For the last two years, I have had three boys at three different schools. Sounds like that should have been a piece of cake. Yet I have spent the last two years juggling three different PTA, PTSA & Booster clubs (of COURSE they all had different names). Three different school calendars of events. Three different groups of after-school activities. This might not seem like a lot – but at the end of a grueling two year saga of juggling it all, there are signs I might make it out intact. Granted, with one week left to go I have a to-do list of 72 items and haven’t been home before 9pm the last two weeks of school, but I feel like the end is in sight.
The summer of 2016. There was no inkling on how crazy life would turn in the just a few short weeks. The school year ended like every other school year. Backpacks full of remains of the previous year. Art projects piled high & making their way to the memory bins. We celebrated 8th grade graduation and looked forward to the transition to high school for the oldest boy. The middle child was moving from grade school to junior high. Youngest still at the grade school. Knowing 2 of the 3 schools, we should know what to expect, right? RIGHT?!? Wrong. Consider yourself warned – entering the world of three boys and three schools is not what you’d expect.
Three Boys & Three Schools
I saw the challenge ahead of me as we headed towards the Fall of 2016. Thought I would preemptively prepare for the first school of two years of expected chaos. Order was needed to juggle high school, junior high & grade school for two years. I had file folders color coded. Calendars were separated and ready to fill with after-school activities. Each iPhone was updated and linked with important calendars so each kid could see the plan for the day. I thought I had a jump on things. There wasn’t enough color coding or red wine to prepare me for this. I didn’t expect the unexpected.
Different District Calendars
While there were three kids, thankfully I only had to juggle two district calendars. For the past decade the calendars were almost spot on with start and end dates, with a few scattered days off different throughout the year. What fun would it be if that was the case when we entered the fall of 2016.
Our area high school districts decided that they wanted to shift the start date of school a bit earlier so that the students could take finals before winter break. One local HS district decided to do that a bit earlier than our high school district. Of course, our grade school district (which include our JH and grade school) started to mirror that schedule quickly. Our high school, however, was in the other area HS district. Not only did they start later than our grade school district, but the WINTER BREAKS WERE DIFFERENT. I had kids home for a total of three weeks, but they were only all home together for one week, with Christmas & New Years Day that week. It was the longest three-week vacation of my life. Thankfully that only occurred the first year.
Oh Yeah, Sports
On top of everything else that they do, the youngest two play hockey. The first year one was house league, the other travel hockey. The second year we took off the spring session & then both played house league the next fall. Both had tournaments, practice schedules & games during the week & weekends. If you have never participated in hockey before, know that the season starts in September and ends in March. There is no rest for the weary in hockey.
The high schooler took his turn at sports as well, continuing to participate in soccer as a freshman. While after the season he decided to retire from sports and transitioned his focus on band & theatre. Thankfully these are mostly indoor activities with rehearsals after school. A slight reprieve for my drive times, but still things to add to the calendar.
Health & Learning Challenges
While we might have spent the last nine years navigating the education system and knew what to expect each year, good old karma thought he’d shake things up a bit. Early 2016 we found that our youngest son did indeed have a hearing problem. During that summer he finally got his first pair of hearing aids and started the 3rd grade with navigating his classroom experience with them. This didn’t add a lot to our calendar of events (maybe one extra IEP meeting) but certainly made for a bit of added stress.
Then there is the actual part of school that focuses on actual learning. One child started to excel but also needed the support of navigating new technology learning platforms. The other began to struggle with my least favorite subject, math. Since I already did my time as a student, we needed to add some additional tutoring to help bridge some gaps. Thank goodness for Huntington Learning Center. We also tackled our first child taking drivers education. If that doesn’t add a few grey hairs to your head, I tip my hat to you.
Don’t forget about all the learning for parents. We don’t get a pass, no matter how many degrees we have hung on our walls. Since the start of the 2016 school year I can now successfully navigate an iPad, a Chrome Book, Google Docs, Seesaw, Infinite Campus & Khan Academy. Did you realize you would need to block time to learn all this new technology for your kids? Yep, you do. While you’re at it brush up on your Algebra, too.
Mom has a life, too??
Top off everything we were juggling with the kids & I went and added my own uptick of social obligations to the calendar. I have always worked full time, and currently my schedule has been 4 days a week (10hr shifts). While we take family vacations yearly, I usually don’t make a habit of additional adventures. So, in the midst of all this madness, I logged five flights and seven vacations – only two of those as a family. While I cannot stress enough that I support & encourage traveling & adventures, I probably wouldn’t recommend stepping up your adventures during the first year of this chaos.
Fast forward to the end of 2018. In a few short days, the last two years are officially complete. We will soon be ending our 10th, 8th & 4th grade school years. The next adventure will have two high schoolers & one grade schooler. Since our 8th grader graduated the Thursday before Memorial Day I already feel that a weight has been lifted & the seas are calming.
I wish I had some fabulous bit of advice or suggestion if you find yourself about to embark on three kids in three different schools – but I really don’t have answers. Drink more? Forget cleaning? I’d tell you to cook less but I don’t cook now, so that might not help you out. Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying the organization didn’t work. In fact, that is probably the only thing that kept me from really losing it. You could volunteer less, travel less, be involved in less – but those are also part of the daily adventures that give the break in the routine and help you feel like you’re giving back to the cause. I might not have all the answers, just expect the unexpected if you find yourself on the zone defense strategy of more schools than parents.
Part of me wants to tell you to avoid volunteering for anything – the other part wants me to tell you to help out any chance you get. What you most certainly should do is enjoy every moment. Embrace it. Document it. Take those photos. Grab that kid (who is now probably taller than you) for a selfie. Once your kids start navigating from grade school to middle school/junior high and onto high school – they grow faster than you can ever imagine.
You’ll be exhausted. You’ll be frazzled. You’ll be telling everyone you must have something in your eye when you’re dabbing those tears at 8th grade graduation realizing that those littles aren’t so little anymore. We blinked & they started to take the shape of tiny adults.
They’re preparing to embark on the adventures we thought would be years away – but it will be here sooner then we want it. You’ll look at your littlest one and realize he is trying to catch up to his older siblings. You’ll realize your oldest is closer to the finish line then you want him to be. Consider yourself warned – you’re going to need to start carrying tissues more. Be prepared.