Back to School

Despite the excitement that comes with the back-to-school season, Sarah Williams avoids getting swept up in the details and instead focuses on what really matters now and throughout the school year.

By Sarah Williams

Aug 2022

Sarah Williams
Photo by Brandon AlmsGetting ready for school is fun both as a child picking out new school supplies and as the adult paying for them. Sarah Williams provides a glimpse into both perspectives and offers advice for all the days that follow. Purchase Photo

Sharpened pencils. New backpacks. Fresh markers. It’s the most wonderful time of the year. Shopping for school supplies is a favorite pastime of mine. As a kid, I loved it mostly because my mom splurged for the crayon box with the sharpener. As an adult, it’s a new beginning. A fresh start. It’s taken all summer, but I’ve finally forgotten how much my kids complain about math.

The start of a school year is special. The frustrations of last year are in the past. My kids seem a foot taller. The dog days of summer have me craving structure. There is so much anticipation of what will be. How will my children change? What friends will they make? What new skills will be learned? I love the idea of school more than I actually like school. The prep work is much more fun than the mundane days of spelling tests and biology quizzes.

It’s easy for me to lose perspective when the days blur into each other. I wrote a poem of sorts to remind me of what truly matters during the school year. Academics are a small piece of the people my children are becoming. Above all, I want to love them well and keep a proper outlook on my role in their lives. There is no telling what all will happen this school year. Choose to love your children well. And trust the rest will fall into place. 

If I have the perfect chalkboard sign and cutest back to school pictures, but have not love, I am just another crafty mom.

If I pack a bento box full of vegetables and artisanally crafted sandwiches, but do not have love, I am just a mom with a little too much time on my hands.

If I buy all of the right clothes and the shoes to match, and if I allow my middle schooler to explore all of the terrible trends, but do not have love, I am just a mom who wonders how in the world Crocs are still a thing.

If I give all of the best advice and teach my kids all the right things, but do not have love, I am like Charlie Brown’s teacher, “Wah, wah, wah, wah…”

Love is patient. Love is kind. It does not demand perfect grades, it does not blame teachers, it is not prouder of the valedictorian than the child with learning challenges. It does not dishonor peers with difficult home lives, it does not live out unfulfilled dreams through a child, it does not cheat to get ahead, it does not compare to others. Love does not delight in other kids’ failures but rejoices with their successes.

It always protects the vulnerable, always trusts your gut, always hopes kids will live with integrity, always perseveres through difficulty. 

Love never fails. Where there are Friday night lights, they will throw a final touchdown. Where there are band competitions, they will drum their last beat. Where there are report cards, they will never really matter. Where there is calculus, they will never use it again.

For we do our best and hope for greatness, but when the graduation cap is thrown, it will all mostly disappear. Love will always remain.