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Back-to-School Rants from Mommyland

Morgan Kelly
Aug. 15, 2011

These notorious mommy bloggers share their biggest back to school mistakes as part of the Care.com Interview Series.

Julie Miner and Kristin Keppler, otherwise known as Lydia and Kate, started their humor blog Rants from Mommyland in 2009 to keep from going insane. They both have three children ranging in ages from 2-12.

Like most respectable mothers, Lydia and Kate take their kids clothes shopping, stock up on fancy pencils, set earlier bed and wake-up times, and throw in some workbooks towards the end of those 77 days of summer. "And then, somehow the first day of school manages to sneak up on us like a stealthy little vixen and bite us right in the junk," said Lydia, who admits that her kids transition well to nothing. "We are never ready. Never."

Lydia and Kate took a break from practicing their "happy dance," to be performed at the sound of the first school bell, to talk to Care.com about what it's really like preparing their six kids for a new school year.

Lydia and Kate's Top 3 Back-to-School Don'ts for Parents:

    1. Don't waste your money. Kate's three "indoor homeless people," as she calls them, love convincing their mother that they'll get good grades if she splurges on that eight dollar pencil. "We also spend an undue amount of time on purchasing the "perfect" outfit for the first day of school, which is unceremoniously discarded that very morning because one of them suddenly thinks, "I don't want to look like a dork.'"

    2. Don't encourage school-themed musicals. For Lydia's three "little terror suspects," the back-to-school season doesn't fill them with anxiety so much as it creates a major letdown. "Possibly it was a mistake to let the oldest one watch High School Musical," she says. "There was no spontaneous singing in second grade and that made her sad."

    3. Don't exert all of your energy on the first day--they're just getting started. Saddle up for the six-week transition. "They spend the first two weeks complaining about how it's "no fair" that they have to go back to school, the next two weeks feigning sickness or forcing their mother to drag them out of bed with a crowbar, and the final two weeks completely distracted by what their Halloween costumes are going to be," Kate says. Until Halloween is officially moved to the third day of school, Lydia and Kate find that "cotton balls work to counteract the effects of all that complaining."

Read more about what Lydia and Kate celebrate, and dread, during the back-to-school season in our full interview below. You can also Find Rants from Mommyland on Twitter.

Can you tell us a little about your family?

Kate is the mother of the three Indoor Homeless People, so-named because they don't have jobs, beg her for food and money, rarely bathe or brush their teeth. They just do it all from the comfort of her living room. She has two elementary school-aged boys and one pre-teen daughter, which means that she experiences daily the phenomenon of twin tornadoes, followed by a lot of crying mostly having to do with something about wanting a cell phone. Generally speaking, they are the funniest people that Kristin knows, but for some reason when she laughs at them they get all upset about it.

Lydia is the mother of three children, whom she lovingly refers to as The Little Terror Suspects. Her oldest is a girly girl who's 8 and heading into 3rd grade. He middle son is 6, obsessed with sports, Legos and Wii. He's about to start first grade. Her youngest is a precious little, 2 and a half-year-old cupcake baked by the devil. She will start preschool two days a week in the fall. She also has a four-month-old Lab puppy and a surly, geriatric cat.

As a mother, what is the hardest part about the back-to-school season?

Kate: Those 77 days before the back-to-school season.

Lydia: I get that. But for me, it's the emotional yo-yo. On the one hand, it's been a couple of months of "all kids, all the time," and I need to be alone for a few minutes or I will lose my mind. I need our schedule to be normal. I need an hour a day of quiet to get things done. On the other hand, I hate being away from them and I already miss them - thinking of them being gone all day. Sniffle. And then the screaming starts again and I'm like "how many damn days?"

Do your children experience any back-to-school anxiety? Can you tell us a little about that and how they express it?

Kate: My daughter starts middle school and riding the bus for the first time, my older son is starting in the "upper grades" of elementary school, and the little one is starting Kindergarten. They're all nervous, excited and express it, apparently, by not making their beds and tattling on each other.

Lydia: So far we haven't had a problem with anxiety related to starting school. The real issue has been getting all pumped about it and then having it be sort of a letdown.

How do your kids adjust from the fun of summer to the structure of school? Can you share any tips you've acquired over the years?

Kate: It's a six week process: They spend the first two weeks complaining about how it's "no fair" that they have to go back to school, the next two weeks feigning sickness or forcing their mother to drag them out of bed with a crowbar, and the final two weeks completely distracted by what their Halloween costumes are going to be. Then it's Thanksgiving, Christmas, the dark days, Spring Break and then I'm spending two weeks complaining about how it's "no fair" that they're about to be back in my house for 77 days again.

Lydia: My kids don't transition well TO ANYTHING. So back-to-school means fussiness, whining and acting out - even though they're all pretty happy to go back. The best thing I can do for them is to build downtime into their days. It sounds easy but it's not. We're busy and have a lot of stuff going on. I'll skip practice or games or birthday parties for the first few weeks of school, but I will not budge on bedtime or time spent doing quiet stuff at home that chills them out.

How do you and your family prepare for the school year and/or first day of school?

Kate: My children love back-to-school shopping. They have resolutely tried to convince their mother every year that, with the proper, fancy and most expensive school supplies, they will become model students. And, seeing as that I'm never going to purchase eight-dollar pencils, they can blame their grades on me.

What does a typical school day morning at your house look like?

Lydia: It's a giant cluster of not moving fast enough and me trying not to yell at everyone. It usually results with us being on time by the skin of our teeth, but only because I am still wearing my pajamas.

Kate: As is there is, sadly, no footage from Pompei, we are left to assume that we re-enact it every morning. I, of course, fictionalize the role of the volcano. The terror and fleeing, however, is very real. Also, we serve cereal.

What tips do you have for first-time parents who may be anxious about sending their oldest child to school?

  • Read the book "The Kissing Hand".
  • Write hidden notes in their lunchbox, notebook or backpack that tell them you're proud of them and to have a great day. My kids love that.
  • Remember that for them it's an adventure; be excited for them.
  • Don't cry until you get home. I loved seeing them walk through that door to school, but I totally bawled my eyes out - just not where they could see me.
  • If you're really anxious about it, and you have the flexibility, volunteer at their school.

What is your secret to staying sane? What do you do for yourself to help ease any stress you might feel as summer comes to an end?

Kate: Staying sane? Oh, you adorable people. You're assuming that we ever were sane. We're currently working on our Happy Dance, which will be performed on the sidewalk across from the school about 0.000056 seconds after the first bell rings. It should be epic.

What advice do you wish you had received before having school-aged kids?

Lydia: I guess I wish I'd known that it simultaneously gets easier and harder. When they're little, you take care of everything for them. Granted, it's totally overwhelming and exhausting. But you can protect them and keep them from getting hurt. Or at least you can make them feel better when they get hurt.

As they get older, there is so much of their lives that is out of your control. So much that you can't make all better or help them with or do for them. And of course, you're not supposed to. I'm still learning to support and comfort and love them, but step back and let them be independent. It's so hard. I get a lot of "Mooooom. Stop hugging me."

For more tips, read the rest of our Care.com Interview Series: Back-to-School.

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