Cooling off Period is Universal for Kids

Ever hear of the annual two-week cooling off period? Ask any teacher or parent about the start of school, and you will get the “I’m totally with you!” head nod.

So why is it that every year all children misbehave, have bouts of unexplained crying and/or throw Barbies through the sheetrock in their rooms?

It’s called school is starting so let’s make it worse for Mom by acting demonic just for giggles.

The week before my children went back to school, I developed what I thought was possibly a tumor or a small bowling ball in my stomach. In the past, I’ve dealt with panic attacks but this was much different.

Could it be the box of ice cream sandwiches that I demolished? Perhaps. But I knew in my gut the first day of school was approaching and the infamous two weeks could finally do me in.

Nowhere in any parenting book have I seen why children act insane during the first two weeks of every school year. Why hadn’t generations before mentioned this temporary insanity diagnosis? Was it one of those, “Ah, they’ll figure it out. I finally have time to read War and Peace.”

It wasn’t until my eldest daughter was in kindergarten and I asked the teacher why my sweet child was demonstrating erratic behavior at home. She ought to have had some successful idea on what to do to turn my munchkin back into the kid I had before dropping her off at school. After all, the seasoned educator had taught hundreds of kids over the years.

The teacher informed me my daughter’s behavior at home was perfectly normal. “But you haven’t seen the change at home!” I interrupted. She added that nothing needed to be done but wait for the first two weeks to go by.

“So you see this happening with other kids?” I said shocked.

She admitted every child experiences this annually during the 14-day period of parental torture. After thanking her profusely and letting go of my clinging bear hug grasp, I returned home with an air of relief and smugness.

My kid is fine! The teacher told me so, I thought while patting myself on the back.

For some reason, the next year when I had one child entering kindergarten and the other moving up to first grade, I managed to forget the sage advice from the September before.

Why are my kids driving me crazy? Take me away, Calgon! Why isn’t anyone listening? Somebody please take me away!

Then at the peak of my wits end, the words came back to me, floating like one of those voiceovers in every Hallmark movie.

“They’re all like this for the first two weeks.”

And just like that, the wave of nausea and the tumor in my abdomen went away. My shoulders lowered and I exhaled — it was the beginning of school.

So if you are a parent who is looking haggard, sleep deprived or suddenly talking to yourself in public, please feel free to pass on the wise kindergarten teacher’s advice:

“Your child’s behavior is perfectly normal, and they’ll go back to their old selves in approximately 336 hours!”

But who’s counting, right?

(previously published in The Kansas City Star)

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