Today is the first day of school in our district. For many this poses mixed emotions. Kids are dragging their feet, wishing for more days of relaxing summer sun while parents are secretly cheering inside, pushing their kids onto the big yellow bus with a grimace of sheer delight.
As the parent of three kids, two teens and one still in elementary school, I have a very defining emotion but it's certainly not joy. It's loneliness. I'd be lying if I didn't admit there's a bit of stress mingling there, too.There's also some sadness, tickling the back of my throat like a bitter pill swallowed with too little water.
I love the internet, love reading blogs, and love feeling like I'm not alone--that there are other people who share my thoughts, that we connect on some level.
But the biggest problem I have with all these blog posts is they're all geared to parents of toddlers. They pull at my heart strings remembering by-gone days of snotty noses, temper tantrums, and not showering for three days straight. And that was me on a good week!
Of course, they make me think of my children, too. Snuggling at story time, smelling their freshly shampooed hair, they feeling of butterfly kisses as they held my face vying for my attention.
Sure, I try to apply the advice and content to teens, but it isn't quite the same.
I may not read to them anymore. Instead we have in-depth conversations about great books they're reading. I can't quite snuggle them in my lap, but I do sneak a sniff of their hair--remember the silkiness of it against my face--when I'm lucky enough to score a hug. And there might not be butterfly kisses, but there's lots of laughter around our kitchen table.
Which is why I hate when the kids go back to school.
The house is quiet once again and it reminds me with all it's ugly silence that a not-too-distant future is waiting in the wings. Soon I will be an empty nester. Sure, my youngest is small enough that I still have a few more years....but as well all know, time passes faster than we might like, no matter how hard we try to cling to it.
Our time is not our own. Those carefree days of playing on the beach will be nothing more than distant memories as we struggle with hours of homework, sports, music, church, and a list of activities that is so long it's shameful. We've tried limiting activities, but with one who is only two years from college, the need to remain competitive for scholarships and entrance attractive to the university of her choosing, the stark reality is she needs to be well rounded. Give one child some things to pursue--music and sports--and two other children will follow.
The Great Homework Battle has begun. One of my children in particular was really distressed with homework. So much so that it caused tantrums and tears. That was just me! She'd sneak outside and swing her stress away. Thankfully said child is homeschooled now and the situation has improved drastically. But for my other children, hours and hours and hours of homework are in store. My eldest will come home at three, and other than a break for dinner, will work until midnight. On days she has activities (let's not even talk about when she has an afterschool sport!), she will opt to stay up until the wee hours of the morning, or hope that homeroom provides enough time to cram in what she didn't finish. Then she's up again at five to start it all over again.
Vacations have ended. It's not just the fact that summer vacation is gone, but that pretty much any vacation I plan has to revolve around the school year. There's no more spontaneous trips. There's no evening getaways to the movies or the park. There's no games outside or family campfires telling stories and roasting marshmallows. Even if I could take my kids on a mini vaca, there would be school absences to account for as well as all those hours of make-up work. Unfortunately, it's almost not worth the headache that will ensue.
I'm selfish. I admit it. I am selfish. Part of that selfishness includes wanting to spend my time with my family. Once school starts, I can't talk to my kids whenever I want. We can't watch movies all night long. We can't escape the way we did during the summer. Now I have to wait until they're home, sometime between their hours of studying to even have a mini conversation. I miss my kids when they're gone during the day. I'm one of those parents that would often chose hanging out with my kids over being with adult friends. Maybe that makes me immature. I prefer to think of it as being grateful for my beautiful life.
So as I drive my kids to school today (nope, they won't ride the bus all year), I'll take a little extra time to create that Kodak moment--showing them that they're important to me and what they have to say matters. That these moments--the mundane, everyday moments--are the ones which add up to a lifetime of memories...the memories I will draw upon while they're at school. I'll cross my fingers during their lunch break that they're reliving cherished moments and summer daydreams while reading the letter I penned to them last night. A mother can hope, can't she?