According to the The Daily Mail, “Parents are five times more likely to cry on the first day of school than their kids.”
I must admit that I’ve done my share of crying in the past for what was no longer and what was to be, and I get misty when I remember my son running across the school playground toward me when he spotted my car. But it’s been quite a while since I sat, post drop-off, blubbering uncontrollably into my Starbucks. (Okay, I never really did that. Come on, people!) I love my kids just as much as the next guy, but over the past few weeks, the many articles I’ve been reading by parents who are inconsolable about the departure of their children to school no longer move me. My youngest graduated college this past May, so this year, I have jumped the tracks and walked down that red carpet leading to the group of parents who no longer have to deal with the first day of school at all, ever again. The emotion I now feel when I hear those school bells ring is relief.
I can wax poetic with the best of them when I think of my boys, one at the table doing his homework, one below the table—yes, things were interesting in our house—roaring like a super monster. But the memory of loading up shopping carts at Staples with who-knows-what of every size and color and elbowing my way through throngs of parents looking like confused shar-peis holding teachers’ supply lists and angling for the very last three-hole punch or purple Trapper Keeper inspires me with nary an ode to those days. No stress about back-to-school clothing shopping, either. No disruption of a day at the beach to rush to the mall while I bribe my sunburned kids with candy just so they’ll agree to wriggle into stiff jeans and stifling long-sleeved shirts and sweats to stock up in time for September.
There are a boatload of articles on how to prepare your kid (and yourself) for your child’s first day of school and first day of college, but nowhere is there anything that helps prepare a parent for the first day of no school. The reason for that may be that no preparation is necessary. There is a sense of melancholy there, but it’s dull. I’ll miss the feeling of nervous excitement and anticipation of the growing and learning that’s about to occur, but the thought of no longer having to cajole my boys into posing for first day of school photos as they bop each other on the head with their new backpacks brings me to a state of Zen.
As I wend my way past all bus stops, school areas and walking routes in my neighborhood, I think of how adorable all those kids are, but I am also thinking of vacations. I can now take them any time of year without having to worry about working around school holidays and breaks. What’s even better is I can now actually afford to take a vacation. Goodbye, tuition fund. Hello Paris, Madrid, London fund! Once you no longer have to deal with any kind of calendar restrictions, you can travel the world during the off-season, crowd-free, no whining kids sitting behind or next to you on airplanes, no one kicking your seat. (Disclaimer: My son has yet to find a job, so he’s still on the payroll, but my bank account is no longer being depleted at such a rapid rate.)
We’ve had a good run with lots of great memories of playdates and class trips and parents’ weekends and football games during homecoming, and who am I kidding, I do feel some sorrow that all those days are over. But in a few weeks, at just about the time when testing begins and SATs are scheduled and college apps will need to go out, I’ll be drowning my sorrows in some wine on a bike in France. Don’t cry for me.