Last Friday was the first day of school, and it began as all the other firsts before it.
The kids were eager to put on the clothes that had been laid out the night before. New, carefully chosen, brightly-colored backpacks and shoes sat by the garage door, waiting to be introduced to their first specks of dirt and grime. It wouldn’t be long before the crisp newness would give way to the inevitable wear and tear that comes from days spent at school. Water bottles and snacks were packed.
They ate their breakfast hurriedly, wiped their mouths and grabbed the papers they created off the kitchen island. Each paper, their own personal masterpiece, boldly proclaimed the new grade they would be going into this year.
One-by-one, we scurried out the front door, and one-by-one the photos were snapped.
So far, so good. No tears, or meltdowns. And we would be on time to both schools. Success.
With all six of us piled into the minivan, we headed for the middle school where we would be dropping off not one, but two of our children. Our oldest was beginning her final year of middle school and our second was beginning her first. As I watched them exit the van, and head toward the open gymnasium doors, I prepared for the tears to fall. When it comes to my children, I’m a crier.
But the tears never came.
An hour later, it was time for me to drop off the other two. I walked them to each of their classes, gave them hugs, said good-byes and prepared for the tears to fall.
But the tears never came.
Why on earth wasn’t I crying?
I always cry on the first day of school. Most of the time the tears are flowing before we’ve even made it out the front door, and if I’m not crying by then – I’m definitely a mess by the time I’m leaving the school.
Was it because I’m working more and had a hard time getting work done with everyone home?
Or maybe it was because we had an amazing summer together, and really soaked up the days, so now it feels okay to move onto the next phase?
Could it be because I need some personal space, a moment of quiet for just me and my thoughts?
Or maybe I was just getting sick of making so much food during the day? Seriously. Are they eating all day? Or does it just feel that way?
I don’t know. Maybe it’s a little bit of all of these things.
We did have an amazing summer together. Honestly – all six of us have dubbed it as the best yet. I feel like we enjoyed a lot of intentional time spent in each other’s company. When the kids went off to school last Friday, I felt like we did summer really well together – and like it was okay, and time, to get back into a routine. Maybe that was part of the absence of tears?
Simply put, I was satisfied.
Does this mean I won’t miss the long, lazy days of summer that seem to stretch on forever, with sunsets after 9pm and bedtimes getting pushed back later and later as the days go on? No. I will miss it. For sure.
I love having my kids home with me. Yes, it’s loud and crazy and chaotic and messy. Sure they fight, and sometimes I just need to go for a run, or grab a cup of coffee and head outdoors for some quiet, me time – which I can actually do now that they are older. But even with all of that, I still love it. There is something indescribably comforting and lovely about having them all under my roof, in my company – that I never want to take for granted.
It’s amazing how many times well-meaning people who saw me out with all of the kids, would say to me toward the end of the summer, “I bet you’re ready for school to start.” Or, “Just a few more days,” with a wink and a smile. More times than not, I would look them in the eyes and say, “I really love having them home with me.” I wasn’t trying to be disagreeable, but my kids were within earshot and I never want them thinking I am counting down the moments until they’re gone.
Am I saying some days aren’t hard? No. Not at all. There were definitely moments, and days, when I wanted a little peace and quiet. In fact, two days before the kids were supposed to go back to school I was having one of those days and that night, at back-to-school night, I said to a friend, “I wasn’t ready yesterday, but today I am.” And in that moment, I felt that way.
I’m really not sure why the tears didn’t come this year. It’s not because I didn’t love our summer. And it’s not because I don’t enjoy having them home with me. And it’s not because we had a rough day a couple days ago.
Maybe, as the kids are growing older, I’m growing into an acceptance of the seasons. Or an appreciation of the balance. I loved having them home, and now I’m going to enjoy the structure. It’s like a pendulum swinging back and forth. You don’t want to get stuck on one side for too long. Maybe it’s the realization that the crazy, hectic, schedule that comes with school and sports and all the things, makes me enjoy the lazy days of summer even more. And the lazy days of summer, make me appreciate the rhythm of a well-planned day.
Whatever the reason I didn’t cry, I’m not sure. But it’s okay.
If you are someone who has little loved ones who headed off to school, or are about to – whether you find yourself crying rivers of tears, barely holding it together, unsure of how you feel, or silently rejoicing the kids are finally gone for a few hours a day – you do you. It’s okay.
There isn’t a right, or a wrong way, to send your kid back to school. Every family, parent and child is different. Some parents are lamenting the end of summer, some are ready for it to be over and others fall in the middle.
So wherever you found yourself, or will find yourself, on the first day – I wish you and your family the best. If you need to cry buckets, I hope you find the time and space to let those buckets of tears flow. And if you pull out of the parking lot with the windows down blaring your favorite song while you do the most amazing car dance you’ve ever done in your life – I’m sure you’ll make plenty of people who are lucky enough to drive by you smile.
And if you find yourself driving away, somewhere in the middle, just doing okay, well that’s pretty awesome, too.