When I make that fateful flip of the calendar to the month of August, the back-to-school blues begin to set in. The countdown begins to new teachers, new friends, and whatever this year’s new “normal” will be. After all of summer’s sweet and slow glory, the reality of early mornings covered in darkness and evenings crammed with homework and soccer practices stings my soul a bit. Ouch.
I am a summer junkie. I love the slow pace, the long days, the evenings on the porch reading. I love going for an evening dip in the neighborhood pool and having the time to make a nice meal on a Tuesday night. I can even handle the whining chorus of “I’m bored” from the kids because boredom is a welcome switch from the Fall-Winter-Spring mad dash from activity to activity.
As I get older, I feel more of a pull to slow down, to pause, to notice. I don’t want to be on auto-pilot, rushing to get here and there. I don’t want my kids to eat dinner in the car. This is not to say I’m not good at this lifestyle; truly, I can rock it. I can plan around anything and will work myself to the bone to make it all fall into place perfectly and on time. It’s my superpower.
But secretly, when we’re living like this, I’m tired to the point of tears, and my kids look at me with pleading eyes to just take a day off. Last year, my second grader would say to me, “Let’s take a personal day, mommy.” And you know what? Sometimes, we did, and it was fantastic.
This year, I’m determined to carry some slivers of summer with us into the school year, some moments where we slow it down and savor the simple things. Obviously, we can’t avoid our responsibilities. Lunches need to be made, homework needs to be done, and soccer practice needs to be practiced. Structure has its positives, but we all need some downtime too.
As the school year starts up, I’m going to remember that I can say “No” to that extra obligation or extra activity, for myself and my kids. I do not have to say “Yes” to all the things, nor do I have to cram activity into every nook and cranny of our time.
I’m going to remember that downtime is sacred, especially the holy grail of downtime: weekends. Weekends are a chance to slow down, reconnect with nature, and be with family and friends. I do not have to stuff our weekends full of go-go-go. When we’re feeling frazzled, I can guard our weekends and keep them blissfully low-key.
I’m going to remember to take a break when we need it. An occasional personal day is recommended. It’s alright to skip a practice or a meeting here and there. When the kids’ eyes start to glaze over, it’s time to slow down. It’s good to catch your breath before the everyday grind knocks the wind out of you.
As we head back into the busy season, I’m going to remember to let go of making everything perfect. Perfect is an illusion and a huge waste of precious time. Every meal does not have to be perfect, nor does every school project. The world will not fall apart if my house is messy, or if I pick up dinner on the run. Shortcuts are okay and even encouraged.
Back to school is upon us, and I’m sad to say farewell to another easygoing summer. In many ways, summer is a state of mind, and I hope to keep some of that peace and balance in our lives as the school year revs up. Until then, you can find me on the back porch soaking up the last few rays of sweet summertime.