Millions of children all over the country are going back to school this week, and there are some sad faces going out the door in my house each morning; however, it’s not just my kids who are down and out – I feel it too.
I got accustomed to having them around all summer, and we did things together, went on vacations, and also jumped in the pool without regard to time of day. We thought nothing of staying up late, going out for that ice cream, just lingering on the beach, or staring up at the stars. Any night could be movie night, and we had quite a few of those; the smell of popcorn still lingers in the air as a memory of a freedom that is now gone.
There is something very liberating about not having the kids on schedule – as well as not having after school activities and homework – and now that is over. I am back to making early breakfasts (oh, and no one can have the same thing two mornings in a row during school time), preparing lunches, and being chauffeur to school and activities.
There used to be that silly Staples commercial with the father gathering all the school supplies in his shopping cart to the dismay of his bummed out children, while Andy Williams sang “It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year.” Sure, that was a funny one, but not all parents are celebrating with so much gusto, and some of us are going through our own form of the blues as we experience kid withdrawal now that the house is quiet all day.
You could be thinking that I should cherish this time now. I am free to go about my day doing whatever I please. Well, besides a little inconvenient thing called “work” that intrudes upon my day, there is also a to-do list of countless things I didn’t do the last few months because I had the kids around. I am feeling too down and out to even get started on these projects, but those adults close to me (who are as giddy as the guy in the Staples commercial) keep telling me in a few weeks that I’ll be fine. The image of me hammering nails, spackling walls, and getting other items on my list done comes to mind.
The other group of adults – many of whom I know – that is experiencing the back to school blues is teachers. I have been hearing some of them complaining since mid-August about “the horrors” that awaited them upon returning to school. One of them kept circulating a photo of a liquor store welcoming them all back to school. Again, this is funny stuff, but I also hope my children’s teachers don’t feel this way or that they are coming into school hung over either. The humor stops there for me.
When I was a kid I always dreaded the calendar turning to September, and now I feel the same way as a parent. Perhaps my friends are right even though I can’t get there quite yet, and I do know from experience that by October I’ll be raking leaves, putting up Halloween decorations, running errands, and cursing the clock when it’s time to rush to school to get the kids. The back to school blues will be long gone by then.
For now I mourn the silence in the house, the eerie feeling of emptiness because I don’t hear the kids bickering or chasing each other around the halls. I walk past the vacant sofa in the family room, the darkened TV screen and tables free of snacks and drinks all seem infinitely sad to me. I go in the garage and note the beach chairs with sand still resiliently clinging to the rungs, the buckets and shovels, and the closed up umbrella, and I know the next beach day is a long way off.
Yes, I have the back to school blues now, as do many other parents, our kids, and the people who teach them. We all know it takes a while, but soon other things will be on our minds. It just seems like that it will take too long to get here, but then I remember how quickly the last school year went by, and before I know it we’ll be cranking up Alice Cooper singing “Schools Out” again.
Now, where’s that to-do list?