I hesitate to say it’s been a rough summer. Everybody is healthy, we had some great adventures and, as I can’t help but be daily reminded by Facebook gratitude challenges, we have so much to be thankful for. But in our house everybody just seems a bit more settled when school time rolls around.
This family needs its normalcy. Two summers ago I had the hopeful notion that an 11 day road trip with a 2 year old, 4 year old, and 6 year old (without my husband, mind you) would be FUN FUN FUN! Well, yes, we did have fun, but by the time we rolled up for the last three days at my sister’s in Vermont, there were emotional gaskets blowing left and right. Add in my 3 and 5 year old niece and nephew having to share their everything with cranky cousins, and someone was always crying. Pretty much literally. And FUN went to DONE right about then.
Even this relatively normal summer could be a bit too much at times. A bit too much junk food. A bit too much heat and sun. A bit too much staying up late. A bit too much excitement. A bit too much boredom. A bit too much camp. A bit too much sibling togetherness. A bit too much go, go, go. Maybe even a bit too much birthday – all five of our family birthdays are smushed together in the summer.
By the end of August, my kids were like those senior citizens who retire too early and then wander around the house not knowing what to do with themselves. The eldest often seemed testy and unmoored, the middle was in a bit of sedentary rut, and the youngest was plaintively asking when school would begin. (May she always know herself this well. This is my child who requests – no, insists upon – going to bed when she is tired. She’s a miracle.)
So there’s something very soothing about September. After a few first-day butterflies, the kids all seem back to their bright-eyed and energetic selves now that they’re at school. They’re with friends all day. They’re doing really cool activities and learning exciting stuff from people who are professionally trained to do this. (God bless homeschoolers! Lovely idea, but the execution of the idea in my house….well, let’s just say it might end in an actual execution. We couldn’t even get through more than a few measly workbook pages this summer. Not that I tried very hard.) Back at school, there’s a predictable rhythm to the days, the packing of the lunches, walks home from school, and the reassurance of which weekday is library and which is PE. And after school, at least in September, there’s still plenty of warmth and sunshine to spend an hour at the playground, just being kids.
And what about me just being a person for a while too, and not Mom!-Mom!-Mom! for every waking minute? That comes with September too. I’ve been starved of quiet writing time, quiet work hours, even quiet cleaning time. (I’ve never read the novel Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close but I’m guessing it’s probably about a mother spending the summer with her children, am I right?) There’s a lovely little space around me now to breathe, to catch up, to think, to do. There’s something to be said for routine – consider it said.