Am I the only mother in this country depressed because her kids are going back to school? Really? Everyone seems ecstatic pushing their kids out the door, relieved to see them seven less hours a day. But I feel awful. I have a heaviness in my chest, a dull ache. Writing this even gives me a lump in my throat.
I can't be the only one, can I?
I know how depressed they are to go back – at least my boys are. Summer passes so quickly; it feels like just yesterday we were whooping and high-fiving on the last day of school. I felt their joy, and it lifted me up, too. The instant that last bell rang, life went from the drag of daily homework – not to mention dealing with shitty kids who took advantage of how quiet and sweet my boys are - to free and open days - nothing to do but mess around the house, eat ice cream and just be.
Then vacation. We managed to get away for two weeks to the Pacific Northwest, though for a while it seemed our clashing work schedules would prevent it. But it worked out, and the kids enjoyed it. Mostly. Long car rides aren't torture for them. They feel proud of how many more states they've seen than most kids, partly because most families fly and we drive.
It takes forever, but you see so much of the country. How many other kids have had the experience of being so bored you're punch-drunk, driving through Montana for a full day without reaching the border? After a few hours things got so desperate that to pass the time we reacted like we'd won the lottery when we actually passed a town. Never mind how small a speck of a place it was, we rejoiced.
Of course, that got old for us a lot faster than it did for them. That's pretty much always the case.
Arriving home, there were still weeks and weeks left to sleep late, after staying up 'til indecent hours, making nachos together at 2:00 a.m. I'm glad they're capable of having so much fun together, that they're buddies. Sometimes, at least. I hope they'll look back and laugh, remembering how much fun they had – and how much they did without us knowing. My philosophy? As long as there's no bloodshed, or broken heirlooms, it all works out. Childhood's fleeting; time passes in the blink of an eye, and things will never feel so free for them again.
Next week our schedules will change, necessitating – once again – the official wielding of the homework whip, combined with my worry the insulation of home is being stripped away, leaving my sons to fend for themselves in a world unsympathetic to children without a little inherent meanness, without the selfishness required to get what they want by pushing others out of the way. Raising them to be kind and unselfish, now I wonder if that was the right thing. Morally, yes. But in the real world?
I don't know.
It all passes too, too quickly. We didn't do most of the things we said we'd do while the kids were off school, letting time slip by as other things filled that void. Meanwhile, my daughter is driving. My middle child's hit puberty with a vengeance, and my youngest has only one year left before he's a teenager.
The dynamic will change, at some point. Nothing stays the same. I just wish I could grab time, digging in my heels to make it grind to a halt until I feel ready to let my kids out of the controlled environment of the house and back into the world. I can't control things "out there." And that scares me.
Of course, if you don't let them experience anything, you don't let them experience the good stuff, either. And I can't always be there to shield them from bad things. I know I need to let go a little, but it's tough.
But, again, if there's no bloodshed, and no heirlooms get broken, it all works out.