I HATE the end of summer. It makes me sad. It is like taking down the Christmas tree, the final episode of your favorite show, or packing up too-small baby clothes. I'd had such great plans for the summer. I was going to take the kids swimming at the river, make art with them, bake cookies, teach them Spanish, and in general, be that mom. But I just never got my act together, and suddenly, the summer was over.
I drove the kids to school, and their butterflies were contagious. I began to feel nervous for them. All three were headed off to a new school, and while I was pretty sure it would go well, ya' never know. I thought the same thing about scouts until Ethan came home that first night and exclaimed, "I'm never going back and you can't make me!"
When we got to the school, I parked and walked the kids in. A few moments after hitting the front of the school, Ethan, my big in spirit, small in stature 7th grader bid me a "too-cool-to-kiss-my-mom-goodbye" farewell and headed off. I wanted to be the embarrassing mom that hugged and fussed but there wasn't time, I had to get two other kids to their classes. I smiled and watched my big kid disappear into the crowd. Wow, am I really this old?
Next was Ellie. She is in first grade now, and there was a cubbie to locate and classroom "suggested donation" supplies to deliver. She got settled, kissed me distractedly and headed for the group circle-time that was getting underway without looking back. My brave Ellie. She has always been that way.
One more to go. With Tessa tagging behind us, we climbed the stairs to Adam's to class. I helped him unload all of his new school supplies into his cubbie, walked out in the hall for him to hang up his backpack on a hook, and then kissed him goodbye. Adam is my quiet worrier. Last night as we snuggled before bed I asked how he was feeling about school. "Excited." his voice trembled. "Are you a little nervous?" "Yes." he said a little faster than I would have expected.
He was worried about not making friends. He has had a faithful friendship with a boy named Diego since kindergarten. Adam is a loyal friend. He doesn't need a ton of so-so friends, just one really good friend. Adam also doesn't like a lot of attention. He worked hard this weekend to get off of his crutches so that he wouldn't have to go to school with them. He really wanted to know that everything was going to be okay. I had tried to reassure him, but life warned me that I couldn't promise him anything.
I stood at the door as Adam went back inside and watched him from the hall. He wandered a bit. There were kids in who had known each other from previous years standing in little clusters, visiting and giggling. There was a group of children in a circle on the floor reading books, and there was a pile of books on the floor inside the circle. The teachers voice rose above the chatter, directing everyone to select a book and quietly join the reading group.
Adam stood on the fringe of the circle, friendless, and clearly reluctant to step into the center of the circle to chose a book. I wanted to dash in and protect him from his fear, to grab a book for him so that he wouldn't have to be the focus of undue attention, even for a moment. I watched him pace the outside of the circle and then finally plunge his fists into his pockets and drift toward a wall.
I had to turn away. I took Tessa's hand and headed for the car. I told myself that he would be okay, it would just take time and some bravery on his part, but those are things you can't give to someone else, or save them from.
At the end of the day I held my breath as I located each child outside their classes, waiting for that look on their face that would tell me all was well. "How was your first day?" I asked them each in turn, but they were a little too overwhelmed for more than one word responses.
We drove home rather quietly, and eventually, one by one, the kids recalled tid-bits of their day, names of new, future-best friends, funny things their teachers did that proved they were not kid-eating-aliens, and new rules and routines. "My new job is watering plants!" Ellie said, "only not with a hose." "We have bearded dragons right in our classroom, and they are named Lilo and Stitch!" Adam bragged. "We did this maze on the floor, and when we would take the wrong step our teacher would tell us we exploded. It was funny." Ethan said admiringly. Not to be outdone, Tessa chimed in, "It my tourn! I talk 'bout my school!"
As of this very moment, I love my kids new school. That may change when the honeymoon is over, but for now, at the end of one whole day, the school has returned three cheerful children to their grateful mother. Ethan likes his teachers. Ellie likes all of the cool activities. Adam made a friend.
(Oh, and nobody had homework. I'll say it again: I love this school.)
But I was still bummed about the summer being over. I wanted desperately to make up for the lost time of the fadded summer, but as I drove over the river and saw the rafts drifting along, I knew there would not be time after school each day for those kinds of trips and activities. I resented that I would now be bulldozed by assignments, early bedtimes, and unavoidable routines.
Guilt driven, when we got home I made cinnamon toast and promised to take the kids swimming next door after jobs were done. They hurried, and soon I was sitting in a lounge chair, book in hand, the low setting sun a little blinding, watching the kids play with a marshmallow gun turned snorkel. Tessa popped out of the pool every 4 minutes to have me kiss her sore elbow. Ellie called to me over and over to watch her swim, and the boys cannon-balled each other into oblivion.
As the sun dipped beyond the fence top, the pool grew quiet and I looked up a bit concerned. What I saw in that instant made it a magical moment. Adam floated quietly on his belly on a raft, his hands under his chin, contentment on his face. Ethan was half out of the pool, his belly up on the warm cement, watching a bee inches from his nose walking on the deck. Ellie sat on the step bobbing her knees in and out of the water and watching the ripples she made. Tessa sat wrapped in a towel at my feet, rubbing her cheek adoringly on my knee, her damp little hands wrapped around my ankle. I was transported back in time to my favorite part of being a little kid in summer, when you just sat back and watched bugs, felt the sun on your skin, and listened.
I think this was Indian Summer. It was the sweet, warm memory from my childhood that I had been chasing. But you can't chase something like this, you have to just let it happen. I'm not good at letting things happen. I like to have a plan. I am learning the hard lessons... about the things in life that you can't plan, and about being quiet enough to see the unexpected blessings, too.