Most years, the last day of school makes me feel nostalgic and sentimental. This year seemed different, though. My two predominant emotions as the kids wrapped up fourth and seventh grade, respectively, with a half-day of school and noon dismissal yesterday, were mild exhaustion and significant relief.
Oh, there was still a pang or two of nostalgia. The end of a year always means changes ahead. Next year they’ll both be on the middle school schedule, which begins and ends one hour earlier than elementary school classes even though all the grades share a campus, so I’ll no longer get to see the littlest kids when I pick Holly up at school, and I’ll no longer have the fun of hanging out with the parents of the younger children as we wait for our kids to be dismissed. And yes, I teared up watching the school buses drive out of the parking lot while all the teachers formed a line waving goodbye, just as I do every year.
But for the most part, I’m less ambivalent than usual about seeing a school year end. Yes, it was a great year for both of the kids: they had excellent teachers, challenging work and good friends. But it also seemed like I had more responsibilities, and I’m waving goodbye to those duties just as cheerfully as the teachers wave goodbye to the buses. Even walking into the main building to pick Holly up yesterday, I found myself thinking “There’s the auditorium where I volunteered for fourth grade band duty. There’s the cafeteria where I chaired the faculty appreciation luncheon. There’s the stage where I spent hours helping out at rehearsals and performances of the seventh grade play. There’s the library where I coordinated volunteer shifts all year.”
Every single one of these duties is something I offered to do. I wouldn’t have had to do any of them; my kids would have been just as welcome and just as well-treated at school had I not appeared on campus once all year. No, these were all my choices. But they added up faster than usual this year, it seemed.
So for the first time in my adult life, I felt a little like a kid again as the last day of school rolled around. Just as when I was a student myself, I was ready for the year to come to a close. I was happy with what had taken place throughout the year – some of which I could take credit for doing and some of which I could only be grateful to be part of – but I was ready for a break from it.
Now, I have that break, and so do my kids: eleven weeks until Labor Day and the start of a new school year. Eleven weeks should be plenty of time to replenish our mental energy and feel a little less worn down by it all. Even to analyze it is somewhat self-indulgent: being a self-employed professional who can participate in lots of volunteer efforts because she has the luxury of working from home and making her own hours is nothing to complain about. And these aren’t complaints: just an exclamation of relief.
School is over for the year. It’s summer, a time for taking a break from it all. Even Holly has that feeling: she announced during her shower last night that in honor of summer vacation, she might stop lining up her shampoo and conditioner bottles in the shower every night after she’s done bathing.
I have no problem with that. If it makes her feel like she’s taking a break from the norm, then she can scatter shampoo bottles as randomly as she wants. We can all use a little break, and now that summer is here, we can all try to find a way to take one.