The alarm went off in my son’s room at 6:15am. Absent from our lives since June, it was a sound I didn’t recognize at first. Shortly thereafter, I heard the more familiar sound of the shower spray hitting the tile. Back to school.
Backpacks flung over one shoulder (two would be uncool), my kids headed out at different times on different buses with mixed feelings of anticipation and apprehension. Feeling all too familiar from not so long ago.
I took the obligatory first-day-of-school pictures and received the obligatory groans from my 12-year-old son. My 8-year-old daughter wanted me to take two pictures – one from the front and one from the back – so I could be sure to get her long braid.
I, too, had a mixture of excitement and apprehension as I said my goodbyes. It’ll be great to get back into a routine again. Great to finish a thought or a sentence without interruption.
But the house is unusually quiet, and only my office phone rings. The dog is even a bit confused but soon will learn again to respond to the distant throaty diesel sound that heralds the return of her charges.
By 9:30am, I have edited a story, read the paper, made lunch plans for later in the week, and taken the dog for a walk — surprisingly, because I wanted to, not because I had to. I feel privileged that I can both be home for my children and cherish my solitude. My list of things to accomplish runs long, but for today, I relish the silence and enjoy not having a sense of purpose.
In a short time, the door will fly open and my children will pour in one at a time, slide off their backpacks and let them fall where they may. I’ll serve them my traditional first-day-of school homemade cookies, a fleeting idea I had one year that is now etched in my children’s expectations.
I’ll listen to their day and begin to fill out the seemingly endless forms and “opportunities,” and life will once again return to its school-year state: chaotic, yet comfortable.
For now, I’ll treasure the silence, knowing all too well that it’s short-lived. And I’ll let it prepare me for the energy that will soon burst through the door, bringing my home alive again. For that, too, is short-lived as the years fly by. And there will be a time when the silence won’t be a welcomed respite.
I wrote those words 20 years ago.
I realize how different life is for most moms today. First of all, I can’t think of anyone who rides a bus anymore. Secondly, most don’t have the luxury of working part-time with built-in respites of “me time.” I worked full-time in a demanding job for four years after my son was born, then was fortunate to do freelance work after my daughter was born.
What hasn’t changed for moms today is that motherhood is made up of long days and short years. In a blink, this blender-like life you are living today will be a distant memory.
I know better than to say, “enjoy the chaos,” but, seriously, ENJOY THE CHAOS. And make the memories for your kids, whatever that looks like for you. My kids are 31 and 27 now.
On my first day of graduate school at the age of 57, I sent both my kids a selfie of me with a backpack slung over one shoulder. When I got home from class, I found a package at my front door. My son sent homemade chocolate chip cookies all the way from San Francisco.
Share your back-to-school reflections below or on Facebook at MothersRest.
About the guest blogger:
Gail has worked in the nonprofit field for more than 30 years and enjoys visiting her kids in two great cities: Wilmington, NC and San Francisco.
Her original article appeared in The Philadelphia Inquirer, September 6, 1998, “Lessons of the Fall: New rhythms and expectations click as a household shifts gears.”
Photo by tookapic from Pixabay.com
Loving these comments shared on Facebook:
Omg I finally had a moment to read this. Tears at the cookie ending. ❤️❤️
–Sharon, author of the post, Hey pretty girl, beware the boogie man: human trafficking is real.
What a insightful story and so very true! Beautiful kids, beautiful memories!!
–Janisse Jaimeyfield Gass
Love this and so true! Love you!
–Candy Peden Gamache Wright
I love this and want it in print!!!
Love this very much!!
–Brenda Madden Funderburk
Love, Love, Love.
–Cathy Reid Satchell