The One Lesson Every Mom Should Remember on the First Day of School

This is happening. It’s really, really happening. Today, I put my oldest in high school and my (almost) youngest in kindergarten with three in between and one still at home.

That’s six, in case you’re bad at math like me.

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As I watched my oldest confidently throw his backpack over his shoulder, look nervously back at me and his dad, and push his way through the high school doors, it hit me.

As I clung to my kindergartener – the preemie who has defied every odd and surprised every pediatric specialist (all 12 of them) – he squeezed my neck and whispered, “I’m so excited to be here,” it hit me.

As I gave a fist bump to my first-year middle schooler with his spiked up hair that took way too long to craft this morning, he grinned at me, cocked his head and said, “I got this mom,” it hit me.

As I watched my sweet girls skip to their elementary classrooms, all giggles and smiles as they embraced their classmates in hugs, it hit me.

As I squeezed and kissed on the baby still in my arms, waving bye-bye to her siblings and then snuggling into the crook of my neck, it hit me.

My kids are ready. I’m sure as hell not, but they most certainly are.

To you first-time school moms who made sure your kids did all their summer book reports and completed all their summer assignments? Kudos to you. I am not that mom. I grinned when I saw your dioramas and perfectly typed reports. I used to be that mom.

I used to worry about how clean my kids’ school uniforms were. If their lunch box was filled with nutritious food, or if they would remember to tell the teacher when they needed to potty. The laundry list of things I worried about would make some of you cry and others laugh. It’s all part of the cycle of learning to let go of your kids.

But now? I know that it’s pointless to worry. Our kids figure it out, if only we’ll let them. Forget their lunch? Don’t rescue them. I promise the rumbling stomach will remind them to grab it from the fridge next time. Forget to bring in an important assignment? Leave it on the table, Mom. They’ll remember it next time. A low grade and a demerit has that effect on kids. Is a kid being mean at school or did you forget it was their super star week? Lift them up and don’t forget to cut yourself some slack.

My only advice to every mom starting school today – whether it’s at a brick and mortar school or in the home, public or private, close to home or far away – is this: Love our kids and lean into the joy of today. Sure it’s okay to shed some tears (mine might also be accompanied by hard liquor, but that’s between me, my “water” bottle and God). But, don’t let the joy of their today be overshadowed by your fear of tomorrow.

To every mom who forgot a school supply, misplaced a school shoe, spilled coffee on her shirt or had a kid oversleep, it’s all gonna be okay sister. Take the first day of school picture anyway, even if your mascara is running (especially if it’s running), squeeze your kids tight and send them off on their great new adventure.

In our house, every day for the last 13 years, we say the same thing to our kids: Make good choices today. This year? We’re tacking on something new. And it’s as much for them as it is for us.

Make good choices today. And go change the world.

Oh, and happy first day of school, y’all.


  1. Ann-Marie on August 17, 2015 at 8:38 am

    I love this. Especially your daily mantra of making good decisions. It reminds me of how Patrick Coffin ends Catholic Answers Live, “be a saint, what else is there?”

  2. Laura Teran on August 17, 2015 at 10:51 am

    Well said Kathryn! You actually got some giggles from me as I am the later mom…Victoria JUST finished reading her second book Sat. evening and finished her letter to the editor by noon yesterday. It’s s all good, and most of all DONE! I don’t care when it got done, just as long as it’s done and I had no part in it! 😉 “Now let’s go shopping “, as I told the girls. 🙂

    Tori was also sooooo excited to be back with all her friends. It’s gonna be a great year! Enjoy that little one while you can! The day goes by fast and “pick-up” time will be here before you can blink.

  3. Mary on August 17, 2015 at 11:33 am

    The photo of you holding Luke just about did me in this morning. All I kept thinking was how much I wish I had little ones to hug. I prayed to my saint in heaven and asked her to watch over YOU this day. I know you needed the consolation more than your little did. Hugs my friend and lots of love from Virginia.

    • Kathryn on August 19, 2015 at 10:28 pm

      Thanks, Mary. I felt the love. Tell St. Courtney thanks…

  4. Jennifer on August 17, 2015 at 12:41 pm

    Oh my word – I loved this post so very much; I smiled and cried through every paragraph. I’m still in the newish camp with my oldest starting 2nd, middle starting kindergarten, & youngest starting preschool. Thanks so much for these words & for this encouragement. I will be looking back to this post for many more first days to come, I’m sure!

    • Kathryn on August 19, 2015 at 10:28 pm

      What a sweet thing to say, Jennifer. I hope your kids have a fantastic year!

  5. Mary on August 17, 2015 at 12:45 pm

    Oh thank you, Kathryn! Thank you so very much for this post. I am with you on every single point, including the “water” bottle.

  6. Julie on August 17, 2015 at 1:11 pm

    Thanks for this! I’m sending my first off to Kindergarten and my second off to (his first year of) Pre-K this year and I’m definitely very nervous. Probably more nervous than they are. Best to you and your family as the school year begins!

    • Kathryn on August 19, 2015 at 10:27 pm

      I’m nervous every year! I pray they have a great year.

  7. Lisa G. on August 17, 2015 at 1:37 pm

    Speakin’ right to my heart this week!!!

  8. Karen on August 17, 2015 at 3:09 pm

    What a sweet post. I love “Make Good Choices” wonder where I can get that in a sign to hang on the wall??

  9. Patsy G. on August 27, 2015 at 6:38 am

    Hi Katheryn! I loved this post and all the rest! You encourage me to keep loving God, my 5 kids, my dear husband and our Catholic Church. I feel so blessed to have come across your blog. I still don’t understand how you manage your time to do it all, but I pray that you can keep doing it. A big hug from Puerto Rico.

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