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What it's like having 3 kids in school

We've passed the 100th day of school for our 2nd grader and twin kindergartners. It was a big adjustment for me going from one child in school to three children in school all day. And now, for the first time ever, we have more kids in school than out of school home with me. I thought I would write a little piece about how amazing it is only having 2 home all day and 3 in school.

1. Mornings can be busy.

Above is an actual picture of me getting the kids ready for school. I think my favorite part of the morning is when sneakers go missing right before we walk out the door, a child is somehow naked when moments before he was fully clothed, or when the toddler raids the already packed lunch pails. Actually, no. I love when I meal prep breakfast for the week and the children refuse to eat it. Wait, it's also fun when there are no jackets in the house... or the children won't wear the jackets... or they try to wear the wrong jackets (you are a boy's size 6... you really thought the hot pink 6 month size jacket was yours?!). But let's not forget about epic sibling fights when I finally sneak into my bedroom to get dressed.

2. Emotions can run high.

Getting out of the house with kids can be challenging at the best of times. Throw in a school uniform, appropriate shoes and appropriate weather gear, lunch pails, homework folders, backpacks, library books... all needing to make their way out the door on time. With a toddler and a baby underfoot. It can be stressful. Yesterday after dropping the kids off at school I came home to clean the blood stains out of the carpet from where one punched the other in the nose (over Magna Tiles!). And you know how when you take kids to the fair and they are going, going, going all day and they come home to have an epic meltdown? Well, school is a lot like that. Their brains get crammed with knowledge, in an environment packed with stimulation, and lunch and recess worked in there, only to come home late in the afternoon to a house full of siblings. Basically, we have a whole lot of "I'm not touching you" "YES YOU ARE" "NO I'M NOT" "LET'S SOLVE THIS WITH OUR FISTS" type arguments.

3. They learn so much.

You have a baby. You read board books. You make cookies in the shape of the alphabet. You ask them the color of everything, what noise everything makes. You make sensory baskets and organize themed playdates. You start a preschool co-op. You enroll them in a preschool (and pay an arm and a leg). You read, read, read and count, count, count. And limit TV time and play educational games and spend, spend, spend on workbooks and flashcards and anything that makes learning fun. Then your kids start school and you wait at school pick up with arms wide open, excited to hear about the new things they learned... only for them to slink over, drop their backpack at your feet, and snarl, "FINE," when you ask how their day was.

4.  I learn a lot about myself as well.

It's amazing to see the world through the eyes of a child. Especially when that child gives you a daily report on the quality of your lunches or what their classmates bring to school. It is a never ending game of "You Can't Win." If you pack a Lunchable everyday because so-and-so gets Lunchables everyday, eventually you will hear from the other parents or teachers or lunch staff that it's good to send in variety or healthy choices. It's also so humbling to forget that you signed up to volunteer or send in a treat or to somehow fail in a way that your child will be reminded of all day, "Today was a free dress day, Mom. All my friends wore Batman shirts and I was in uniform!" It's also nice to know that it's not just your kids who are judging you, but the other parents ("It's just really important to me to volunteer at least once a week. I never see you in there. Do you ever volunteer in the classroom?"), the teachers ("Reading with your kids is so important. I know you have a lot going on, but could you maybe make time to read with him?" Um, never mind the FORTY MINUTES we read together as a family each night), the office staff ("Late again?"). I'm sure even the janitor has an opinion. Having your kids in school is a great way to know what kind of grade you get as a parent.

5. There are a lot of birthday party invites.

With 3 kids in 3 different classes, we get birthday party invites on the daily. Our kids love going to these. "Mom! So-and-so is having a birthday party!" And I open the homework folder and there it is. Another Chuck E Cheese invite or swim party or whatever party held at wherever place. (Full disclosure: as much as my kids love Chuck E Cheese, it's not my favorite restaurant.) No, it's not a drop off party and, no, other siblings can't come. You get the whining from the other siblings, "Why can't I go?" (never mind they went solo to a birthday party last weekend) plus the whining from the invitee ("Mom, I really want to go!"). You feel like a jerk not going; you know how important birthdays are to kids. So you drag your kid to the store to get into yet another argument over the gift budget ("No, we are not dropping $50 on that! I've never even hear you talk about this classmate.") and head to Chuck E Cheese where you can pick up yet another round of rotavirus. (At least you are bringing something home to your other children who didn't get to go.) All to do it again the following weekend with another one of your children.

6. It's good to find outlets for their energy.

I find affordable extracurricular options that work with our schedule. And then 3 of our kids go to school and we get to hear about: basketball leagues. Soccer leagues. Football leagues. Baseball leagues. Tae Kwon Do. Karate. Swimming. Dance. Drama. Art. Gym. Music. N-E-V-E-R E-N-D-I-N-G list of things so-and-so is doing. Never mind that I pick all 3 of them up from school and take them here, there, and everywhere (with a baby and toddler in tow). Never mind that we spend our weekends doing activities. You aren't ever in the right sports, the right leagues, the right gym. Your kids no longer want to do whatever it is you signed them up for ("You are finishing this season. Do you know how much this cost?") and your other kids are bored ("It's not your turn right now. We are watching your brother."). All in all, extracurricular activities are a great way to spend money on things your kids don't want to do, dragging siblings who don't want to go, after they spend all day having to listen and obey and then come home late and off-schedule to a piecemeal dinner no one wants to eat (or, alternatively, fast food).

7. The evening schedule can be a little... off.

When our 3 kids get out of school, they are tired, wired, and hungry. Sometimes we have to rush to this sport or that sport. Sometimes we go home for the children to snack and bicker. But, dang. They fall asleep on the couch. They fall asleep in the car. They devour all their snacks. Then they aren't hungry at dinnertime. I try to make them wait to eat until dinnertime.. but then they are starving and lay down on the sidewalk wailing. It's like, where is the balance? There isn't enough time for them to decompress before an activity. There isn't enough time between after-school snack and dinnertime to work up an appetite. No matter what I choose is the wrong choice. Except early bedtime. Early bedtime is always a good choice.

8. Homework.

Thankfully both of my kindergartners have teachers that do not regularly assign them homework, though I know there are other kindergarten teachers at their school that do. Our oldest had homework in 1st grade and now again in 2nd grade. I really wish these homework assigning teachers could come home with us and see what homework with lower elementary school students looks like. When do you do homework with them? When you get home and they are burnt out from a full day at school and want to go play? Or in the morning when you are trying to keep everyone on track? How do you help them with wailing kids, hungry kids, dinner going, extracurriculars scheduled? Massive eye roll to homework for little kids. Fine, send home a reading log. But forget about worksheets. We have as much playing to pack in as possible in the evenings. Also, can we please talk about how frustrating it is to help your kids in math when you learned those same concepts a different way? Math mountain? You mean equation?

9. Your kids will forget things.

I think every parent knows the feeling of walking in to the kitchen after dropping all the kids off to see their packed lunches sitting on the counter. Or their jackets hanging on the back of their chairs. Or whatever it is. And, yes, I know, I know. You say anything like this to another parent and you immediately get the, "That's called natural consequences at my house." Yeah, I know. There are plenty of times where if they forget something, they forgot it. It is their job to pack their lunches and backpacks and homework folders and all that. But on the days that they forgot something that has to be brought in, that means loading up our other 2 kids, driving to the school, unloading our 2 kids, going to the office, dealing with the office staff (grumble, grumble), and making sure it gets to them. It's so frustrating. And the office staff is always so helpful, "Why didn't they bring this with them?" Well, kids-- much like adults-- occasionally forget things. Especially when they spent all morning pretending they were trapped in a Poke Ball.

10. Naptimes can be difficult to schedule.

You want to know when your toddler will fall asleep? 10 minutes before school pick up. And he'll fall into a deep, beautiful sleep after he spent the last 2 hours wailing at you and throwing fruit snacks at the baby.  Sometimes I want to cry as the school alarm goes off on my phone and I have to wake up both my sleeping children. One can hope that the stroller or car seat will keep them asleep, but I know it's futile. They will wake up at some point and only have a 10-20 minute nap under their belt. When their older 3 siblings come home from school and are all wired and bouncing off the walls, I will also have a toddler and a baby clinging and wailing. And dinner to make. That right there is fun stuff.

11. It's nice not dragging 5 kids on errands.

With 3 kids in school, I "only" have the 2 little kids at home-- a toddler and a baby. That means that after getting 3 kids ready for school while managing the 2 little kids and getting myself ready, I have roughly 7 hours in the day to get things done with "only" 2 kids in tow (well, less, because I have to be back in time for school pick up). So roughly 6 hours. Of course in between their nap and feeding schedules (which is about an hour in the morning and at least 2 in the afternoon, but often 3 or more). Okay, so about 4 hours in the morning before we have to come back for afternoon nap; the baby can take the morning nap in her car seat. I can do Costco without 5 kids in that time! So much easier only wrangling one toddler and keeping a baby happy while shopping for our family of 7. So easy. So easy to only have to buckle and unbuckle one toddler and get the baby in and out and lug the diaper bag and push the stroller as we do appointments and errands. I mean, toddlers are such agreeable little creatures and there is just so much time in the day to get things done! Then, after doing Costco with 2 kids, I can come home and put away all the Costco groceries for our family of 7! And feed the 2 little kids. And get them down to nap. Before it is time for school pick up. But I can finish some of the other house chores after I pick up our other 3 kids from school. Though tonight is a sports night... Which means, I have been on my feet from 6:30 am when I woke up with the baby... I'd like to reiterate: So. Easy.


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