Back to school time is one of mixed emotions for me. I always envy those women skipping down the store aisles with glee and declaring, “Only six more days until sweet freedom, baby! THANK GOD!” or those women who declare, “Ohhhhh nooooo, only six more days until my precious angels go back to school! Why can’t it be summer f-o-r-e-v-e-r?” and then unabashedly sob at the bus stop. At least they’ve picked a camp and decided how they feel. Not me. On any given day, either one of those women inhabit me. Being a fan of consistency and making up one’s mind, I don’t like it. Group number one makes me feel like I don’t have enough of a life beyond kids. Group number two makes me feel like I don’t love or appreciate my kids enough. No wonder I’m prone to depression this time of year.
Being the sole woman in a houseful of men, otherwise known as the mayor of Penisville, the annual back to school experience is never how I envision it to be. It’s a little hard to relate to these people sometimes. As a girl, there were two things I was concerned about every year: 1) What will I wear to school on the first day? (duh), and 2) Will my friends and the
cute boy I like “right” people be in my class this year? For starters, my boys get angry when I say the word “outfit,” as in, “Let’s go shopping for a good back to school outfit!” They run in the other direction. Also, they don’t really want me meddling in their social life, as in, “Should I ask Mrs. Smith to make sure you and John are in class together next year?” I would have made such a good Texas Cheerleading Mom.
I live in the area of the Meddling Mother, and while it goes against my nature to meddle or over-manage, it becomes a bit of a contagious phenomenon. When I just sit back and let the chips fall where they may (some people call that “life”), inevitably I feel like I should have done more. Teacher assignments, for example. Most schools have at least a few <insert one> crazy, incompetent, senile, undermedicated, overmedicated, plain old bad teachers, and unless you just rolled into town yesterday, you know who those teachers are. In our schools, the good outnumber the bad by at least twenty to one, but some still exist. I realize we are incredibly fortunate, and my respect and admiration for the numerous teachers who have gone above and beyond for my children grows more each year.
This is my thirteenth year as a part of this school district, and with only a couple minor exceptions among three children, I am so pleased with the quality of education my kids receive here. But sooner or later, my lucky streak has to end, right? What if it’s this year? What if my lack of lobbying for the best teachers lands my child with the worst teacher? And what if the worst teacher changes my kid’s opinion of himself and of school and starts him on a slippery slope which ends on skid row? What? It could happen.
Transitions are hard for a lot of people, and the older I get, the more I realize I’m one of those people. I am usually fine once I’m in my new routine, but I’m not a fan of that period of time (i.e. now) before the new routine gets established. I’m a little anxious and irritable, and the worry comes out in unusual ways. At the grocery store last week, I noticed they moved the ground turkey yet again. I like knowing where things are in the store so that I can breeze through and grab whatever I want without thinking. So when I asked the nice man in the meat department where the ground turkey was, I couldn’t just leave it at that. “Why?” I said, “Why do they keep moving the turkey? I like knowing where things are when I come in here. WHY does everything have to change all the time? Why can’t things just stay where they were?” He looked at me with pity and sympathy and just said, “I’m sorry.” I think he knew I wasn’t talking about turkey.
When I start to spiral into my own web of crazy, I am reminded that bad experiences and challenges are also as important as good ones, and I’ve had a distinct advantage in my life by possessing the ability to deal with difficult personalities. If everyone is always patient and kind and normal, well, you never learn to deal with irrational, moody, unstable people. Spoiler alert, kids: these people exist in the real world. In spades. You will need to deal with them one day, sooner or later. That is how I comfort myself when I worry that my precious angel might have a mean teacher — that mean teacher is prepping them for the mean professor, mean landlord, mean boss, mean mother-in-law. They will need to find a way to win them over or at least work amicably together. Less than perfect people, less than ideal environments are part of life.
When I’m not melting down in grocery stores or picking out spiffy outfits my boys will never wear, mostly I’m filled with optimism and excitement about new beginnings and growth. I try to remember how incredibly lucky my kids are to be attending safe schools that offer them a high quality education. I try to remember that children in different parts of the world, different parts of the US, and even in different parts of Pennsylvania are not afforded the same level of educational opportunity as my children, due to absolutely no fault of their own. I try to push out all of the worry and negative thoughts and simply be grateful. I say a silent prayer that it will all work out somehow, and then I bake cookies.