I've never been sentenced to the electric chair, but if I were, I imagine it'd be like the first day of school. The two events share that same unavoidable dread, often culminating in a sleepless night before, and, eventually, a resignation to the fate that awaits.
But while a doomed prisoner is only offered a last meal, it's a Baker family tradition to celebrate the Saturday before the first day of school with Eat Whatever You Want Day.
So maybe the two events aren't exactly the same.
Although I've avoided the electric chair to this point, today is the first day of school. Not for me. For my kids. They're starting eighth, sixth, and second grade, and none of them are happy about it. I told my sixth-grade son it was time for bed last night and he moaned, "I can't wait for the school year to be over!"
When I thought to myself, "Only 179 more early bedtimes," I wanted to punch myself in the face for putting an exact number on the almost-never-ending barrage of responsible parenting that I'll have to endure in the coming months. I somewhat enjoyed the role reversal of the past few months that often saw me go to bed before any of my kids. Now it's back to convincing them (and me) that sleep is more important than staying up to watch another delightfully bad 80s comedy.
I know some parents cherish the day their kids go back to school. I suspect it mostly has to do with summers filled with bickering and boredom. The return of a quiet house, not to mention a routine, is welcome.
And although I'm not the archenemy of routine, and I'm not home all day, every day with my kids during the summer, I'm never ready to send them back to school. As much as they wish that summer could go on forever, I suspect I wish it even more.
Childhood is fleeting. And what's more childish than summer? Summer is limited responsibility, just like childhood. Summer is a carefree attitude, just like childhood. Summer is not knowing what day of the week it is, just like childhood.
So when another summer is over, not only does the beginning of the next highest grade remind us that our kids are getting older, but so, too, does the fact that they have one fewer 4th of July, one fewer trip to the beach, one fewer late night run to get an ice cream cone remaining.
And although the last day of school is always a reminder that another year has passed, the excitement about the possibilities that await over the summer help temper the melancholy.
The summer spreads out before us. We've got plans. We've got time. We've got summer.
But when summer's in the rearview mirror that's all gone. And instead we're left with some freshly-sharpened pencils, folders than have no chance of lasting nine months, and the entirely-too-optimistic belief that any of us - students, teachers or parents - are going to follow through on those well-intentioned promises to be more organized.
It won't take long to get back into the swing of things. I'll wake up half an hour earlier. The kids will go to bed hours earlier. Homework at the kitchen table will replace trips to the park, and those kids (or sad adult men) with whom they've been playing Fortnite all Summer, will start to miss them.
And there's always next summer.
Except there's not. We're given a finite number of summers, but even more important than that, we're given a finite number of long summers. Although it seems to me like the school year just ended, I suspect the summer has seemed quite long for my seven-year-old daughter.
But as each summer becomes a smaller percentage of our lives they pass more quickly, and by the time we're forty they're over almost as soon as they begin. And when time passes so quickly, we end up not doing everything we wanted to do because the time gets away from us.
Despite all that, the kids will go to school today, and for 179 days after today. (Except for ditch days. I'm a big fan of ditch days. Not everything we need to learn about life can be learned in school.) Because even worse than ruining a perfectly good summer by going back to school, is ruining a perfectly good life by being a stupid idiot.
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