Thursday, October 7, 2021

Out With a Fizzle

Monday morning, the alarm clocks went off early in our house, and three bleary-eyed kids rolled out of bed and into their first-day-of-school outfits. In the kitchen, they jockeyed for counter space as they packed lunches and assembled breakfast. Binders and notebooks and freshly-sharpened pencils were packed into backpacks, along with lunchboxes and soccer gear – and maybe a little bit of first day anxiety.

And then – after the obligatory photos, of course – off they went, to another new school year.

Each year it takes me a while to adjust to that first-day quiet: the calm after the storm of back-to-school prep and the bustle of getting out the door early in the morning. When the kids were little, the first day of school set me to melancholy; the start of each school year was another reminder of how fast they were growing, and I lamented moving from the easier pace of summer days to the more scheduled – and busier – days of the school year.

This year, though – despite the shocking fact that those once-little kids are now in high school and middle school – I’ve been ready for the return of the school year. The past two summers, and all through last year, I’ve been working remotely. I’m thankful that I’m able to do so, but even with kids who no longer really need me for the day-to-day nitty-gritty, it’s been a bit of a grind. Those just-one-quick-question interruptions, times three kids, times multiple “quick” questions each – well, let’s just say that while I’ll miss the kids, I’m happy to return to my not-so-many-interruptions workday atmosphere.

This summer also went out with more of a fizzle than a bang. We returned from a week on the Cape to trade in flipflops and sand for soccer cleats and lined fields. At least the kids did. I mostly fit in work around driving this one and that one and the other one to practices, which were somehow almost always at different times and places. The high schoolers started with double sessions two days after our arrival home. The littlest started a week later. Throw in annual physicals, back-to-school haircuts, a dentist appointment, outfitting everyone with clothing and school supplies, and a day at the vet for the dog, and the last two weeks of summer were hardly footloose and fancy free.

I’m not sure the kids were quite ready for summer to end. But they’ll get into the school swing of things soon enough. And while I’m fully aware that the school year family logistics will be no piece of cake, I’m happy to be back to the relative calm of that 8 a.m. – 2 p.m. part of the day.

Original content published by Meghan McCarthy McPhaul. This essay appears as Meghan's September 25, 2021 Close to Home column in the Littleton Record.

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