Just this morning four of my six headed out the door for another “first day of school”.
Three -- back to a place of familiarity. A place that feels known and safe.
One off on a new adventure. A new school. A new system of doing things. Buses, multiple teachers, binders with dividers, gym clothes, a 90-minute earlier departure time, and many many unfamiliar faces.
During the day I sifted through the expected emotions and feelings. My thoughts dwelling particularly on my oldest – the one who must always pave the way through all of the unknowns for us.
I teased him this morning about waking so early. “I told you you’d be ready in less than half an hour,” I laughed (as he sat on the couch – chickens fed, backpack packed, hair smoothed, breakfast eaten, and a good 35 minutes to go before bus pickup).
He smiled, took a deep breath -- part anticipation, mostly nerves -- and joked back, “Well, physically ready, sure; but I still have to get mentally ready.”
In the end he must have been ready enough. He managed failed bus pick ups, temperamental locker coms, and seven syllabuses all with a resourcefulness and independence that calmed my own nervous frettings.
I like the freedom and carefreeness of summer, but there is a rhythm and routine that settles into place for our family during the school year that feels . . . I don’t know . . . predictable, productive and healthy. We get up and going at a set time. Laundry goes in. Counters get cleaned from breakfast. Morning errands get run. Jesse gets letters reviewed and numbers counted.
But, as I look at my counters -- currently littered with folders, and backpacks; half begun homework assignments, and forms waiting for my signature – I remember that the school year’s reliable rhythm doesn’t come without a price.
Gone are the days, for me, of carefully and thoughtfully going through one little child’s homework folder at the close of each school day. Instead, there are four constant piles of “school work” on the counter and multiple charts and reminders stuck to the fridge (all of this to avoid succumbing to an “out of sight, out of mind” downfall). Every due assignment, late start, field trip and extra-curricular activity is painstakingly recorded on the calendar; older kids are, of necessity, being trusted to keep on top of what they need to do and when they need to do it, while younger ones are guided and prompted and reminded and helped.
Still, busyness notwithstanding, there is some satisfaction, 12 years and six kids into my parenting experience, in knowing that I have gained so much confidence in how we do things around here. I haven’t been around long enough to be sure and certain in everything (why, junior high was a complete unknown until today), but I’ve been around long enough to know where I want our energy spent. I’ve been around long enough to no longer panic if I hear of activities other kids are doing that I haven’t involved my kids in. I’ve been around long enough to know that it is OK if some families do things very differently from how we do them. I’ve been around long enough to know I don’t have to discover every opportunity for my children and that they will, of their own accord, find out about things they are interested in -- early-morning choir, peer-leader groups, etc. -- and ask me to help them join. I’ve even been around long enough to know that six kids doesn’t always mean more stress and busyness than . . . fewer than six.