It’s a sort-of-milestone year for my two daughters – Georgia is starting kindergarten, which feels big even though she already attended pre-K and 2- and 3-year-old preschool on the same campus, and Ruby is starting middle school, even though she’s not really starting middle school because it’s a weird hybrid transition year.

And every year, milestones or not, I always start with the best of intentions: This is the year that I won’t do all those bad/lazy/ineffective things I’ve done before. This is the year that I’ll keep their pencils sharpened, their uniforms crisp, their snacks healthy. I’ll sign up for conferences immediately.

There are some things I am actually pretty good about: I try to ensure that backpacks are packed the night before, shoes are put away on the bench by the door, and uniforms are set out (even if they’re not ironed). I think we only got two tardies all last year – and one of those was excused because they shut down the Earhart Expressway and everyone coming from Uptown was late. So I’m pretty darn good about getting everyone there on time.

That said, obviously there is some room for improvement. Here are my five goals, although I’m already skeptical about the likelihood of any of these changes sticking.


  1. They’ll get enough sleep. I’m going to try. I really am. I know this one is important. It’s just so hard – many days, if Ruby has extracurriculars, we don’t even get home until 6:30 p.m. Even if Ruby dives straight into homework and eats dinner while she works, it’s a stretch to get everyone fed, bathed, and in bed with teeth brushed any sooner than 10 p.m. – which is too late.
  2. No more homework battles. I laughed even while I typed this. Even right now in late July in the comfort of my own air-conditioned office with Ruby 700 miles away in St. Louis, even that far removed from it all, I know this won’t realistically happen. I take academic success and responsibility very seriously; Ruby is as tightly wound as I am and even more stubborn. No matter how many times I commit to the idea that it’s her homework and that I won’t be drawn into conflict over it, it still happens at least weekly. I’m not sure what kind of homework Georgia will have next year, but if I have two homework meltdowns happening simultaneously, I might run away from home.
  3. No more eating in the car. I’m tired of finding mummified French toast sticks under the driver’s seat or Nutella toast in the cupholders – to say nothing of the forgotten and festering cups of milk. Kids can finish breakfast at home or go hungry! (This will not happen.)
  4. No more packing backpacks. Every night as the kids take a bath or wind down with a book, I make sure homework is in folders, folders are in backpacks, backpacks are by the door. I make sure snacks are packed and water bottles are filled. If uniforms are needed for sports, I make sure those are clean and packed. If library books are due, I find them and zip them in. I could, theoretically, stop doing this. I should stop doing this. Natural consequences are a good thing, and it’s not like they would starve or die of thirst. They have water fountains. They have lunch. And if their library books are late or they forget their homework, good! That’s how they learn. (I mean this entirely, but I also have not yet actually followed through. I hate the idea of my kids being upset over misplaced homework … but not as much as I hate the idea of them being college students who are incapable of keeping track of their own stuff. So I’m really going to try on this one.)
  5. We’ll look at the lunch menu in advance and decide which days to bring vs. buy lunch. I can remember from my own childhood how devastating it was to anticipate lunch all morning only to walk into the cafeteria and be greeted by the smell of fish sticks or meatloaf – but I hated to miss red beans and rice (which were not served consistently on Mondays as you might expect) or pizza. With a little advance planning, my kids can avoid the truly bad lunches and I don’t have to pack lunch every single night. (Bonus points if I can convince Ruby to make her own lunch.)


Ultimately, I’m sure by October (at the latest), I’ll have fallen back into my old, enabling ways, but right now, I’m almost excited for school to start.

What are your back-to-school goals?