“Don’t cry because it’s over. Smile because it happened.”
– Dr. Seuss
For the past few weeks, my son has asked me on a daily basis, “Is the summer almost over, Mom?” It is a question riddled with anxiety, as he has explained to me – in hushed tones – that sitting at a desk all day long is his version of H-E-L-L (pause for mom’s reaction to the double-hockey sticks). The most recent conversation involved tears. He told me that he knew he would be asked to write an essay about his summer on the first day of school, and that the memories of summer and the fact that it was over would make him so sad he would cry, and he soooo didn’t want to cry at school. It broke my heart.
I told him he was just like me.
“No I’m not,” he said. “You liked school.”
“I know,” I said. “But I get sad whenever there is change, too. Just like you.”
I tried to tell him that once the school year started, he would get into a new routine, and then there would be something else he didn’t want to end, like his birthday, or Christmas, or ski season. I told him that transitions and change can be hard, but they are as much a part of life as waking up in the morning. I don’t know that they ever really get easier. We just learn to expect the feelings that go with the territory that is change. And we try each time to be aware of the sweetness of life’s events, big and small, while they’re happening, and then feel grateful that they happened.
But who am I kidding? I am sad that summer is ending, too. I am struggling, just like he is.
There are 10 days left of summer vacation. And then my kids will be off to school. Both of them. Now that we have finally adjusted to the syncopated, spontaneous and laid back rhythm that is summer, it is coming to an end. And I am sad and anxious just like my son. Sad that I won’t have the time with both of them anymore until they are both a whole year older. Sad that my one-on-one afternoons with my littlest have come to an end. Sad and anxious that we will be moving into a crazy routine of soccer games, piano lessons, and school, and that family dinners together will be squeezed in when possible, and that it will soon be dark outside when we are eating said dinners. Anxious that life just seems to keep marching forward, whether I am paying attention or not. Suddenly I wish we had just one more week to squeeze in more summer stuff. One more trip to Hershey Park. One more trip to the pool. One more late movie night in the middle of the week. I guess when things are good, there is no such thing as “enough.” Yes, I am the same girl who lamented the “80-day-work-week” that had me so anxious in June, and now it feels like it all went by much too quickly. But I knew this would happen. That’s the difference between me and my boy. I have been around the block a few more times than he has, so I saw the feelings coming a mile away, and I know there’s no use fighting them.
I will ride the wave, and I, too, will adjust quickly to the new routines. I will find moments of bliss in the crispness of fall air, the change of seasons, and my new-found time to explore the things I want to do that I can’t do when I am responsible for small people all day. I know that I have looked forward to this time as much as I suddenly feel compelled to fight its arrival.
When I was in high school, I took a religion class called “Death and Dying.” Sounds a little morbid, but it was actually a very cool class. The premise of the class was that life is full of “mini-deaths” to prepare you for the big one at the END when we all supposedly move on to something better than being here (as nice as “here” can be more often than not). Every time we face a change in our lives, it is the death of one phase and the birth of something new. At that time, the best example was graduating high school – ending the time when we would be teenagers living in our parents’ homes, and beginning an era of new independence (without much responsibility, but new independence nonetheless). I couldn’t WAIT to be done with high school. But when graduation day came, or more accurately, when the day came to move into my first college dorm room, I was surprisingly melancholy. I was nervous, and my heartstrings were tugged with a longing for the familiar, even though the adventure ahead was so exciting.
That was 100 years ago (22 actually, although it may as well be 100), and here I am still struggling with transitions. Shouldn’t I be better at this by now? I really should be, because now I am responsible for teaching it to smaller people. It was 22 years ago and yet, it seems as much like yesterday as the first day of this summer vacation does. Funny how whenever something has come and gone, it seems like it happened in an instant. Poof. Things that happened yesterday, and things that happened ten years ago can be instantly and viscerally recalled to memory. So maybe it doesn’t really matter if you have two weeks, two years or twenty years left of summer vacation or of life, for that matter. Because at the end of any worthwhile experience, it always feels like it happened in an instant. Poof. And will it ever be enough? I hope it will. I hope I live to be 99, and when it’s my time to go, I will be as ready for my spirit to move onto something new as I was ready to graduate high school and get the heck out of New Jersey. For today, I hope that I can move on to a new school year without too much melancholy, and that I can help my children accept the changes with optimism and gratitude.