We are on the cusp of what I am told is the best time of the year. Not the weekend. Not your birthday. Not even Christmas. Few days are as anticipated as the first day of school. As children everywhere drag their feet, moms are jumping for joy and doing a happy dance. Except for this one.

Yes, it will be nice to be able to work from home without distraction. Yes, it will be lovely to have someone else invested in keeping them occupied. Yes, it will be glorious to be able to shop for groceries without anyone pushing the cart into strangers or fighting over ice cream flavors. It will even be nice to have some routine in our lives again and a few more quiet hours.

First Day of School happy dance
Photo: Jana White Hixson

The routine and the quiet are double-edged swords, though. In the summer, I get at least an hour more sleep than during the school year, because without the school-year routine, nobody has to be presentable at 8 a.m. (#PerksOfWorkingFromHome). I wake to my children happily doing whatever the heck they feel like, and I don’t disturb them until I have a big chunk of the day’s work hours under my belt (except to remind them that if they don’t practice the piano and viola before I’m done with work, they’ll have to practice with me, which is infinitely worse).

And speaking of music practice, during the school year we have a limited time to get that done. But in the summer we have all day. And it takes all day. But since nothing good will come into their lives before practice is complete, I have all day to not be complicated by their requests for special things (like screen time). Win for mom! The first day of school increases the stress factor for music practice by about 5,000 percent, simply because school hours steal potential practice hours and I have to start nagging.


First Day of School happy danceAnd while I’m in high-nag mode for music practice, I also have to nag about homework. Despite my laissez-faire attitude in the summer, I’m not the sort of parent that lets her kids fail in order to learn valuable life lessons. I’m a helicopter parent at heart, and there are way too many things to keep track of during the school year. I love the summer, because you never end Monday with the revelation of a 10-page report due on Tuesday and you never find yourself losing a vast chunk of some arbitrary week because you should have been asking about math for the past month.

The first day of school also means the onset of winter. I know there’s something called fall that comes between beach weather and sweater weather, but any day that I have to wear socks is a bad day — and friends, before you can even blink, the first day of school turns into sock weather. Socks! Is peace and quiet worth such a price? No.

First Day of School happy danceAlso, peace and quiet is tremendously overrated. During the school year, I only get a few hours a day with my kids, and I miss them. Some days, I have a weepy little moment of wondering if this echoing quiet will be my life when they grow up and I live alone. Even when my youngest is making potions in the kitchen or toilet-papering my bathroom, I love hearing her voice all day long. Because my girls are girls, there is drama every day. But I’m high drama, too! In the summer, we share the drama. I don’t have to hear about it secondhand, and I don’t have to interpret a whole new social structure to understand every nuance. In the summer, I’m more a part of their world. Then the first day of school rolls around, and for six hours a day I’m a spectator. I hate that. It doesn’t make me want to do a happy dance. Not ever. But guess what? The first day of school inevitably leads to the very best day of the year: the last day of school. Happy dance!