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Day one

September 7, 2012

Today was the first day of school for both children, and the first day of the rest of my life. This year, for the first time ever, they are in the same school. This is actually huge. Having one kid in private school and another in public, as I have since the younger one started first grade, guarantees their schedules and vacations will never, ever match–if you work, as I do, around the edges of everyone else’s routine, you are screwed from Yom Kippur to Easter Monday and back.

But this year! All summer I’ve been rubbing my palms together in gleeful anticipation. This year I will not have two spring breaks, back to back. I won’t have to race home from the library (or playing hooky) to beat the elementary school bus,which dropped the little one off an hour before the big one got home. I’ll be able to skip town without fretting that my younger son goes from school to my ex-husband’s empty house (which unsettles me, and which I’ve tried to forbid, and which my ex keeps allowing to happen behind my back anyway, because he doesn’t see a problem). This year they’ll ride the bus home together, and the big one can supervise and feed (and soon enough, chauffeur) the little one. What a milestone! I will have more freedom and more time than I have had since the day the older one was born. It’s as if I’m about to be given back a life I can hardly remember, and I have been thinking about the beginning of the school year with joy all summer long.

I figured I’d write a whole novel today, or something. Bake bread. Finally finish Proust. Weed the flowerbeds. Catch up on my correspondence. You know, because a whole day, when you haven’t had one in months, is long enough for all these things and more.

I am not sure whether to flagellate myself or cut myself slack (it’s a transition! Monday is another day!) for only managing two hours in the library, and a few more half-assed hours at home, in pursuit of intellectual and creative goals. I do know that today was rare, because I did not have to drive to the children’s school even once; I forgot to account for my older son’s after school soccer team, whose practices and games (one or the other daily till November) cause him to miss the bus (damn) every day. Till soccer season ends, I’ll be as fettered as I ever was, with more driving to boot.  I may have gotten a little too excited about the Brand New Life I was about to embark upon.

Still, it’s fall, season of new beginnings, and it’s hard not to feel good. The summer ended gloriously–I spent most of the last month outside, both in New Hampshire (with four children/boyfriend) and in Maine (with my younger son/my mother/a tame baby squirrel who adopted us). Coming back from vacation was, this year, especially demoralizing. Somehow the house failed to sell in my absence, and the moment I got home, the weather turned hot and wet and sticky. There are enormous, pale, vampiric spiders everywhere outside (and even inside, on the porch, to my horror) and one cabinet was infested with flour moths. The lawn is full of weeds and the windowboxes are all leggy and need deadheading. It poured for two days and the basement took on water. Something went off in the icebox, and I haven’t been able to locate or abolish the smell. My laptop, after six years of loyal service, fatally crashed.

But tonight the kids are happy, if tired, and I must put them to bed. (I started reading “The King Must Die” to them earlier in the summer, and we are nearly finished.) I think they are the last children in the world to go back to school (damned Quakers, always breaking with tradition!) so you are no doubt ahead of me, and well ensconced in your fall routines. Tell me about the end of your summer, please, and the beginnings of fall, whether it brings a new school schedule for you or one of yours, or not. I’ve missed writing here, and I’ve especially missed reading your comments.

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12 Comments leave one →
  1. kathleenicanrah permalink
    September 8, 2012 8:24 am

    no kiddos for me, but I woke up today at home after having been out of town for the last week. good news is I was out of town to snuggle my new baby nephew for four days, and better news is I always love coming home. I smiled as the plane landed last night, smiled as I threw my suitcase in the trunk, smiled as I stopped at the vietnamese place last night. fall is here, I’m home. simply, life is good.

  2. September 8, 2012 8:43 am

    . Coming back from the month you had must be tough though I was glad to read a new post. Good luck with the new schedule!

  3. September 8, 2012 9:46 am

    In the words of my kids and my niece (who got to spend nearly a month of vacation with her cousins) it was “the BEST SUMMER EVER.” My kids started school on Tuesday, and we are in the same empowered sense of bliss that they are finally all three in the same school full time (no half day pickup!) but because of the realities of transition are still waiting to reap the full effects of that. Life is good! Glad you are back.

  4. September 8, 2012 10:47 am

    My girls have also rarely been on the same school schedule, primarily because they are 5 years apart in age. The younger is a Waldorf child since Kindergarten, the older one was there for only her middle school years (a strange toe dip that worked for us). So, this year one rides a bicycle to the local high school, the other carpools home with fingers crossed that her sister has already arrived. I’ve had my bliss–those three years of aligned vacations, same half days off and their love of sharing a campus and knowing the same teachers was a delight. We’re back to the chaos of school sessions that don’t jive, but somehow I can focus on how little time I have left with them before they leave this nest and I manage to be ok with it.

  5. September 8, 2012 12:18 pm

    Even though the fall schedule is always easier than the summer, ALWAYS, the change is always hard, ALWAYS. What we’ve got going on for this fall looks so perfect on paper, given the constraints of really not perfect at all that we’re working with (because of age progression and a radical new process I like to call Planning Ahead we’re able to rock the afterschool time without a, sneaking out of work early or b, hiring a babysitter), and still I feel like I’m running along beside the car while I drive it. I keep telling myself hopefully that this feeling will pass.

  6. September 8, 2012 12:40 pm

    The transition is always a much bigger deal than one thinks…running alongside the car while driving it is exactly how I feel. I don’t know how I ignored the whole soccer thing. There are games, games, games–school games, town games–and practices, and why is no one smart about car pooling? Is it just that every single parent feels the need to go to every single game?

  7. September 8, 2012 5:04 pm

    Welcome back. I’m sorry that your house hasn’t sold yet (no houses sell in the summer, everyone knows that…), but delighted you had a lovely August, and that the planets – at least the ones that regulate school time-tables – have aligned. Reading your post makes me realise – as I realise EVERY SINGLE DAY – that having kids when you’re ancient just isn’t a great idea. When my mother was my age, she had an 18 yr old, 14 yr old and 10 yr old. I have yet to have even one child in proper school, and current pregnancy insomnia (coupled with jet lag) is fueled by my lying there trying to work out the logistics of a pre-school run with a newborn and a two yr old in tow (and a post-c-section ban on driving for 6 weeks. Hmmmm.) BUT… we had a lovely summer in your fair land; yday I asked my son what he wanted to do today; he replied: get on a plane and go back to Florida. While it’s probably unusual for a 3 yr old to suffer from post-holiday blues, I know exactly how he feels.
    I’m glad you’re back, I’ve missed your lovely writing.

  8. September 9, 2012 1:12 pm

    My end of summer was a relief and my beginning of fall was anxious but vibrant. My children are in three different schools this year! Three! Which means I race like a madwoman from here to there to there and back to here in an attempt to install every child where they need to be when they need to be there. And my laptop has become unhinged and therefore so have I. But the weather, it’s glorious, and the tomatoes, they’re bountiful, and the chickens, they are multiplying. This is the perfect season for house buying, so you’ll be fine very soon. Until then, and even after, it’s all material. Good luck to your son with the soccer season.

  9. September 9, 2012 1:22 pm

    Hope you will be able to post more frequently again. Your posts are a better treat than ice cream or cake or pie or cookies for dessert, And better for my health too!
    Remember in clearing out the flour moths to run a q-tip thingy into every hole in the cabinet and to actually REMOVE every shelf so you clean the wall and back side of the shelf…. yes, been there and got to go back and do it again!!! HORRID event. No advice on the vampiric spiders change of address.
    Really had hoped your house would be sold but every house sells in it’s own time…. never our timetable. Crossing my eyes in hope for you. In meantime enjoy all the improvements you made and continue the declutter and owning less path. It will help when you do get to move. Honest!
    At 68 I still mentally run a calendar that starts with each school year ~ something about 77 years of ‘school starts’ experience….. yes more than my age due to 2 children who also did lots of education and now grandchildren. So my ‘profound’ advice about school starts is deep breathing, taking time to appreciate the quiet and any peace, and above all remembering this is a wonderful time in your life and that it will get better and better and more wonderful over time. Especially because, intermingled will always be the reality of things not going as you wanted at the time.
    By the by, in most communities there are laws about how old a child must be before they stay alone. (Many people ignore these laws) It does however make a fairly clear guideline for discussions and joint decisions.
    One thing I always love about fall is the planting of those dried up things that look nothing like a flower with their promise of renewal and flowers in the future. I think the promise is sometimes even more special that the result months later. The air will be crisp, the children busy with schoolwork, crisp apples, time for stews…….. all glorious and special.
    THANK YOU FOR WRITING!!!!

  10. September 15, 2012 8:08 pm

    i too am glad to see you back. i went into the school year with similar exuberance and anticipation, thinking that because my children are now all three in school every day, i would have an obscene abundance of time in which to write, work out, shop idly, and visit with friends. as it turns out, the reality of having three children now in three different schools (pre-, elementary, and “upper” elementary) means i have to get up almost an hour earlier than before; the distribution process takes about two hours; and once they’re all IN school, i have less than three hours before i have to go pick the littlest one UP again. i actually have LESS time in the mornings to work than i had before. i have worked out a child-swapping arrangement with two other mothers, so i get two longer child-free days per week in exchange for a day with two extras, but that ends up eliminating the afternoon nap time i once relied upon for dinner prep, so it doesn’t really add up to a net gain. i know i’ll miss my youngest when he’s off to a long day of kindergarten, and i know someday i’ll be able to think of myself as a full-time (or even a reliably part-time!) writer, but right now the frustration is powerful.

  11. irretrievablybroken permalink*
    September 15, 2012 9:39 pm

    It’s some kind of bizarre calculus that never fails: If you think you’ll have five hours free, even having erred on the side of caution, you’ll never get more than three. If you think you’ll have three, you get one, maybe one and a half. If you’re looking at less than two, forget it. And you’ll never, ever get five workdays in a row. I never do. Some doctor’s appointment or illness or holiday or freak occurrence always sabotages at least one workday, sometimes two.
    And I’m stupid, because instead of just accepting this I still get frustrated and blame myself for never getting as much done as I mean to…

    • September 17, 2012 2:54 pm

      Ah, so that’s how the calculation is done! Now it makes sense! And there was naive old me, thinking that two hours means two hours…

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