My children started school last Thursday.
Calgary is hosting World Skills 2009; an international vocational skills competition, and the Ministry of Education thought it would be good for the students to attend/take part in/benefit from the event, so all Calgary students came back early (even though as far as I can tell, only the Grade Tens are doing anything related to World Skills).
Anyway. I don’t care all that much about why they headed back early, the point is: they did. And while some Moms regret the start of school and all it entails, I am one of those that look forward to it, particularly this year. The reasons for this are many:
- I’ve always loved “back-to-school” time.
Early autumn will forever be associated for me with new beginnings, sharpened pencils, stiff plastic-smelling binders and plaid wool skirts with knee socks (oh, how I longed for a school uniform as a girl!). I hope my girls will catch some of that enthusiasm — that sense of possibility and anticipation rather than dread and regret — themselves.
- We spent pretty much every minute of every day together this summer. And many nights. All three of us. In one bed.
And while that was my dear and only wish when my girls were babies, the allure of 24/7 mothering is not so strong when the children are 6 and nearly-9. Last year the summer was packed with five weeks of full-day camps, and I guess I overdid it. When it came time to plan for some activities this summer, they wore me down with tears and pleas and made me promise they wouldn’t have to go to camp AT ALL this summer. And as it turned out, our summer was so topsy-turvy that it would have been pretty difficult to organize. But still. They were mostly good, my girls, with all their unplanned and empty summer days, but there were enough times when I was expected to be social convenor/activities director/personal entertainer/constant companion that I was completely worn out by their presence.
- Most children (especially my older daughter) crave routine, even if they don’t know it themselves.
This is a kid who really has an inherent need to KNOW. WHAT’S. GOING. TO. HAPPEN. And while it is a dream of mine to wake up on a sunny morning without a single plan or goal and just let the day unfold as it will, that is pretty much my daughter’s nightmare. On days like that (lazy, relaxing, no-pressure days), she turns into a menace. She’d assault me every five minutes with “what are we going to doooooo!” and “I’m boooooored!” and “there’s nothing to dooooooo!” and “I want to do something with yooooooou!” until I had read the same sentence 75 times, felt dizzy and thought my brain might explode. So much for sitting on the deck and reading a novel all day. NOT! So now we have a schedule, and a chore chart, and a bunch of sticky stars to put on it. We have agendas and routines and yes, even rules. And we love it.
- All good things need endings. And fresh new beginnings.
You know, by the time the school year ends in late June, we are all so ready to drop the routines and activities and rules and just let it all hang loose for a while. We have a few sleep-ins, a holiday, a bunch of fun outings and some fun summer daycamps. And then, by the time Labour Day rolls around again, we are all good and ready to head back to school. And that’s the way it should be. We live our lives in a series of cycles: weeks, months, seasons. We mark the important milestones, the rites of passage, the progressions along life’s path. We say a sad good-bye to the past, but we also have to turn a fresh face towards the future, and that’s what this time of year represents for me.
And in the end it’s true for me and my children. Absence really does make the heart grow fonder. I watch the clock at mid-day, planning and preparing a nurturing lunch for them with a willingness I could never manage to muster even a few weeks ago. I meet them at the school doors – all fresh and eager and full of wonderful stories and accomplishments: “Mom! Guess what?!? Je m’appelle Charlotte!” and my heart bursts with pride and joy to see them. I reach out to grasp those warm, small hands, and I lead them home to our sunny kitchen; table laid with a favourite meal. I sit and eat with them, and hear about their mornings. And then they race off again — hurrying back to the schoolyard to enjoy the rest of lunch recess with their friends.