The end of summer break

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For the past few weeks, I’ve been ping-ponging between two internal monologues. The first one goes like this: “Oh, I love the summer and how the kids and I are free from strict schedules, homework, filling lunchboxes, school programs and ballgames. Summer is awesome.”

And then the second version goes more like this: “If these kids don’t go back to school soon, I’m going to lose my freaking mind.”

I’ll be honest and tell you that last week, I found myself chanting the second one in my head more than the first. So even though I’ll miss the lazy days of summer, I’m also happy to drop off the kids for adventures in elementary and middle school.

After school drop-off yesterday, I came home and it was gloriously quiet. The place was mine – all mine. I should have seized the opportunity to do something completely decadent, like a hot bath or a long nap. Maybe pop a few bonbons and paint my toenails.

Instead, I cleaned the house, did laundry, wrote a few articles for work and returned phone calls and email. Despite the list of mundane tasks, I loved every minute of it. Why? There were no distractions. No sibling squabbles to referee. No snacks to supply. No missing socks to find.

On the first day of school, even housework feels nearly luxurious when you do it in peace and quiet and get reacquainted with the ability to hear yourself think.

It was so quiet, in fact, that I could also hear the refrigerator making a strange noise that sounds like a frog croaking in the crisper drawer. (I checked. There’s no frog in there.)  I’m not sure how long it’s been making this sound. It might have been croaking all summer long and I wouldn’t have heard it over the dull roar of the Disney channel, Jack’s remote control helicopter buzzing from room to room and the nearly constant request for frozen pizza, or snow cones, or a game of Monopoly, or a trip to the pool or the often-heard phrase, “Mom, look at this!”

For the next several months, the middle of the day belongs to me again. Of course, the solitude is necessary to balance out the demands of the school year, which can sometimes feel like a job in itself. There’s homework to supervise and projects to help create, forms to fill out, costumes to find for all those programs to attend, after-school practices to shuttle them to, tests to help study for, and volunteer requests from the PTA – not to mention the ongoing effort to make sure your kids navigate the often treacherous social waters of school and come out relatively unscathed.

Maybe I just wasn’t paying attention, but it seems like, only a generation ago, parents were only expected to get their kids to school and sign report cards now and then. These days, sending kids to school is a full contact sport and keeping up with the day-to-day routine requires plenty of mental and physical energy.

It’s worth it, of course. And it’s exciting to see how the kids grow and change as they learn new things. Adam has fallen in love with American history, and Jack is learning to play the drums. Kate can’t get enough of Ramona the Brave and all the other adventures she finds on the shelves of the school library. By the time three o’clock comes around – which always happens quickly – I’m ready to hear about the school day. And as the noise level ramps up and the kids buzz about, I revel in how full and alive the house feels once again.

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