Back to School: What I learned on their Summer Vacation

Like many parents I sent my two back to school this morning.

But this year  was different.

#BTS 2013

And they’re off…

This year they made their own lunch, packed their school bags with what they thought they’d need and chose their own Back to School outfit out from among clothes they’ve had for more than a week.

I enabled them where I could – making sure we had lunch-worthy items in the house and *suggesting* they might want to wear a hoodie along with their shorts but other than that they were on their own.

I didn’t go to the school this morning. I don’t know who their teachers will be.

BTS 2012

Last year they were going back after missing a grade. They nailed it.

It’s not by chance.

It’s all part of our calculated plan to help them recognize their own strengths.

Over the last few years I’ve watched these boys grow through their travel experiences. I’ve seen them hold their own in discussions with adults about political issues of the day, learn how to use chopsticks like champs, overcome picky eating and stand up to bullies.

Free from the confines of what their peers might think, they stepped outside what was expected of them and began to become the individuals that they are.

I want that to continue but since our return I’ve struggled to continue to give them the same kinds of opportunities to bolster their resilience, confidence and self-sufficiency in the face of “what the other kids do” and well-meaning (but judgmental) parents who have set ideas about how I should raise my kids.

BTS 2010

The year before they took on the world and won.

As time goes on, it was inevitable that we’d all start to slip a little in our commitment to living outside the box. It has become easier to accept the birthday party invitations and suggestions we sign away our evenings to one sport or another. I continue to try to resist but, like a salmon swimming upstream, there are times when the struggle feels lonely and unrewarding and hard.

But watching my two boys – ahem *young men* – pack themselves up and head off to school on their own this morning without Ish or myself playing chaperone, without any questions about how they’ll figure things out when they get there, without anything but smiles and anticipation, reminded me of who they’ve become over the last few years.

They are strong, confident boys who have tackled the world.

Back to school? No problem.




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{ 6 comments… add one }

Kara Williams September 3, 2013, 9:52 AM

I love this, Heather! Both of my children are now in middle school (6th and 8th grade), and I am so proud of the responsible, independent kids they’ve become over the years. I appreciate that they beat to their own drums – not always choosing the most typical “peer-influenced” activities and such (i.e. one kid is in robotics, another kid said she’d rather focus on her academics, rather than join student council like everyone else). They, too, are solely responsible for picking out clothes and making their own lunches. Sure, I ask if they finished their homework, or remembered that permission slip, but they are largely in charge of their own destiny when it comes to school. Thankfully, our school also encourages this “growth mindset.”


Heather September 3, 2013, 10:01 AM

Thanks Kara! I think that kind of independent thinking is one of the greatest rewards we give our kids. Your upcoming Semester at Sea trip is bound to make that even more so!


Connie Cole September 3, 2013, 10:51 AM

Very nice Heather. I agree, 100% – never allow others to dictate how you should raise your children. At the end of the day, those very critics will be asking, “How did you do it?”


Heather September 3, 2013, 11:47 AM



Robyn September 3, 2013, 11:46 AM

I can’t wait to see what these two “young men” do with their lives, I know it will be something wonderful based on the foundation you are giving them! Even though I do not have children (yet) and I’m no longer in school, I still gravitate towards that “back to school” feeling every fall. I like your advice about focusing and enabling your strengths!


Heather September 3, 2013, 11:48 AM

Robyn, I feel the same way. September is my “Jan 1.”
As for the boys, I’m looking forward to seeing what they do too. :)


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