This one! Going off to all-day school in the fall!
I'm sitting outside right now on our patio, enjoying 60-degree early-morning temperatures, listening to the rain fall on the awning above my head as I write. The past few days have felt, weather-wise, just like fall. The early mornings require me to pull on a long-sleeved t-shirt over my tanks and pajama pants if I want to drink my coffee outside or even sit by an open window. Even though I can't run in it (ideal running weather), this change of pace on the weather front feels mighty refreshing. This is why I'm ultimately glad I live in a region with distinct seasons: because as much as I love summer (and I do, a lot), a break in the heat and humidity feels blissful come September. (Not that hot weather is over for the year. This is a brief interlude, I am sure; most autumns in these parts have sunny, hot Septembers.)
Now if only we could just do away with winter entirely. Ha.
Three weeks from Tuesday, both my children will climb a school bus at 8 a.m. and leave me for nearly seven and a half hours, for the first time ever. Then they will do it again the next day. And the next. And the next.
You might think I type those words with at least a hint of giddy glee, but you'd be wrong. Nor am I on the verge of tears at the thought (yet). Mainly I feel a great well of confusion and mixed emotions. The mix of emotions is weighted toward the regretful and sad, though, rather than the giddy glee. I'm going to miss being with my babes.
What will I do with myself this year, once my girls have climbed onto the school bus? I'm not completely sure. I think most people who have never taken on the work of parenting and household management as their full-time job think that there's not much to do once the kiddos are in school all day long. And truth be told, I can't know myself for sure, yet. But what people often don't remember is that, all those things you do in the evenings and over your lunch hour (if you're lucky) and on weekends if you're a full-time working parent--the grocery shopping and meal planning, the cooking and baking, the runs to the dry cleaner and Target and the hardware store, the servicing of the car and the calls to the doctor and dentist, the window-washing and vacuuming--those are the things that we full-time stay-at-home moms do during the day, which then frees up (at least part of) our evenings and weekends for relaxation, family time, or whatever brings us joy and balance.
It's a pretty sweet gig, actually--even if it takes a minimum of six years to get to the point of doing all those things without a child or children attached to your hip while you're doing them. This particular sweetness of the gig comes all these years later, as a sort of reward for all the times you did a giant grocery-shop with two babies in tow, breaking a sweat as you wrangled toddlers in diapers (or worse--potty training!), your mile-long list, an envelope of coupons, and the ever-present ticking of the clock, counting down the limited window of tantrum-free time available to you. Or the times you had to drag both kids with you to the gynecologist, or the times you lugged an infant carseat, a diaper bag, five shopping bags, and a two-year-old in from the car, and then still didn't get a chance to sit down for eight more hours. I know a fellow at-home mom whose husband told her that she could have the entire first-grade year, expectation-free, to do whatever she wanted and chose to do--even if that meant sitting on the couch with a cup of coffee and a magazine every now and then--because she had well and truly earned it in the years running up to the beginning of all-day school.
Of course, is all of it enough to fill seven hours a day? I don't know. Will I need to find a job? I don't know. I know that I plan to volunteer in both daughters' classrooms, which will take up at least one morning or afternoon per week. I'm toying with an idea for a second book, one that this year practically begs to be written. And I admit that--should this running injury go back into remission--I look forward to getting my workouts done during daytime hours. (Something plenty of working parents do on their lunch hours, but which has been rarely possible for me during the last eight years of full-time parenting.) Beyond that? I don't really know, although when I think of all the tasks that go into running a family and combine those with school volunteering, running, and being home to do childcare and homework supervision by 3:20 each day, it seems like plenty to fill the days. But I can't know for sure.
It's a time of transition, of big unknowns, of leap-taking and trust that everything will become clear in time. Some periods of life are like that; they come up again and again. This is just the next one.
And it begins in three weeks.