By Guest Blogger Andrea Ropko
August and I have a complex relationship. Something happens to me that does not occur during any other month of the calendar year. I think it is safe to speculate that its origin is fundamentally rooted in having had pretty much my entire life wrapped around the academic calendar. First, as a student. Then, as a teacher. Now, as a mother and teacher.
I also have several personal milestone markers that rise up every August. I got married in the month of August. Many moons ago (and I mean many), I quit smoking in August. That stage of pregnancy where you think you can’t get any bigger, but every day you do, indeed, get bigger, has happened in my life several times during August. The commonality in all of these situations is there is an internal pull toward opposite ends of an emotional spectrum. Beginnings and ends. Excited anticipation and fearful worry. Starts and stops. Happy and sad. Comfortable and uncomfortable.
Moving through the years with varying degrees of eyes wide open has certainly helped me have a clearer understanding of exactly what is happening inside that mind/body/spirit of mine, but before I had an emotional vocabulary to explain what was going on, it was a free-floating fear of what was to come. As a child, it surfaced with worrisome questions like What if I don’t like my teacher? Will my best friend be in my class? During my collegiate days, the feeling became far more disturbing and complex. I would spend much of August mentally “quitting” school. I just knew something was going to come up that I could not face. Something was going to happen that would swallow me whole. Or not swallow me whole, rather cut me half and I would be left bleeding to death, my fear exposed for all the world to see.
Basically, I get weird in August. More specifically, I get really weird in August.
The clock rolls into the eighth month of the year and my mind subconsciously fractures. July 31st I am one present, living moment to moment, non-plussed kind of gal. August 1st? The splintering of thoughts occurs and I am not anywhere in particular; instead I am everywhere with very little efficiency. Summer is ending. School is coming. There’s much to be done! a tiny voice cries.
Just a little over a week ago, the subtle shift began to take over my being. I found myself pining for something that was not even over, fearing something that hadn’t even happened. Has youth football season really started? I’ve barely had a chance to miss summer swim team. How many days do have left of summer? When do the kids go back to school? I can’t WAIT until they go back to school! Like any good person of the 21st century, I don’t have to give things too much thought. Instead, I went with my usual go-to’s that help me check out. Mindlessly scrolling through Facebook. Going for runs that never quite culminate in feeling mentally refreshed. Making to-do lists of all the items that need to be resolved before school starts. Many lists. Lots of lists. But never quite checking anything off the lists. Sure, we got some well-visits into the pediatrician. Forms turned into schools and athletic organizations. Heck, we even made it to the dentist (no cavities!). But as I moved through these tasks and crossed them off, it seemed another item or two was added. Waking up at 2:30am, my mind raced with thoughts about planners and school uniform shirts and syllabi and making sure the dog doesn’t experience post-summer separation anxiety, football practice, getting enough exercise during the school week, crock pot recipes, will my five year old make it through his school day without shouting an expletive, and the laundry. Oh, the laundry. How will it get done?! I am NOT ready for another school year!
Then it hit me. It’s August. It is August, and this is what I do in August. Summer is ending. Another school year is getting ready to start. And with those events colliding, I find myself wrestling with mixed emotions. I am sad. Why? My oldest will be in fifth grade this year. His last year of elementary school. And he’s ten. I remember being ten. It is a funny stage where life’s details and friends and school and sports take on new layers of complexity. For me, that’s when my thought-life leapt beyond what was right in front of my nose. My heart could feel and remember kindness and laughter and what felt good. But it could also break. Life was for-realsies. I will need to be up for that. For him.
And I’m sad because my youngest is starting Kindergarten. Preschool days are gone and while I will tell you that thrills me to my core, I will also tell you that I heard the sound of the Calliou song the other day, and it made me say, Awwww, without a hint of sarcasm. And I hate Calliou.
And I’m sad because my summer with my middle daughter is over. She is my cuddly one. She is my feel-good girl. She is the kind of lollipop who will stop everything and tell me she loves me. Just because. There is nothing like a random cuddle from her during the middle of the day, all summer long. She will be in third grade. All her baby teeth are gone, replaced with generously-spaced, adult-sized chompers. It makes her look like she is on the verge of something bigger.
But I am happy, too. I will have all three children under one school roof for one beautiful, glorious year. They will resume their business of learning, and we will quickly settle into a new school year routine. The laundry? It will be washed. Folded? Put away properly? It’s best to keep my expectations low on that front.
By checking back in, I realize that I don’t have to wrestle with the emotions. They just are. It’s August. Next week, I will find myself back in my happy place—my classroom. I will be able to think clear thoughts and not have a child tell me they are hungry. Every five minutes.
I can’t wait to miss them.