It’s that time of year – almost September. Technically, as a stay-at-home mom, my days are pretty much the same no matter what season it is. However, before I took on this full-time mom gig, I was a teacher and before that a very, very longtime student – so I had that back-to-school feeling for almost thirty years before I had kids, and you don’t kill a habit like that with just a few years off. I still get that anticipatory, fresh-start, anything-can-happen feeling in the last half of August, leading up to the start of a new school year in September.
Of course, now I have kids of my own in school, and so I can project this feeling onto them – much to their dismay. They’d like to enjoy the last two weeks of their summer. You know how you get the best twenty minutes of sleep when you hit the snooze button on the alarm in the morning? That’s how my kids feel about the last two weeks of August. This is the best part of summer, in their opinion, and I’m ruining it with my need to make plans for their fall, discuss their upcoming transition to the school routine, and speculate about changes to their friends, teachers, and coursework.
I’m trying my best to be respectful of the kids’ need for some unstructured time. However, I do really need to make plans for fall sports and activities, and we really need to get some shopping done. We don’t do a great deal of back-to-school shopping. Our school, bless them, buys school supplies in bulk so we don’t have to go shopping for pencils, binders, 24 Crayola crayons with sharpener. I just send in a cheque the first week of school. I’m so grateful I usually send in extra money as a donation to the School Council. So no school supply shopping for us, and I don’t splurge on a lot of clothes for the first week of September – maybe a t-shirt or two each. But if I don’t buy the kids some new shoes to replace the sandals they wore day in and day out, all summer long, including two and a half very hot weeks in China – well, let’s just say the teachers will revolt. Actually, it’s the sandals that are revolting. These shoes have climbed the Great Wall – now they have a Great Stench. Nobody needs that in their classroom on the first day of school.
Every year I wonder if I have found the right balance for the upcoming school year. We tend to do best when we have relatively few activities, but everyone likes to have their own “thing”. Two activities per kid seems to be about right, if we can cluster them so we can take more than one child to an activity at the same time. I always wonder if I should sign the kids up for more – music lessons, team sports, swimming? – but we can’t do everything. At these times I’m grateful for the school system. Let the school teach them to play a musical instrument and play on a sports team. My kids need unstructured time off after school just as much as they need it during the last two weeks of summer. After-school free time is the snooze button sleep of childhood.