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Bittersweet Back to School


I’m always melancholy at the end of summer, an old habit that never left me even though I am no longer the one who has to go back to school (if only because now I never leave).

I’ve bought the kids’ numerous and very specific school supplies. I’ve purchased water bottles that will inevitably lost or broken by October and carefully labeled them. Georgia, who still wears a school uniform, has modeled all of her jumpers and polos for me to be sure they fit, and Ruby, who has more sartorial freedom, has dragged me through the mall, Target and several outlet stores to restock her wardrobe. They both have new shoes. They’ve done (most of) their summer reading and math packets. I’ve stocked up on snacks. We’re ready.

But I’m sad, for reasons I can’t even articulate, or at least not very well, although I guess that won’t stop me from trying.

Each year just underscores the fact that they’re all growing up and away from me. My Facebook “memories” page has been killing me with several days of Georgia’s first day of “school” when she was 2, Ruby’s first day of pre-K, Ruby’s first day of middle school, my stepson Elliot’s first day of high school.

Now Georgia is starting second grade, Ruby is a seventh grader, and Elliot is a senior. I’m not sad about this, not exactly. What is there to be sad about? Elliot rocked the ACT and is excitedly researching colleges. Ruby is taking Latin next year in addition to French and is looking forward to the fall play. Georgia is suddenly an avid reader with a keen interest in nature and science. The kids are great. They’re growing into incredible humans. I’m so proud of all of them.

But the start of every school year means they’re getting older in very obvious ways that can’t be denied. When your baby is a second-grader, you don’t really have a baby anymore. And while Georgia’s graduation year of 2030 still seems outlandishly far in the future, Elliot’s of 2020 once did, too – and now it’s here.

They’re supposed to grow up, but it’s also supposed to make me a little bit sad, I think.

But even if I don’t have a baby anymore, I do have a puppy. It’s not the same thing, I know, but he’s never going to go off to college and leave me.

Thank goodness for dogs! And happy back to school to everyone!



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