Monday, August 13, 2012

It’s not the most wonderful time of the year

It’s the most wonderful time of the year! People are smiling and greeting each other in the store, lists are checked, cash registers are ringing and parents are asking each other “Did you find everything you need?” But if you look closely, it’s the adults who are smiling and anticipating the day to come; the children aren’t. They’re dreading it – or so a certain big box office supply store wanted you to think for several years as they ran this ad campaign. Because we’re not talking about Christmas, we’re talking about going back to school.

To me, September was always a reminder that my children were now another year older. Their birthdays never made me feel melancholy or nostalgic. But when they got dressed in their first-day-back-to-school clothes, my heart experienced a tug each and every year. To me, the crisp weather of fall reminds me that my children would again encounter new experiences and move another step towards independence, away from their father and me.

Since when did having our children around become such a chore? Of course, the parents who delight in having their children back in school and back into their routine do love their children very much, but it makes me sad to read every May and June comments like, “ugh, the kids are home from school now for a couple of weeks until day camp starts. What am I going to do with them?” And then the summer ends with delight that school is about to start yet again. Some of those comments are from parents who work outside of the house and who have to arrange daycare, but often the comments also come from stay-at-home parents who don’t have to worry about such issues.

To me, summers meant no routines other than perhaps sports practices and games. It meant not having to get the kids up out of bed and letting them wake up on their own. It meant not stressing about the kids getting to bed at a certain time or having to worry about making lunches. Getting homework done was in the past and in the future, not a concern now. It meant living at our own pace for two full months.

I wasn’t the perfect mother, far from it. My kids irritated me at times just as I irritated them. They annoyed me at other times, just as I annoyed them. There definitely were moments when I got angry and snarled at them to go find something to do. But there were other times when we were at the park or the kids were outside playing with a friend. Or, as befit for this generation, they were settled in the playroom with a bowl of usually forbidden snack food and a bunch of movies. And no-one cared about what time it was or where we had to be when.

Rainy days meant going out on the balcony in bare feet and trying to dance in between the raindrops. They also meant being trapped in the house sometimes and getting bored, leaving driving your sibling crazy as the only appealing option at hand. Breakfast could be pizza and supper cereal, just because we could and we had the time to do so.

Of course, we knew every summer that this freer time would end and reality would set back in, but until that day reached us, we enjoyed the magic that was ours.

No. To me, September isn’t the most wonderful time of the year. It’s a reminder that another year has passed and another has begun.