It’s inevitable at this time of year: from the day the kids return to classes after April vacation, it feels like a rapidly accelerating slide to the end of the school year.
This year, more than ever, I wish I could slow it down. But I can’t, not even a little bit. After last year’s winter of blizzards, school went through the end of June, stretching out the post-April interlude just a little; this year we have just one skimpy day to make up, and school year 2011-12 rolls on out of town with the last departing school bus on June 19.
It’s not the summer vacation part I’m concerned about. Being self-employed, I don’t have to worry about filling long hours for the kids while I’m at work, and they don’t need or expect a lot of structured activities. We have a pond membership, so we’ll go swimming often, and we’ll head up to Maine some weekends. Not ‘til August will we leave town for any length of time.
But that’s all fine. What bothers me about seeing the school year end is just that I am finally at the point of parenting at which it all seems to be slipping away too fast.
Other parents tend to reach this stage a lot earlier, if I’m to believe what they say. We were barely past the first year when my parenting peers started lamenting how fast the children were growing up. But I never saw it that way. It wasn’t that the time dragged; it was just that contrary to everyone else’s claims, the early years of parenting seemed to me to happen very much in real time. That first year of babyhood seemed like it lasted…well, about a year. Toddlerhood was another couple of years, and the preschool stages seemed to take a couple more years after that.
I never chimed in when other parents wished they could stop time while their children were very small. I enjoyed each new stage, and seldom felt sad about seeing one stage end and another one begin. “Someday you’ll miss these times,” grandmothers would tell me as I pushed a two-year-old on the swing at the playground or read to a three-year-old at the library. Maybe someday I will, but it hasn’t happened yet. It was wonderful as it was happening, but I was always fine with the passage of time.
This year, it’s different, though. I’ve been saying since last September that we’ll never have a year as good as this one. The kids are both simply at such delightful stages. Tim is serious and hardworking in seventh grade; he hangs tight with a small circle of friends and gets along fine with the kids to whom he’s not as close. Holly made new friends this year; they don’t just play together, they organize their own book group discussions, write plays and call the boys in the class on their occasionally egregious behavior. Both are happy to leave for school in the morning, happy to sit down to their homework in the afternoon, and happy with free time on the weekends.
It’s not only contentment with the present that makes me want to stop time. Though I wish this weren’t the case, it’s also apprehension about the future. I have lots of friends with kids a few years older than mine: the more I hear about the rigors of high school honors courses, driver’s ed and college searches, the less I want to reach any of it.
I also really like our current living situation, but we’re renters; it won’t last forever. And I like the fact that my parents and in-laws and sisters and almost all my extended family members and friends are healthy and well at the moment. Overall, I like the current absence of significantly problematic circumstances in my life.
Unfortunately, this too shall pass. It’s all too good to last. If I do eventually become the kind of person who looks back on past phases and wishes I were still in their midst, it won’t be the playground days or the infancy days; it will be these days right now.
It can’t last; there’s nothing I can do about that except enjoy it right now, and honor the present, and observe it, and commemorate it. And so I write about all that is good; it’s the closest thing I know of to preserving it forever.