The author's first day of kindergarten. c. 1970

Here we go. The big kick off. For the kids it is the end of  lazy days and sleeping in and endless time with friends and elongated road trips and boredom and movies galore and midnight bedtimes (or later) and long stretches of time to read and draw and having it be possible to be invited over to someone’s house at 8:00 at night and the answer being yes, we can go.

It’s back to school time and it crescendo’ed today with Meet the Teacher day and school supplies delivered and classrooms found and the new playground unveiled. The monthly bus pass has been purchased for the oldest. The trumpet was found on Craigslist for the next. The desired teacher was gotten for the third and the new playground was enough to convince the youngest that everything would be okay.

This year is a biggie for us. We’ll have three different schools and schedules. And growing kids who don’t necessarily need our help  but might sometimes want it anyway.

It’s going to take some real good communication and intentions and calendar checks and coordinating and did I say communication? to keep it all cool, calm, collected and connected.

So here, in no particular order are eleven things I’m going to try to do this year to make sure we all get what we need from the world and from each other too…

1. Stay present to the ones I’m with.  This is a biggie. Love the one I’m with. Phone down, tasks paused, eyes on the prize and in this case, the prize being the person who is standing in front of me.

2. Stay present to the task at hand. Driving? Drive. Cooking? Cook. Writing? Write. Socializing? Socialize. Playing? Play. You get the point.

3. Screen-free times. In the house for the whole family, we will have set hours that are screen-free. I’m thinking 3-7 should work. With a 6:00 exemption for homework reasons. No phones, tv, computer, etc. Screen-free.  We did it last year and it was really great. We got off that bandwagon this summer though.

4. Electronics-free alone time. Walk. Meditation. Swim. Read. Etc. Be alone. Truly alone. Not alone but with virtual friends. Not alone but talking on the phone. Alone. Truly alone. With my own thoughts and ideas. Everyday at least.

5. Listen more. Fix less. My tendency has been to rush in with answers. My goal with my growing children is to listen more and let them work most of it out through talking it out. And I’ll be more likely to sense the real need as opposed to just the words that are stated.

6. Ask before I do offer advice. Not just to my kids but to people in general. Before I offer advice I’ll ask if it’s wanted. “Want my input?” It’s a simple question that will take some practice to make a part of my day-to-day.

7. Pre-planned playdates. Sure there will be after school playdates but they will be planned ahead of time. The on-the-fly playdates tweak me and tweak the balance of the household. Exceptions only in emergencies. With this will also be minimized sleep-overs. Sleep-overs tweak the kids and tweak the family more. The next day we usually all pay. Planned ahead and minimized.

8. Dates with my husband. These should be easier to come by this year. Daytime dates are fun.

9. Alone time once a month with each child. This is sometimes tricky to accomplish but I think setting it up ahead of time will be the key. On the calendar it goes. It doesn’t need to be huge – just intentional. A walk, a trip to the grocery store for a light shop, a croissant at the bakery, a visit to the playground.

10. One night out each week with friends. A designated night. Each week. And if friends can’t make it, then on my own. Just to collect my adult thoughts, share ideas, get inspired and have some fun.

11. Be thoughtful about my commitments. I have a lot of good ideas for things to do in the community. But I can’t do them all. Instead this year I plan on handing out those good ideas freely to anyone who is looking for one. And sometimes even just floating them out there to the universe for people to grab who didn’t even know they were looking for a good idea.

It’s funny when my kids were little and playing with friends I would always tell them, “I’m not base!!” as they tagged me furiously in attempts to be safe from “it”. But really now I am base.  Especially now.