It's Back-to-School time, which means pencils, pens and a myriad of emotions. So, as the lip-syncing paradies start popping up on our feeds, here is my unsolicited two cents on the subject of Back to School.
Today droves of kids are donning backpacks and crisp new shoes as they head back into the classroom. And I thought about all the moms and dads across the expanses that have been keeping a secret countdown chart to this moment in their hearts. Some of those imaginary calendars have enthusiastic titles like, "Only X amount of days until school starts! We can make it. I know we can." Or even, "Count down to PEACE and QUIET!"
Or maybe, just maybe, your mantra sounds more like mine did, "You only have X amount of days until they're gone. Everything is going to change in X amount of days. They are leaving for kindergarten, then high school, and then college in X amount of days. You're basically an empty nester in X amount of days. You're going to be a hysterical mess in X amount of days."
I've been there. That was my angst-filled thought process just a few years ago when I sent my last little one off to kindergarten. Honestly, each of those countdowns has been my mantra on one day or another during the long days of summer.
It's OK if you're excitedly anticipating the school bell like a kid on Christmas morning.
This does not make you a bad parent. Even if your peers make you feel the need to feign lament as the summer draws to a close, don't let it bother you. Don't internalize that into a judgment of yourself and your parenting. You are a good parent. You are a loving, tired, spent parent who is totally ready for a break. And so are they.
It's OK if you are dreading the school bell like it's the Ghost of Christmas Yet To Come knocking at your chamber door.
This does not make you a Helicopter Mom. Your dread is not a sign that you are too protective or too attached. It also does not make you a better parent/person than the lady doing the happy dance at the bus stop in that YouTube video. You are a good parent. You love your kid. You're doing your best and so are they.
It's most likely about regret
My sadness at the start of a school year stems more from hating on myself than loving on my kids.
At summer's end, when I inevitably find myself teetering between prayers that the school district will up and decide to start school the very next day and kissing my kids' faces uncontrollably wishing the fall would never come, I realize that since I don't have any other symptoms of Bipolar Disorder, I must be suffering from regret.
You see, I love my kids and want to be with them and do everything just right so that they'll turn out to be decent human beings and adore me for the rest of their lives. But I'm human myself. The summer days are hot and long and I often count the minutes until their bedtime. In the depths of my inabilities, laziness and impatience I find myself shooing them out the door to frolic amongst themselves. I ignore the fact that the 30 minutes of TV that they're allowed has been drawn out to a full-length feature film. Twice.
I love them. I'm imperfect. I wish I could love them more perfectly. Once the school year steals them for six hours a day, I regret not enjoying them more while I had the chance.I should've paid better attention to them. We should have played together more. I should've found more time to really focus on each kid individually. Where did the time go?
So, to all of us parents with our faces pressed against the schoolyard fence and the ones breathing a sigh of relief as they enjoy their first bit of quiet alone time in months, be easy on yourself. It's amazing how deafeningly loud silence can be at times — how heavy an empty house can feel. Tears may come, maybe even unexpectedly or not at all. And that's OK. If they do come, let them be nothing more than a parent's love spilling over. Don't let regret get the best of you.
If you've got a few fleeting days of summer left, enjoy them. Love those babies and know that the end is nearer than it may seem sometimes. But that's OK because it's not the end at all really. If you've already sent those little monkeys off into the world, you've got this. And rock that after school routine like nobody's business.
Don't wallow in the regret of yesterday. That will only give you something to regret tomorrow.