Mourning Summer While Learning From What Worked: Back to School

I felt like I was unexpectedly yanked out of summer, moving from warm sand to a cool sidewalk on a sunny fall morning. We awoke surprisingly early, matted down long summer hair, threw as many school supplies as we could organize into backpacks from last year, and kicked open the front door to the familiar sea of little kids and parents moving in a stream down the sidewalk to the first day of school. The feeling was of excitement and mourning. As a parent, I guided my guys to the front door of their elementary where many tearful, relieved, and harried parents caught up with each other and waved their children off. I too said ‘hi’ to a few friends and neighbors but promptly walked Eve back to the driveway, hopped in the car to drop her at Grandma’s house, and scoot off to my own campus. It begins again. Wash and repeat, the well-worn cycle of parenthood.

Although I probably could have slowly eased all of us into school mode, I wanted to hang on the last moments of summer. For the first time in a long time, I wasn’t dying for my kids to go back to school Sorry, annoying — I know, many parents can’t identify with me here, but for us — this was a good summer. We were laxer than we should have been about reading, tutoring, and even general hygiene but our mental health soared. We surprisingly enjoyed the long lazy days of August together. I tempered my need to impose some inflexible structure (although some was important) and let my kids dictate much of their own time. iPad in the morning (oh my!), day filled with outdoor, unstructured activities, and dinner in the evening. Simple as that.

But, now we are off the races. I notice my shoulders feeling stiffer and my belly feeling jittery as I try to pack in my own work and manage the once again full lives of three little people I have under my care. How quickly this feeling returns. Instead of being swept into it and just working harder and faster to keep up, I am setting an intention for the fall — I will say ‘no’ more often, work to let go of the guilt associated with it, and remember these years are fleeting and fundamental in teaching my kids to live a well-balanced life. I am not perfect, they are not perfect, but my goal is to slow down. That means listening more to how my kids look and feel in the environment I am creating, talking about the importance of self-care and mental health, and modeling this at home.

Farmstand in South Dartmouth, MA

Originally published at