Change the Tune of Back-to-School Blues

It’s the end of August. In the Ohio Valley, that means the kids are back in school. You either begrudgingly bought school supplies because you had to, or bought one or two things for yourself because you wish you were buying school supplies.

Regardless, parents who had to trudge through the aisles of notebooks, pencils and folders have a love/hate relationship with this time of year. We love that structure and routine are returning to our children’s lives, but we hate the structure and routine that are about to take over our evenings – practice, homework, dinner, bath, tooth brushing and not just bed time but bed on time, in whatever order those may occur. It’s that time of year again.

Don’t get me wrong, I love school. I could not wait for the children to return to the Wheeling Country Day campus so I could once again see curiosity and creativity take flight every single day.

Still, I had that deep “Sunday night” feeling in the pit of my stomach in the last days of summer. Regret and inadequacies hung in the air around me. Too many of the projects around the yard and the house remain unfinished. We never did make it to a drive-in movie. We only went fishing once and neither girl is any better at riding her bike.

I couldn’t stop thinking of all I thought I would have checked off the to-do list. It made the start of school feel like we were being robbed of something – opportunity was lost. When I heard the girls talking in a way that was similar to how I was feeling, I knew I was sending the wrong message.

I changed my tune. I started talking about the things we did. Ella is a better swimmer – even in the deep end (as she loves to report). Grace had not one but two lemonade stands. We rode old wooden roller coasters, and were towed behind a pontoon boat. We played in the sand, swam in the lake and soaked in sunshine. Roasted marshmallows and fresh fruit were our summer food staples. Summer treated us well. I started saying that as often as I could until we all believed it.

The bottom line is that children need positive transitions in their lives. Change is hard for all of us. Imagine how hard it is when you have only been alive for less than 1,500 days. We know we have to warn them when it is almost time to go, so they can willingly leave one place for another. We need to give them the same warning and reminders that our summer schedule is coming to an end, but so many great things await them at school and in the fall.

Whether it is your child (grandchild, neighbor, etc.) or not, greet every child you see with excitement and envy that school is starting again. You might just make the difference in their enthusiasm for learning – or at least help them in leaving the summer behind.

If you see a mom with a glazed look in her eyes and two crying children in the school supply aisle, offer a friendly, yet knowing smile. As moms, we know we are going to miss this some day, but in the meantime we could use your support.

– Elizabeth Hofreuter-Landini is head of school at Wheeling Country Day. She is a graduate of Princeton University and Harvard University Graduate School of Education. She and her husband have two daughters, ages 5 and 9.