to prove that he can do anything," she says. "He takes his previous success as an example now and feels he can fail multiple times before he succeeds."

There's no denying that this school year will be far from the norm. But, perhaps, we can create a new, better way of defining our children's success in school because of it.

This article was sponsored by Highlights. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.

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