Before Mel Gibson spent his off time in anti-Semitic rants and phone calls to his girlfriend that would make Alec Baldwin blush, he was making sweeping epics like Braveheart. Braveheart is the story of William Wallace, a 13th-century Scottish warrior who fought the English for his country’s independence and got everyone who saw the movie speaking in horrible Scottish accents.
I know what you’re saying, “Yeah Jimmy, we know Braveheart was so good of a movie that we painted our faces with blue copier toner and led a rebellion with Human Resources against management when they cut our lunch down to 30 minutes, but what does this have to do with parenting?” I’m glad you asked.
William Wallace was only fighting for his freedom. To rid himself and his countrymen from the tyranny of England who had latched itself on to Scotland and wouldn’t let go (take a moment to imagine you as Wallace and your kids as England…wrapped firmly around your leg). Wallace could rally the troops with a rousing speech as easily as he could cut the legs off of a charging English horse with his broadsword, all in the name of his freedom which is where his and the rest of the casts’ words ring so profoundly with parents.
It is that time of year again when our kids will be boarding buses and headed back to school. For some, when the alarm clock buzzes on the first day, it will sound less like the usual 1950’s bomb drill and more like God herself is singing in your ear. For others, it is the time of year you dread. When the alarm clock rings on their first day, not only will it have the typical ‘head to the bomb shelter’ din but it will also hypnotize you in to conveniently forgetting about the temper tantrums, the cries of boredom, and your own personal exhaustion over the past 100 days of summer you spent with your little angels.
Some of us (like me) on the first day of school have a feeling as if we just finished a marathon. We’re exhausted, out of breath, our entire body hurts but you can’t help but smile even when your kids are pouting. Others (like my wife) are the parents who don’t want their kids to go to school because they believe they should stay home and cuddle because first they’re sending them to Kindergarten next they’ll be moving out with a boyfriend and his high school garage band. Maybe, you’re fine with your kiddos going to school; it’s the kiddos who don’t want to go? These are the kids who have can hide in the house with the proficiency of a Seal Team 6 member 3 minutes before you have to leave. Regardless of what you’ll be facing on the first day of school, Braveheart has your answers.
So without further ado, I give you Braveheart. A Parents’ Guide to the First Day of School
William Wallace: “Are you ready for a war?”
In my house, the first day of school is meticulously planned down to the second. From the time we all wake up to our first bite Golden Grahams, our morning is scripted. The one thing we inevitably forget to plan for every year is that exact moment when our well laid out plan goes to hell (which happens when my wife hits the ‘snooze’ button for the 2nd time). We forget you have to prepare like its war and be ready for any contingency. Oversleeping, uncooperative kids, emotional breakdowns (either by you or your kid), you ran out of butter knives so you have to butter the kids’ waffles with your broadsword…the point is, the first day of school can be as chaotic as an open field battle with the English, so ask yourself, are you ready for war?
Argyle Wallace: “Saying goodbye in their own way. Playing outlawed tunes on outlawed pipes.”
If you’re my wife, you say goodbye through tears and running mascara. If you’re me, you’re half way down the block before the bus pulls away. You’ll say goodbye in your own (sometimes overly dramatic) way. That’s ok. Just know that breaking out the bagpipes might be a bit much but then again, considering the morning you most likely had, bagpipes might just be the least dramatic thing.
Princess Isabelle: “He proposes that you withdraw your attack. In return he grants you title, estates, and this chest of gold which I am to pay to you personally.”
A critical tactic when up against 13th Century Scottish warriors with nothing to lose is cease fighting and offer up a bribe. As it happens, bribery is also critical part of the parenting experience. I’ve been bribing my kids for years. I started with M&M’s at restaurants to keep them quiet (now they want money) so it stands to reason the same mantra rings true for an 8-year-old who is convulsing on the floor because they don’t want to go to 3rd grade. Archers? No good. Battle Axe? Forget about it. Letting them have another Strawberry Milkshake Pop Tart? You may be on to something and they may be on their way to school.
Robert the Bruce: “And I took it from him, when I betrayed him. I saw it in his face on the battlefield and it’s tearing me apart.”
It’s perfectly normal to feel like you just turned your first day 1st Grader over to Longshanks to be drawn and quartered in front of the masses as you pushed him on to the bus but you need to push past it. Just like Robert the Bruce was only acting in the best interests of his country, you’re only acting in the best interest of your sanity and your child learning how to read. Kids are nothing if not masters of manipulation. Don’t fall for the look of betrayal because they’ve used it on you before. It’s why you now have a Wii, X-Box, and PlayStation 3 in your house.
Robert’s Father: “But it is exactly the ability to compromise that makes a man noble.”
Even the strength of 10 William Wallace’s on a cycle of Biogenesis’ best human growth hormones won’t be able to help you break the death grip your kid has on the stair banister. Instead of reaching for your twisted hilt claymore to pry him off before the bus is pulling away from the corner, you engage in a compromise. You may agree to let your 4th grader drive to Punxsutawney by herself or agree to a month-long menu of ice cream sundaes for dinner but no one said the compromise will always be in your favor. But if within that compromise your son or daughter gets to home room on time without white knuckling the newel post, then you will have achieved something great, maybe even noble.
William Wallace: “I came back home to raise crops, and God willing, a family. If I can live in peace, I will.”
William wasn’t looking to take on the entire kingdom of England. He was just trying to live a peaceful, quiet existence with his family. And that’s all you want to do which is why you shouldn’t mind dropping your kid off at school for the next 7-8 hours. The best thing you can do to raise your family? Kick them out of the house for a little. When they come back, you’ll have had the peace of a few hours and maybe they’ll be able to long divide.
School is just another hurdle to overcome for you and your child because nervousness, anxiety, guilt, and sadness all can give way to the bedlam of the first day of school. If you are going to get through it, you are going to need a warrior’s spirit and a scholar’s mind (and blue makeup on half your face for effect can’t hurt). You’re going to have to get over all of those feelings because despite how you feel, your kids need to go to school (unless you home-school which would require another movie altogether to offer advice for). They need to go for the obvious educational benefits but maybe more than that, after 100 days of summer with them attached to your hip, by them going to school, you can finally take back your freedom.