Back to school.
I must admit that, as a parent, I have mixed feelings about "back to school."
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I know it used to be that most parents were at least relieved, if not downright ecstatic, about their children's return to the school year routine. No more long, hot days filled with "I'm bored," "she hit me," and "do I have to?"
No more dirt tracked in and out of every room in the house (that's assuming, of course, that you got your kids to go outside). No more battles to turn off the TV/blaring stereo/video game/computer (your choice) for at least a few hours.
No more staying up to 2 a.m. and sleeping until noon (that's if you've got teens or young adults in your household). No more driving over half the metropolitan area taking kids to lessons, practices, games, classes and camps.
For a full-time stay-at-home parent (often Mom) sometimes this summer must have seemed like eternity (and not the heavenly kind).
The reality is, though, that stay-at-home parents -- Moms or otherwise -- are a minority now. What with two career families and single-parent households, it is often the day care center or day care person who takes the heat of summer.
Add to that the pressure of frequent overtime and second jobs and I'm not that sure our kids' extra time this summer actually translated into much extra time with us parents.
What summer did do, perhaps, was give us the chance to pack a little less into the time we did have together. I enjoyed (most of the time) being the only one I had to get out of the house in the morning. And my kids seemed glad to see me when I got home that evening.
Rather than being sentenced to the nightly trials and tribulations of "what homework do you have left to do," or "make sure and get the trash out" (a routine which nobody looked forward to), we could spend some time talking about the day or go for a bike ride or shoot some hoops or just hang out together.
And weekends became times to go for short trips or schedule special events or do nothing in particular, rather than trying to catch up on everything we didn't get done during the week.
So I'm thinking now about the inevitable rush of early morning off to school pandemonium, after school activities, nightly homework, and weekend athletics. I don't really begrudge any of this (except perhaps the early morning part), but I do confess I sure enjoyed the slower pace my children ran this summer, probably because it helped me slow down a bit, too.
Maybe that's the lesson here. If our summer pace felt so good, so right, then it just might be the pace we should try to set the rest of the year as well.
I know that sounds a bit simplistic. I mean, how are we supposed to slow down in the midst of all the speeding up that "back to school" involves? Well, since our kids' return to school will speed our lives up in one spot, I guess we'll just have to slow our lives down in another.
Not working extra hours, putting off remodeling the basement, postponing taking a class, enrolling our kids in fewer activities -- there really are places we can slow down. It won't be easy, but let's face it; we have only so much time, and so many years.
No matter how old our children are, it won't be long before they are schoolchildren no more. Hey, it won't be long before they are children no more. There's no rescheduling tomorrow the time we didn't spend with them today.
Maybe summer shouldn't just be reserved for summer. Maybe we should schedule summer all year long. Slow down.