Back to the Basics: Saying I Love You To Your Kids

Love one another and you will be happy.  It’s as simple and as difficult as that.  ~Michael Leunig

The first few weeks of every new school year is always back-to-the basics, for parents and kids.  The kids are getting acclimated to their new teachers, the new constellation of children in their classes, new rules, new schedules, etc..  Parents need to re-establish their routines: wake up time, multiple breakfasts, transport to school, dealing with the cluster fuck of after school schedules and pick ups and pressured dinners and homework sessions and bedtime.  Oh, and don’t forget shower time too.

It’s safe to say that this time of year is chaotic and stressful for everyone in back-to-school mode.  The days will start to run together and build vortex-like force gathering: grade-wide meetings, potluck dinners, parent teacher conferences, sport scrimmages, birthday parties, tooth fairies, quizzes and tests, field trips, recitals, sick days, snow days, half days, holidays.  And it only gets worse. Sooner rather than later, we’ll be scratching our heads wondering where the time went (again).

Besides questioning how my Mom succeeding in “Doing it All” with three kids and a full-time job and a husband and house to manage, I do remember some of the basics to her technique I feel attributed to her mastery of the daunting mother role. Unfortunately for me, many of these techniques have gotten lost in the chaos of these past two weeks with my family.  Instead, there have been more arguments about the typical back-to-school stressors: homework and bedtime and required reading and healthy breakfasts, etc…

It wasn’t until just yesterday when I was (finally) cleaning out my closets, getting rid of the 15 pant suits and work shoes and clothes that not only didn’t fit but, were from my previous life as a cool MTV executive, that I came across a pile of papers stuffed into a bag in the back of the closet.  Among the papers were old report cards of mine from elementary school, letters to my parents written from sleep away camp and some old homemade Valentine’s Day cards, all of which were taken back with me to NYC after cleaning out my mother’s bedside table right after her funeral.

While the report cards boasted good marks and complimentary comments from the teachers and the letters from camp were very detailed about the girls in my bunk, there was one piece of paper crumpled within the pile that really resonated with me. It was a note, written when I was 8, that I left on my mother’s pillow one night before bed.   Over thirty-two years later and I still remember writing it.  I remember the note was unsolicited.  I remember there had been no mother-daughter quarrels prior, no ulterior motives.  I wasn’t angling to get anything.  I was simply doing what my mother and I did often.  I was merely stating how I truly felt about her, regardless of any mitigating factors.

Note writing was a practice my mother and I shared over the course of my childhood. It was so meaningful and effective for both of us.  It seems so simple.  However its execution can be difficult because we tend to get all consumed in the day-to-day rat race.  So often we just can’t find our way back to the basics with our kids.

Life moves at the speed of light.  One blink and it can be extinguished.  Having one less regret is so much easier.  Don’t forget to say how you feel.  Don’t forget to say I love you.  It’ll last a lifetime.

The following is a note written by my mother only eight weeks before she died.  It was written for my daughter  (then 6 years old) and secretly placed inside her camp lunch box.

This note has been affixed to the wall in our kitchen. It has been cherished and read every single day, by everyone in my family.

Have you ever gotten caught up in the back-to-school/everyday life vortex?  What do you do to stop, slow down and get back to the basics?


  1. Thanks for this beautiful post, Shari.

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