Back to school is full of new. New pencils, new clothes, newness of potential … of what might happen in the coming year. (I still think a new year starts at the beginning of school and not in January, can’t we all agree on that by now?) Plus, back to school happens when the air is getting a little crisper, the lighting is hinting at fall, and everything pumpkin flavored begins to appear. It’s time to pull out sweaters, have a warm drink in hand and start throwing some leaves in the air! Oh wait, that only happens in catalogs (and catalogs don’t really exist anymore). But all, I love the dream of fall, and school, and possibility.
As a mom now seasoned in school life (I have a FIFTH grader this year!) I’m facing today, our first day of school, with a new pull of potential. It’s a mothering back to school newness, if you will. Maybe this will be the year we have a better morning routine where we won’t be peeling out of the driveway always “only two minutes late.” Maybe this will be the year we’ll hold a regular bedtime without kids coming out of their rooms 2.3 million times a night. Maybe this year I will know what’s for dinner more than an hour ahead of time, and will (usually) have already shopped for it. Maybe, just maybe, this will be a new era for our family. One of organization, and time management and well balanced eating.
And so the love-hate relationship of back to school is here for me today as my big girls put on their new backpacks and head to elementary school. I love it, because, yes, I will have the chance to complete a single thought. Because I want my kids to build relationships with their peers and other adults that will teach them how to better navigate the world. (The quality of relationships at our house at this point is near failing at this point – there’s too much screaming on everyone’s part.) I want them to learn math by people who have been professionally trained to teach them math (my ‘it totally makes sense to me’ explanation doesn’t usually cut it with long division.)
But the truth is, despite all of the potential of new beginnings and great things that happen at school, I cry, without fail, on the first day. It’s another reminder of that clock that seems to be spinning at sound barrier breaking speed, another year of their childhoods gone with a blink that was summer. And I just plain miss them. I SO don’t want to be Debbie Downer. To be THAT mom who says “Oh I hate back to school, we had a wonderful summer, and I cherished every second together” because I know, even though I’m sad, I DIDN’T cherish every minute. I pushed play way too many times with the remote, yelled too many times for them to stop fighting (don’t worry, I do realize that makes no sense) and we didn’t come close to doing all of the things on our summer fun list.
Maybe, for me, the problem with summer is that it’s just long enough to drive me a little crazy, but short enough that I still remember so well that feeling of potential and possibility we had on the first day. And I didn’t make summer happen like I wanted to. Or maybe this is just LIFE. Where there is always potential, possibility for better and I can either work to make it the best school year EVER or live in fear that my kids are getting bigger and life is slipping away in front of me. (I know total Debbie Downer, I can’t help myself.)
So today as favorite outfits are donned, photos are taken, and girls line up on the playground with new groups of classmates, I choose the potential. The excitement that my kids and I will all learn new things in the coming year. That this is a great time to make some family scheduling changes. That I can celebrate this renewed era of complete thoughts and even more completed emails. I’ll surely cry in the car after saying good-bye and then drive home and make a plan for dinner.
Want to hear more of Alexandra’s story? Her book, The Artist’s Daughter: A Memoir, is being featured in August as part of the Kindle 100 selections on Amazon, at $3.99 for the e-book.