School starts on Monday. So many mothers I talk to proclaim to be sad that summer's ending. All I can think is, for real?
I've been anticipating the beginning of school since the end of school in June. I can not wait to see those kids off Monday morning, backpacks stuffed with waste-free lunches and number-two pencils.
Part of it, I think, is that I loved school. Loved it. Almost more than reading. And lots of times you got to read WHILE you were at school. Pleasure beyond words. My love of school was two-fold. I loved to learn and I was good at learning, which in turn meant that I had success at school and teachers loved me. Add to that my lurking loneliness and school's guarantee of company and you had yourself a winning combination.
As the ramp-up to school begins, as we get the girls' class assignments and, by a flurry of email, discover which friends are in their classes, I am excited both for them, because they, too, up to now have found happiness at school and also for me, reliving those long-gone days of known expectations and achievable goals. And as they re-enter their social scene, I re-enter mine. I'm reunited with my friends, the parents of my girls' friends, whom I've so missed for the past year. Class assignments are as socially important for me as they are for the girls. I don't go out to an office every day. I don't have co-workers. These parents are my compatriots.
The other delicious benefit of school is, of course, six hours per day of free childcare. Rather horrible to put it that way but baldly true. I love my kids. I love spending time with them. But I'm a hell of a lot more fun - and more happy - when I can get a little space. Summer is blackberry picking and lazy hours at the pool and ice cream in the middle of the day but it's also "Mom, I'm bored" and "Mae hit me" and "Make Lana stop singing". We can all drive each other a little crazy. How can I miss you when you don't go away?
Sometimes I wonder how I, of all people, ended up with three kids. Let alone a rambunctious, emotionally scarred, adopted third child. I don't see myself as the most patient of people. My love of order and cleanliness is not conducive to housing three little maniacs. Some of my happiest times are alone in the quiet house, writing, sewing, washing dishes, anything as long as I'm by myself.
I think I had three kids, including my Ethiopian Devil, to shake myself out of my perfection. They are a built-in mechanism to keep me from too much quiet, too much tidiness, too much aloneness. They keep me alive. Not in the sense that I'd be dead without them. But I'd certainly be a lot less interesting, a lot less engaged and a lot less joyful. And what the hell would I write about?
Come Monday, I send these little people, these darlings that make me crazy and make me real, back into the world, send them into that institutional order and routine that I love. For them and hallelujah, for me. And I will undoubtably be working to keep the tears on the inside of my eyelids instead of running down my cheeks as I watch them take one more official step away from me. And then I'll take a deep breath, go home, make a cup of decaf and finish that wrap dress I've been working on, NPR sedate on the radio, the sound of the clock ticking in my ears.