I know that not everyone marks the passage of time by the start of a new school year. A childless, non-academic friend of mine, for example, expressed surprise about the increase in traffic around the local school. It had suddenly dawned on him that school had been out all summer and that the students were now back. I laughed at his story but realized that not everyone’s world revolves around back-to-school preparations at schools and universities (although the flurry of activity at retail stores suggests otherwise). As with so many families at this time of year, we’re immersed in lists and preparations for the first day of the new academic year.
Although this year I’ve taken the easy way out and ordered most of my kids’ school things as a package deal through a school supply company, in previous years we’ve gone together to shop our way through the sometimes very specific list of items required by the teacher. Just before he started grade 1, my son and I went on a dinner and school shopping date to celebrate his transition into longer school days. His teacher had requested a special scrapbook that I couldn’t find anywhere. On a friend’s recommendation, we decided to try, horror of horrors, the big box store that starts with “W”. As we entered the store, I grabbed my son’s hand and said, “Let’s hurry to the school supplies and get out of here!” He looked at me and said, “I don’t want to hurry. This is the best Mama date ever.” Needless to say I slowed our pace way down.
This year my youngest is entering first grade. It’s a transition for her, but especially for me. I was suddenly reminded of this the other day when I saw a big bag of library books on my living room floor. As I looked at the books, I thought about how my daughter and I would pick out a new pile on our next library trip to share with each other in the mornings after my oldest goes to school. It took a couple of heartbeats to remember that we’ll not have those mornings together anymore. Now that she’ll be in first grade, she’ll go to school from 9 to 3. No more half-days of kindergarten, and no more mornings of one-on-one time with me. We’ll still go to the library and we’ll still read of course. But we’ll have to carve out time for each other, just as I do with my son and with my husband.
My daughter’s transition to full days of school marks an end in one way, but a second start for me. I have the opportunity to collaborate on a lab project I’ve always wanted to start but have put off since my oldest child was an infant. It won’t fill my days and it’s only temporary, but it will get me working again and open up doors to other possibilities. I don’t know what my next phase of life will look like, and I’m not sure it’s really hit me that both kids will be gone all day. It’s not that I’m a clingy parent, and I’m excited for me daughter because she’ll love her next phase. But it’s going to be weird for me the first week or so. I can hear my daughter now as I start to get a little teary, “Oh, Mama! Don’t be silly!”