A new school year: it’s not just for kids.

This is the week that many parents are wiping away tears, amazed that their babies are starting this grade or that grade or heading off to college or finally accepting a full time job and signing an apartment lease.

I am not one of those parents. Back-to-school does not break my heart. 

Okay, at the bus stop yesterday, the first day of school, I was a little weepy when Joanna told me that I could cuddle with her beloved stuffed Snuggle Puppy after lunch, since she, as a first grader, would finally be in school all day, and I’d be left alone for afternoon “quiet time hour.”  I am stunned that it’s a short year until Mitzi begins the seventh circle of school hell — middle school. I cringe that soon I will have to talk to fourth-grade Cooper about…um, boy stuff. And I can’t quite figure out how Ellie all of a sudden became this person in second grade who reads full books and calls friends and ties her own shoes and does not look back (although she hugs me the hardest, and that is always heart-squeezing.)

But mostly, I smiled. And, inside, I did a little dance.

It’s been 10 years since I’ve had more than 2 hours to myself on any given day. This summer was supposed to be laid-back, easy. And it was. Kind of. We had some fun. We did a bunch of stuff.  But after a few weeks, the kids were too much together, too much in each other’s spaces, and there was too much conflict. By August, I was ready for school to start. By mid-August, so were they. Not because they don’t love each other or me (they do, I know), but everyone was just ready for their own *space.* For routine.

We had a last-blast weekend on Cape Cod over Labor Day — the first family vacation in over a year. It was whirlwind and amazing and even more special because it was so short and we had like thirty-five seconds to squeeze in every tradition we could manage before moving onto the next. And every minute that I spend with my kids I am grateful (okay, sometimes it’s hectic and irritating too, and a whole lot of work, but mostly, when I breathe deeply and step back, I am grateful that I have been blessed with these four incredible, mysterious and amazing creatures).

Still, today was the second day of school and I was…peaceful. Unrushed. I have been cleaning (long overdue) and am spending this week trying to get organized so that starting next week I can use my time productively. Do my paying job. Post here. Focus on the freelance work (hey, I have an essay in Family Fun magazine’s September issue!). Revise the MG. Revise a few picture books. Write something new! Query agents! Get back to the yoga mat. Go for walks. Take better care of myself — mind and body and creativity — so I can take better care of my family.

What I love about school, for my kids, is that it’s a chance for each of them to stand out as individuals — and I see it in their eyes and hear it in their words when they come home every day, that they are starting down the road which will lead them to themselves. Letting go is not entirely hard for me — letting go is when their wings unfurl and what’s more beautiful than that? — and letting go does not mean saying good-bye. After all, home is where they return to, and home is safe, and home is Mom and Dad, and home is what gives them the power to fly again tomorrow.

Leaving, coming back. Building muscles, resting. That’s what growth is.

After 10 years, I’m ready to start down that same road. I will always be first and foremost a mother. But I am also more than that. And by attending to the latter, I can be better at the former. Six hours a day  just for me?

I might even invite a friend to lunch. I might take a nap. I might start a business.

I can use the time to finally forge ahead in the career I have been trying for, longing for.

I might rediscover me.

The school day, six hours long — school, six hours of creativity and learning and growth. September is not the official grown-up New Year, but who says it’s just for kids?

Parents — it’s your school year too. Let’s make the most of it!

15 thoughts on “A new school year: it’s not just for kids.

  1. Jen, you know just how to say all the right things and capture many of my same thoughts beautifully. This is also going to be the year the I begin to nurture and replenish myself again, but I must admit I can’t wait until 2:50 everyday and see that beuatiful yellow busy bring home my precious little girl!!!

  2. Wipe those tears away and enjoy your ‘free” time. Because they will be back by 3. It’s time for some “Jen Time”.

  3. Mitzi is already in middle school… Oh how it flies. May she soar.
    I find that summer is an adjustment, and so is the beginning of school. But I like the latter better. {Paraphrasing Mae West 😉 }

  4. jen…hope you enjoy some alone time! on today’s morning news there was a video a mother shot of herself doing her “happy dance” as her kids boarded their school bus. the driver gave her the thumbs up and all the kids clapped….but no one was as happy as the mom! xo

    • Oh, I saw that video!! Hilarious! So far I haven’t been, like, lounging and eating chocolates, but I am enjoying the quiet! 🙂

  5. Wow, what a great post and just what I needed at this time. My youngest started first grade this year and I was feeling sad about him growing up and away from me. It’s a hard adjustment, but having some free time is valuable too!

  6. “It’s the most wonderful time of the year!”
    Remember that Staples/Office Max commercial, with the mom riding on the cart in the store? That’s me, every year!!! On the first day, I have a “Boohoo/Yahoo Party” — some are sad, some are happy, but we all have a grown up lunch together (often with mimosas or wine, or even cosmos!). I’m definitely a YAHOO kinda mom and don’t really get the boohoos, but the luncheon is supportive of all. 🙂

  7. Pingback: Beautiful, Bountiful, Busy Fall – leaplittlefrog

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