By Laura Simon

I’ll start with a confession. I’m an unapologetic book-sniffer. It’s one of the reasons I struggle use the library like I should…library books don’t emit that delicious blend of new paper, ink, and glue. I suppose that means I’m an olfactory person: so many of my favorite things are smells. I adore the smell of chlorine – an affliction I suspect I share with almost every other competitive swimmer on earth. I crave the smell of coffee more than the actual taste. I positively live for the one week each year that peonies and lilacs bloom. And then there’s my favorite: the smell of a school building in August.

When I say August, I mean the part of August when the school is not yet crammed full of sweating, adolescent bodies that should probably be wearing deodorant and aren’t. Definitely not that smell. I mean the smell when you first walk into the building for the school year, either to pick up a schedule, drop off a form, or set up your classroom for the first time. I can smell it right now, just thinking about it, and I haven’t been in a school building in over a year now. I suspect – although you can certainly correct me on this – that it’s actually the smell of the wax the custodians use to protect the floors. It’s been present in every single school I’ve attended or taught in, whether the building was one or 100 years old. And it’s only there at the start of the school year. To me, it’s the smell of organizing new classrooms, of breaking open the storage cabinets and pulling out favorite posters to grace the walls yet again. It’s the smell of new class lists, unsharpened pencils, and blank slates.

It’s the smell of potential.

Back to school is my New Year’s Day. Maybe it’s because I’ve spent most of my life either attending or teaching school, but I just don’t get starting a new year in between first and second semester. I mean, why create a bunch of resolutions when absolutely nothing about your life is going to change on January 1.

But on the first day of school, everything changes. For kids. For the teacher. And even for moms. It doesn’t matter if you work during the summer or stay home; your mornings and your evenings make a marked change (for better or for worse) when the kids head back in the fall. Even if you homeschool your kids and have total control over your schedule, that schedule changes the moment you officially crack the books. School changes our mindset and our lifestyle, even if we aren’t the ones attending class.

You probably have goals for your kids this year. Why not take advantage of your new routine and switch things up for yourself, too? When I was teaching, my most successful lifestyle changes happened when I returned to school. You should try it. Thinking of trying to eat a healthy breakfast? Start now. Thinking of going to be earlier? Definitely now. Wanting to read less People Magazine and devote your time to other things. Do it now. (That last one might or might not be personal to me, along with some goals to curtail social media use.)

The promise of September doesn’t just have to be for our kids. In fact, I think we set a good example for them when we model how to go after things we care about, especially if those things are hard. They learn when they see us nearly passing out but finishing the workout. They learn when they see us get up early to study for the class we’re taking. They learn when they see us choose sliced cucumbers instead of chips. It doesn’t matter if you’re the mom who can’t wait to get those kids on the bus or the mom who’s dreading the end of summer more with each passing day. Back-to-school is your time, too.

Happy New Year. Go get it!