When There’s No More Back to School

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It snuck up on me. I’ve been breezing along, planning for the new school year where I work, and suddenly I realized that I have no one to send to school. Since 1998, I have sent a child to school every year — 23 years to be exact. From kindergarten to college, each fall has been marked with a list of needed supplies, a deadline, and lots of anticipation and anxiety. Now, suddenly it seems, it is no longer back to school season for me. (Technically, it would have been last year but… well, that’s all a blur.)

First day of school 2009

This year I have to fully face what it means when I am no longer going “back to school.” The obvious, sort of annoying things don’t exist anymore, like buying school supplies, filling out those endless forms that you swore you did last year, shopping for that perfect outfit or dorm comforter. I think, though, it is the less tangible parts that I’m missing most, like filling up the school year planner with events, wondering with other mothers if our children will be together and like their teachers, signing the kids up for some new activity — all those things that surround the school year, the busyness that makes the days full.

To be honest, I am perfectly fine with the slower pace of days most of the time. When our youngest went to college, we fully embraced the quieter, neater, lower-water-bill existence that came in when she went out. Imagine, if you can, a day when you can put something away and it will actually be there when you look for it again. Mind blowing! But I miss that line in the sand that starting school draws in the year, that delineation between unfocused summer fun and focused fall pursuits. No matter how many planners I buy, I will not be going back to school any time soon, and a part of me really wants to walk through those doors and get back in the routine, to meet new friends, to learn something new, to be part of that vast migration happening each fall.

September is the other January

One of my favorite podcasts, Happier with Gretchen Rubin, proposed that September is the other January. That episode, from August 2017, popped back to my mind as I was thinking ahead to this fall and wondering how it would feel to have no back to school activities. She suggests that even if you are not returning to school, the time when school starts is such a traditional turning point that you can think of it as a restart or a fresh start for any type of project or habit. Perhaps I can follow her advice and embrace this other January by starting something new myself. Possibly. Today, though, I think I’ll just buy some school supplies to donate, maybe grab a new outfit for myself, and pretend just a little while longer that I live in a back-to-school house.

To all of you who just sent your babies off to school, I pray that you all have a year of blessings and adventures that you’ll carry with you long after school days are over.

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Born in Wisconsin, Chris moved South with her family, first to Richmond, Virginia, and then to Birmingham when she was 12. She loves being a girl raised in the South, and her only remaining Midwestern traits are a love for the Packers and a fondness for bratwurst. In 2010, Chris reconnected with Christopher, a former Birmingham-Southern College classmate, after a random meeting in the cereal aisle at Publix. They married in 2011, not realizing that they were bringing together a perfect storm of teenage angst with their three children. Today, Chris is the center support that keeps the seesaw of her family balanced, leading a blended family of three young adults and enjoying an empty nest. Before the pandemic, most days were busy managing client relationships for a corporate event production company, but after six months of unemployment, she has become the parish administrator aka “the church lady” for her church. When she's not working, she loves reading a rich historical novel, volunteering with her sorority, and planning their next wine-tasting excursions.

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