My kids started school on Tuesday. August 21st.
Which by every conceivable method of accounting is still the middle of the summer.
And as our first week wraps up I am definitely still feeling the back to school blues. Yup, me. Not them. Although they are none too thrilled to be back either.
For one thing, we started way too soon. I am definitely not ready to bid adieu to summer in the middle of August. To add insult to injury, we were the very first school district to go back in our area. So, while my kids were suffering through long, boring, hot classes on the first day of school the rest of the community was full of children still enjoying the idleness and energy of summer.
I know there are many schools that started before we did, primarily in the south and west – but that is just crazy talk. I’m a Jersey girl and in N.J. we did not start school until after Labor Day – the Wednesday after Labor Day to be exact (which makes so much sense because it gives teachers and students alike a chance to adjust to the new school schedule with a short week). Suffice it to say I am not a fan of returning to the classroom in the midst of summer.
I recognize that I may be in the minority here. Many parents look forward to the first day of school with anticipation – a chance for a break from being the activities director, entertainer, personal chef, chief negotiator, and chauffeur that often accompanies having kids home on summer vacation. In fact, there’s a road sign near us encouraging: “Parent’s Rejoice! The First Day of School is Almost Here!”
But that was never me. Even in the early days, when I was excited for my children to embark on the new adventure of school (before I knew about all the headaches that accompany the school year), and they were excited for the new experience, I always had a pit in my stomach on the first day of school. I just hated leaving my children behind.
It wasn’t that I was worried about them, per se. I knew they were safe. I knew they were going to learn a lot and have fun. I knew they were happy. (Well, except for Kyle – who did cry every day for the first two months of pre-school – that was fun). But I am just not that good at good-byes. And the first day of school, was in many ways, the beginning of one long goodbye.
The truth is, I love having my kids home with me in the summer. Although our days are no longer filled with the nature walks, scavenger hunts and art projects that occupied our days when they were younger (sniff, sniff), I still devote a large portion of my summer to just hanging out with my kiddos. We play tennis and do Pilates and go for runs and listen to music. We cook together and play cards and build Legos and create mood boards on Pinterest. We go kayaking and make ice-cream and explore new places and daydream together. In fact, I think I can safely say that we have more fun than we did when they were little.
I love hearing Kevin’s guitar as the backdrop to my day. I love seeing Kelly dance through the house. I love watching videos that Kyle makes for YouTube. I love having a house full of children. I love chatting with their friends as they sit at the counter and inevitably make a mess of my kitchen. I love watching the boys play ball in the yard and taking a group to the pool. I love gathering towels to dry everyone off after an impromptu game of “spray each other with the hose.” And I don’t even mind the water and grass all over my floor. I am definitely in my happy place during the summer months when we have a little more time to just be together.
I’m not going to pretend it’s all sunshine and roses. My house is a disaster with a capital D for two months straight. The sink is never empty, the floors are never clean, the laundry is never done. While my kids are getting better about making their own meals and snacks, no matter how many times I remind them they can’t seem to grasp that they must also clean up after themselves. I spend more time in the car than in my bed and it is nearly impossible to get any work done from home when you have three people constantly asking questions or needing rides or wanting food. Why oh why do they need to eat so much?
But, while there are days that I was definitely feeling frustrated, and even angry, I never, ever, once wished for them to go back to school.
I have friends who celebrate each first day of school with mimosas and a parent party at the pool. But I do not partake in the festivities. I’m too busy choking back tears and trying to distract myself from the fact that another summer with my children has come and gone.
My kids are in 10th grade, 7th grade and 4th grade this year. Kevin will get his permit in December – an event which I am definitely looking forward to, but which also marks the beginning of his independence. Kelly is in her last year of middle school. And my baby has left the primary school behind and has grown up so much this summer.
I know it won’t be long before we are looking at colleges and celebrating graduations and the first day of school will take on an entirely new meaning. I’m getting teary just writing that.
But it’s not just the fact that my children are growing up (so fast).
For those of us who live in parts of the country that experience cold, wet, gray, dark days for much of the year, going back to school signifies the end of summer and the small reprieve that we get from the nasty weather each year. The trees that look so beautiful in all their greenery will soon be brown and bare. The roads and sidewalks will be covered with the ever-present slush that ruins our clothes and shoes. The hours of sunlight will be few and far between. The cold will become oppressive. I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to say that in this part of the country we live for June, July and August. So, with August drawing to a close all I feel is impending doom.
There is also a sense of leisure and fun that accompanies summer. Although we didn’t take a true vacation this summer (I hate to go away during the only time I truly like living here – I’ll take my vacation in February thank you very much), summer just feels more relaxed and carefree. The days are longer, the air is warmer and there is a feel of excitement in the air. From neighborhood parties to family barbecues the days and nights are filled with fun. Exiting vacation-mode is always a little bit sad.
Then there is all the nonsense that accompanies back to school.
Starting with the paperwork. Luckily our school has [finally] set up digital registration so a process that used to take upwards of two hours to fill out all the forms (in triplicate) took only about 20 minutes this year – woohoo!!
But then there are the health forms and inhaler authorizations and allergy notifications – I mean for goodness sake, my children just left the building in June, less than 3 months ago, with asthma inhalers and an epi-pen (and the accompanying paperwork authorizing their use). Why do I need to secure a new form every year?
Do you really think that the food allergies Kevin has been dealing with for 13 years have miraculously disappeared? Or that Kelly and Kyle’s asthma is suddenly cured? And that the kids use their inhalers just for fun? We should be so lucky.
Getting those forms filled out every summer is an enormous hassle. Our annual doctor appointments never coincide with back to school – because none of my children was born in the summer. I often need to make multiple phone calls to different doctors’ offices, and at least two trips to each office to drop off and pick up the forms. Not to mention the out-of-pocket expenses of purchasing a new round of inhalers that the school requires but the insurance company won’t cover because we’ve already gotten too many. The medication issues alone are enough to make me want to homeschool.
Then there’s all the forms and papers and busywork that they bring home every day. EVERY SINGLE DAY! I can’t imagine how many trees have died to support the insatiable paper appetites of schools all across America. I’ve been doing this school thing for 13 years as a mom and I still can’t come up with an effective way to organize all the papers. If you got some tips I’d love to hear them.
Then there’s the stupidity of so many of the assignments. I’m ors’ – but there’s no other way to say it. I am an educator – I know what’s important and what is not. And by this point, so do my kids. What’s not important is writing page numbers from 1-200 on all of your notebook. Yup – that’s an actual assignment that my 7thgrader completed this week. While this assignment might not be the norm (I sure hope it’s not), there is definitely way too much of this kind of meaningless activity throughout the year.
I also know that for much of the day my children are just plopped in front of Chromebooks completing drill and kill assignments on the computer. I fear that in many classes computer programs now substitute for good teaching. Not only is this an incredibly tedious way to spend day after day, I also feel like it’s a waste of time. My kids could be learning so much more. It’s no wonder they don’t want to go to school.
Finally, there’s the general madness of the day. Our mornings start early (thank goodness I am a morning person). By 6:30 I have made three breakfasts and three lunches – not counting my own. I’ve done some laundry, organized backpacks, checked homework, signed permission slips, completed order forms, emailed teachers and who even knows what else. Keeping up with school assignments is equally as burdensome for parents as for students.
Luckily the days of fighting about wearing socks or looking for lost shoes are [mostly] over. And show and tell is a distant memory. But believe it or not, on more than one occasion someone’s lunchbox or homework is missing and there is a mad dash to find it before we race out the door. Sigh.
And, Kyle still struggles with mornings. He is a natural night owl – he always has been and I imagine he always will be. I have tried and tried to get him on a sleep schedule that coincides with school hours to no avail. Sometimes you just can’t fight natural biorhythms. Despite my best intentions, mornings in our house are rarely full of joy.
After school brings its own kind of madness. From navigating pick-up lines to arguing over homework to shuttling multiple kids to various activities (often in different towns) and trying to coordinate schedules with friends we don’t stop moving between 3:30 and 8:30 p.m. most days. There’s also planning and prepping dinner, not to mention actually trying to find time to eat. As well as sorting through papers, unpacking lunches, and trying to keep the house from being condemned. It feels like Monday through Friday truly is a race against the clock.
I know in time we will once again adjust to this “new” schedule. And there will be many joys and accomplishments and wonderful memories made this year. My kids will make new friends, discover new passions and and learn a lot, about themselves and there world. They all have some amazing teachers who will challenge them, inspire them, encourage them, give them amazing new opportunities and help them to grow into even better people than they are today.
And we will make time for fun and laughter. And somehow, even make it through another cold and dreary winter with smiles on our faces. It’s just that I’ve just never been very good at transitions.
Well, at least it’s Friday! I hope you have a wonderful weekend!