Summer is fast coming to a close, and soon both the school year and the start of the fencing season will be upon us! That makes now a great time to put into place some practices that will help your family and your young fencer to keep balance in life, reducing stress and allowing for an enriching year. These don’t have to be huge life changes, and in fact the most effective life changes are usually those that are the least complicated and easiest to put into place.
Read on for some tricks and tips that I use in my own home to manage the crazy and sometimes hectic schedule of my 4 busy kids – I hope that some of these tips will offer some help to your family so that you can start the school year off right!
This can’t be said enough! The absolute worst thing is to get caught without something, so that you spend precious time scrambling for it and making everyone super stressed. Before school starts, simplify life as much as possible. Streamline everything that you can!
Plan for Meals and Snacks
Don’t try to reorganize your whole house, but do get things going like a meal plan so that you aren’t worried about what everyone is going to eat as you rush to school or afterschool activities like fencing practice.
Get the areas that are most used as organized as possible – think about the in and out feeling that’s about to take over your home. Someone will constantly be going in and out. Do you have the same mystery with fencing socks that the washer loves to eat? I bet you know what I am talking about. Here is the useful tip – buy several pairs with the same pattern and your life will be instantly easier!
By the way, I also apply this to everyday socks for our four kids – we have 4 colors of all the same socks, one for each child. Create for yourself little tricks for organizing things, whatever works for you and for your family. Think about getting a separate clothes hamper just for fencing uniforms, so that you always know where they are and can be sure to give them the proper laundering that they need.
Scheduling and scheduling again!
As we started a new fencing season in the club, my 9 year old daughter came to me and asked me to print out the schedule. “Why do you need it?” – I was wondering. She answered quite directly that she wanted to create a roster of all of the classes and private lessons for herself and her brothers and little sister. Yes! I was so proud that they learned something from all of the scheduling that I worked on with them last year 🙂
Also, do yourself a favor – build an Excel spreadsheet with everything in it (days, school dismissal times, kids names, hours of activities, driver or babysitter responsible etc.) and put a copy, or better yet, several copies, of the schedule that you perfect on the fridge and in other spots around the house. You might not want to see my schedule with 4 children in fencing ( 2 weapons, 3 different levels), ballet, swimming, music and Russian language teacher… 🙂
Create a schedule of competitions that your child most likely will attend. USFA published a list of all regional and national tournaments, and I recommend spending some time with your coach and your family to create a draft plan of where your child might be going. Treat this as part of the regular fencing schedule – you will need to organize yourself around these competitions and the sooner you create a game plan, the less stressful it will be when time comes. You can also print and post it at home so that you can always be confident that you have it accessible.
Kids help and responsibilities
I remember this conversation that I had with a mom of four grown children. She told me: “If I had to give you just one golden tip about raising kids, I would say to give them jobs and responsibilities at home.” I know that we moms often think that we could do it better: the cleaning, the snack prep, the laundry. And that’s true – we will ALWAYS do it better! But kids MUST have their own tasks and duties at home! Suddenly, after few ruined snacks one day you’ll realize that you can take this task off of your long list of things to prepare. Start teaching kids do things on their own and everyone’s life in your family will be easier. Not to mention they’ll have a skill that they can take with them later in life!
Make your routine as plug and play as possible, so that you don’t have to think at all about it and can focus on enjoying these awesome activities.
This again, can’t be said enough. Leaving things to the last minute, especially to the morning, will completely throw everything out of balance. Morning should be a time to connect and get excited about the day, not to be frantically looking for your child’s fencing uniform only to realize that it’s not clean enough to wear. Last year we created a routine at home to finish each day with everything ready for the next day. Four (packed by kids) backpacks, shoes, jackets, clothes to wear, water bottles, etc.. It was not easy to instill this routine, but once they got used to doing this, our family breakfasts started to be normal! We had these great conversations about the coming day, plans that we were making, and just pleasant atmosphere all around!
Routine isn’t a bad word
One absolute key here is creating a routine. Kids do best with a routine! (Here comes a big sigh from me – do you hear it?) In order to find balance, you’re going to need to trust your children to take care of their things. Set in place an evening routine that gets everything ready for the following day. While it might be tempting to just come home and for everyone to collapse, this isn’t doing anyone any favors. Pack those lunches, and have your kids get their things ready. No excuses. You can follow up, but TRUST that they’re prepared if they say that they are. Should something not be right after all, then absolutely address it with them. However, you’ll save yourself a lot of time and find that your family is much happier if you are able to trust your kids to do it on their own! They know what they need for fencing class – let them get it ready! Getting into the habit of preparing in advance will serve them and you down the road, as well as now!
The most important thing, above all else, is to savor the activities that your child is doing, and to really encourage them to do so as well. The school years are great years! The hustle and bustle can seem so much, overwhelming and confusing and exhausting at times. But the best thing for you to do is to stop and watch, to stop and be proud, to stop and be happy with the tremendous things that your child is doing. It’s no small thing to be a fencer during competition season and to do all of the academic necessities as well. Take a moment every day to revel in the success!
When you’re able to appreciate the wonderful experience of life with your child, then you’ll find that you’re quickly less stressed and happier, and so are they! Allow yourself and your child the space to be happy with life, and you both will feel much more balanced!