Is it okay to be happy your kids are going back to school?
The answer to this question changes for me depending on the day of the week. For example, the other day before I went to work, I sat on the couch and my daughter Penelope cuddled up against me. When I left, she said in her high-pitched, squeaky voice as if she was a chipmunk,1 “I love you, Daddy.” It really made my heart melt and on this day, I didn’t want the school year to begin.
In contrast, in June, Nicole, my wife, and I went on a date. While we were out, one of the kids (I just know it had to be Mina) got a cooking pan out, dumped a container of glitter onto it, walked in it, and then proceeded to walk through the house. The whole house. In every room. Suffice it to say, at that point I wanted the kids back to school even before the prior year ended.2
The beginning of the school year evokes different feelings. Maybe parents are happy because the beginning of the year signifies the end of having to pay for daycare, or a clean house for longer than five minutes. Perhaps others are worried about the logistical arrangements of pick-up and drop-off, or the start of a new afternoon and evening routine which includes homework and extracurriculars. Some might just miss their kids after they leave the car, hop on their bikes, or get on the bus.
These reasons seem superficial and I have a theory. If you’re sad, you’re really not thinking about your kids, you’re thinking about yourself. I don’t mean to imply you’re necessarily selfish, but watching our kids go off to school each year, the initial thought might be “they’re getting so old.” As we see our kids getting older, either consciously or subconsciously, we think of ourselves getting older. And we all know what happens when you get old, eventually you can’t get any older than old and then you die. Think about that for a moment. Pretty depressing.
When we shift the focus to our children, we can be happy they are being taught invaluable skills about life, history, science, math, etc. We can also be happy that our children are being taught by good teachers, making friends, getting good exercise, and having structure. We should celebrate each year in our child’s life as he or she enters the next year of school. As they learn more, they’ll become more reliable and responsible members of our society. School, though lengthy, represents the time of growing from a child into an adult. It is an important time that every parent can be happy about.
In addition to happiness, we can look upon the start of a new school year with excitement. Last year our daughter, Eloise, joined Girl Scouts and Nicole volunteered to lead the troop. It was fun to see these two working together and bonding. I’m excited for what new adventures this year will bring and I hope to lead our other daughter’s troop.
It can be hard to control our feelings when our kids achieve great milestones such as going back to school. There may even be a case for not controlling our feelings. However, if I have a choice between being sad or happy, I will always choose happy. The best way to do that is to focus on my kids and not myself. And always remember, at least you’re done with school, your kids have years to go yet. Maybe that will bring a smile to your face.
1. Why do we as a culture assume chipmunks have high-pitched voices? When chipmunks begin to talk (and we all know they will have a lot to say) don’t be surprised if they actually have very low-pitched voices.
2. After cleaning the glitter up all weekend long, glitter has now been banned in our house.