My Kids Need School. And I Need it, Too.

My son started fourth grade today. Fourth grade! I can hardly believe he has grown so big so fast. I remember my fourth grade year like it was yesterday. I made some of my best lifelong friends in that class. I pray Cooper will have a similar experience. Still, it’s hard to believe I now have a child that same age. I may have eaten a few too many peanut M&Ms today as I pondered how *ahem* old I am and how quickly my children are growing. I figured drowning my back-to-school blues in chocolate was better than wine at 1:00 on a Tuesday afternoon. All bets are off after the kids go to bed tonight, though.

 

Seriously, where did summer go? I feel like I blinked and it was gone. Between baseball and swim lessons and two big vacations, plus a last minute long weekend at the beach, it just vanished into thin air right before my eyes. We live in the deep South, where summer days stretch on for nearly six months. I think I’m going to start lobbying for summer breaks to last that long, as well. Brilliant idea, right?

Except…

Except I’m not sure I could actually handle much more summer than we’re already given. My kids need school. And I need it, too.

Photo by Aaron Burden on Unsplash

Photo by Aaron Burden on Unsplash

Let me tell you why.

I love my children so much and I hate being away from them. I really do. I look forward to summer break each and every year because it means spending quality time with my two favorite little people during my favorite season. Lazy pajama mornings, PB&J sandwiches for lunch by the pool, long days spent swimming and playing, grilling out for dinner, showers at night followed by family movies… it’s just a magical time of year. I am always a little on the depressed side when school starts back up, especially when it’s still warm enough to do all the things I just listed.

There’s this other side to summer with kids, though, particularly as they get older. Or as you add more of them to the nest. If you’re a parent you know what I’m talking about. The “dark” side of summer, if you will, consists of ridiculous sibling arguments, unfounded boredom, constant whining and unbelievably overtired kiddos. It makes no sense. They have not a care in the world for two and a half months but by the end of it, you would think they’re serving some kind of prison sentence. They’re sick of sandwiches and movies and worst of all, swimming. We pay good money to keep our very nice pool up and one of us works her tail off keeping it in good shape, which isn’t always easy. You can probably see the steam coming out of my ears if you look close enough when one of my kids (mostly my oldest) complains about swimming in our own backyard. What a tough life they lead!

Even with an age gap, sibling rivalry still exists.

During the school year, my three-year-old daughter is usually nothing short of an angel on any given day. Until her brother gets home, that is. Then, somehow, she turns into the exact opposite of an angel. I’m not saying there’s a direct correlation between her behavior and her brother being around… Oh wait, yes I am. It’s an absolute fact that she behaves much worse when he’s home. She’s three and a half, he is about to turn ten. Lots of years and a gender difference between them, but they still argue like one is a Montague and the other is a Capulet. So, when summer rolls around, I have to brace myself for the sibling rivalry. In the beginning, it’s tolerable. Non-existent, even. The summer excitement is new and fresh and everyone is on the same team. Go summer!

But as we trudge through the long days, they start to turn on each other. One of them touches the other too much. That one doesn’t play fair. This one licked that one. She pulled my hair. He grabbed my arm. We want to watch different shows in different rooms. She’s too loud. He’s ignoring me. We’re both DRIVING MOM CRAZY! At least they work together on that one.

My kids need to learn.

Sometime around the beginning of July, the older one starts to turn into a vegetable. {I secretly wish the younger one would do the same sometimes, but she’s usually the Energizer Bunny day in and day out.} He spends hours at a time either playing his XBox, which I hate, or on his iPad, which I hate more. Who invented electronics? Clearly, they didn’t have kids. At the end of a day of gaming or YouTube watching, he usually complains about having a headache. I usually ignore him because he kind of deserves it. Mom just doesn’t know anything, does she? He needs to be in school, learning all the basic subjects, on a set schedule and daily routine. We all need routine. Want to know the first thing he told me about his day after I picked him up from school? He gave me a minute-by-minute rundown of his schedule. From memory. I know my kids; structure is necessary for them. They thrive in scheduled situations. It would probably be smart of me to implement one during the summer months, but I immediately adopt the whole Yolo attitude when school lets out. A few weeks later, when I’m just trying to survive, they’re both too far gone. Live and learn, I guess. Maybe I’ll remember this when May rolls around and both my kids will learn a new skill or channel their energy into art or something. It’s doubtful, though. I’m pretty set in my ways.

We need a chance to miss each other.

Every evening, my husband comes home from a long day at work and we greet him as if he has been deployed for a month. We all miss him when he’s not here during the day. During summer, my kids and I are pretty much on top of each other 24/7. It’s great at first: I soak in all the kiddie love and snuggles and they get tons of Mommy time. It’s every mother’s dream! But then I think we all realize we’re not going to be apart at all for a very long time. That’s when it gets real. Some smart individual probably came up with school a long time ago primarily as a way to create a richer, more fulfilling bond between parents and children. Education is just icing on the cake. I think about my kids often while they’re gone and wish they were with me. I look forward to picking my kids up from school and hearing about their day. And spending time with them when they get home is truly a blessing. I know it sounds like I’m a bit on the negative side of parenting in this post, but I do recognize what an honor it is to be a mother. I love it and wouldn’t trade it for anything in the world. My kids are my life for sure. But every now and then, it’s nice to have my own life sneak through the cracks. And those cracks are between 7:30 and 2:30 every weekday during the school year. God bless the teachers and administrative staff for allowing mothers like me to get their recharge!

What I’m looking forward to now that school is back:

  • Singing along to whichever song I want in my own car without answering a million questions {What song is this, Mom? Who sings it?}. Or having to change my music to Trolls or Moana songs. I’m pretty hardcore about my car music. But Tess is pretty relentless.

  • Not cringing if I have to hear my name in question form one. More. Time. I reach my question-answering limit by at least lunchtime nearly every day. After the threshold is crossed it’s like nails down a chalkboard.

  • Not having to change the three-year-old into every princess dress she owns 784,367 a day.

  • Three words. Peace. And. Quiet. For more than a few minutes each day.

  • Being able to write or get work done without being interrupted for a few precious hours each day. Working from home as a stay-at-home mom is seriously for the birds, especially during the summer months.

  • Watching something other than a Disney movie or Umizoomi or Cartoon Network.

  • Less headaches now that I won’t hear “Mom, come look at what she did!” every five minutes.

The Threenager chose to quietly give herself a mani/pedi the morning we left for the beach. She has amazing timing.

The Threenager chose to quietly give herself a mani/pedi the morning we left for the beach. She has amazing timing.

In all seriousness, I am super sad that summer is over. It truly is my favorite time of year. I missed my boy today while he was gone and I know I will feel the same when TK starts back next week. My house will be more quiet than I am comfortable with and I will get sick of it fast. It's just one of those struggles that all parents face. Although I think school is necessary for preventing insanity in both children and parents alike, I am truthfully already counting down the days until the next break!