Ahhh…Back to school time.
It’s a bittersweet time of year for most mothers. It signals the beginning of another year in their child’s life. It reminds them that time is forever moving forward, no matter how much we may want to stop it. Even, if for just a few seconds, we want to freeze our children in a stage of development, or at a specific milestone so that we can really take it all in, time denies us.
Back to school means new clothes and books, freshly sharpened pencils and crud-free glue sticks. It’s the end of summer, but the beginning of autumn. The carefree days of summer, spent by the pool and running through the sprinkler, are left behind for the structure of school and homework, sports practices and dance lessons.
While most moms shed a tear or two on the first day of school - especially if it’s the first day of pre-school or Kindergarten - the emotion behind those tears is not the same for each mother.
There are tears of sadness, because their baby is entering school for the first time, taking that first step on a path that will eventually lead them off into the world.
There are tears of pride, because they’ve done such a good job raising their little one that their child is ready to take that first step.
Then there are the tears of joy. These usually come from the “experienced” moms, the ones with a First Grader or higher. These moms shed a few tears on the last day of school, as they look ahead to twelve long weeks of summer vacation with bored kids. They count down through the hot summer days to that first day of freedom, to the day when they can drop their kids at school and return home to a quiet house.
Last year I was the first type of mom: sad and even a bit lost when I returned home. I wandered the house, unsure of what to do. At one point I even thought, “I better go check on D, she’s been too quiet for too long.” It took a beat or two before I remembered that she wasn’t home, and that’s why she was being so quiet.
Then the snow started. The snow started and it seemed it never stopped. Mixed in with all those snow days was Christmas break (almost a month long) and I had a glimpse of what I was in for with summer vacation. I was whimpering in surrender six days into the break. I had no idea how I was going to get through twelve weeks with a bored child.
The public library offered some relief in the form of a summer reading program. Still, I quickly found myself counting down the days to the first day of school.
I was proud that I managed the first day drop-off with just a threat of tears - a glaze that blurred my vision for a moment, but never actually fell. It wasn’t until I returned to the calm emptiness of the house that a tear escaped.
I wasn’t sad, really. I knew she was in good hands, and that she was going to do even better this year than last. I’m always proud of her and all of her efforts. Whether she is successful or not doesn’t matter, it’s the simple fact that she tried her best and put her heart into it that matters to me.
No, that was a tear of joy. I love my daughter, and I would never trade her for anything. However, we do not always mesh personality-wise. In fact we rarely mesh at all, and that makes for a stressful day when you spend every moment together.
It’s good for both of us to have time apart from each other so we can be happier in the time we do spend together. I know it makes me appreciate her more when I haven’t seen her for seven hours. I honestly don’t know how she feels about it. I’m a little afraid to ask. What if I don’t like the answer?
So, for now, I’m enjoying the peace from 8 am to 3 pm, counting down the days left until our newest addition shows his or her face, and trying not to think about the fact that Christmas break is only 113 days away.