In a few days our homeschool year will begin, and I am ready for the return to this daily routine. As absurd as this sounds, we have enjoyed enough lazy days, popsicles, and water play. My husband, a police detective, wasn’t able to take any vacation over July or August and he doesn’t get any long weekends off. Someone asked my kids if they did anything special this summer and my kids struggled to answer because honestly, we didn’t really do anything. When they told me that they had been asked this, I didn’t quite know what to feel. I was vacillating between thinking that having a boring summer is totally fine and feeling like we really let the kids down. Let’s face it, I am also wistful that we didn’t do anything celebratory. I cleaned the same floors, cooked the same food, and sat in the same backyard nearly every day. I would have loved a coffee on a dock with my husband. In fact, that is all that I can think about.
I have felt the inevitable guilt lapping at my toes like the waves at the beach that we only visited once.
Before we begin again, I need to ask you, my children, did we create enough new memories for you? Will you look back fondly and remember the sweet, cold ice cream cones before bed? Will you remember the way the setting sun turned peach and then dark pink as you ran along the sidewalk with the neighbours in your bare feet? Was it enough that we had lots of friends over and good food on the barbecue? Did the breeze on your face make you feel alive as you sped down the streets, newly liberated from your training wheels?
Do you recall running through dandelion fields, pulling that giant kite that looked like a bird? Do you remember how your father chased that kite, through front yards, over fences after it slipped free from your grasp? He caught it, but you knew he would: “Don’t worry,” you said to the boy next door, “My dad will get it! He’s a police officer, he can do anything!”
I am sorry that we didn’t do more.
I am sorry for being sorry about that.
The thing is, I am sure that those things were enough for you, but in this age of social media I was inundated daily by the awareness that families were doing so much more. I know that a stress-free summer spent as a family is something that most people long for, but I can’t shake the feeling that we left so many things undone.
There were drive-ins to visit and playgrounds to climb. There were fishes to catch and road trips to take. We made so many excuses because we only had Saturdays and Saturdays are for catching up on our chores and getting groceries and Sundays are for Mass. Our Traditional Latin Mass is in the middle of the afternoon and it takes three hours to get everyone ready before rushing out the door. And then, Sunday night is upon us and another weekend slipped from our grasp.
Summer carries with it so much hope. As the days first stretch longer and dusk becomes as comfortable as an old friend, we stay up late and plan a thousand things that we want to do and suddenly, in the blink of an eye, the mornings become dew drenched and cooler. Night comes calling much earlier than it did a week ago and tan lines begin to fade.
We blew it.
We squandered those sunny days thinking they would last forever, forgetting all together that nothing gold can stay.
I’ve always wondered how the world can feel so different after only a two month break from the daily grind. How is it possible that our children can grow so much over the summer? The sunshine and water helped them sprout up alongside the gardens and everything is radiant and in full bloom!
September makes me feel like a whole new person too and thank goodness for that because I needed a bit of a kick in the pants.
I love September though, I always have. It’s like New Years Eve for me! I am a fall girl through and through and it’s no mistake that my middle name is Autumn. My mother must have known that I would feel most alive when the trees turned colour and the air smelled crisp. I can already smell the pumpkin spiced everything and cannot wait to wrap a loose scarf around my neck. I am positively giddy about workbooks, pencil crayons, and the thought of planning lessons again. I have a beautiful homeschool room and even though it is in our basement, the hours spent down there every day are everything that I ever dreamed possible.
Our older two kids were enrolled at the neighbourhood school for five years and while I loved their teachers and have many fond memories of their time at school, God whispered right to my heart that He wanted my babies home with me. I kept pushing that idea back down deep out of fear, out of worry over what I thought everyone would say. Last year was our first year and it was more than I could have ever imagined. It was far harder than I thought possible and yet, we thrived as a family. The fruits that we have seen after just one year are proof positive that this was the right decision for our family. Just like last year, a week before school, I am sitting here not fretting about my kids going back.
September is a new chance to build a routine that strengthens our family. The way we live each day is either going to draw us closer together or pull us apart. We slip into complacency over the long, hot days but with the cooling temperatures returning, fall brings with it a new hope.
Before we begin again, we need to be aware that it is so easy to get lost in September’s shuffle. The little ones cry after long school days and meals are pushed away, barely eaten by tired hands. It is very hard for parents to stop running around from the dinner hour until getting everyone into bed, but I promise you that if you slow down, you will find that your children are bursting with stories—stories that are hard to hear over the evening rush.
Make a resolution this new year to spend fifteen minutes with each child before they drift off to sleep so that they can share with you how their day went. In our house, we call this “our time” and trust me, it can be hard to incorporate that into your nightly routine as the dishes continue to sit there after the family rosary. I have learned that parents benefit from “our time” just as much as each child does. Kids from large families don’t often get fifteen minutes of uninterrupted time with a parent, and this needs to be a priority.
Before we begin again, I need to say to you, my children, that I’m sorry that we never got out camping. I am sorry that you didn’t taste s’mores this summer and that there were no boat rides and only one bonfire. Please know that I watched your freckled little faces light up with pure joy as you played hide and seek with your friends. Please know that I happily shook the leaves and dirt off the old quilts that acted as your picnic blankets under the tree just beyond our yard. Please know that this time in our lives is absolutely exhausting but that it won’t always be this way. There will be trips to the big city and baseball games. We have many more summers ahead of us. There will be countless days spent hiking, with caves to explore, sand castles to build and waves to jump over. We won’t always have a toddler with sun bleached curls who still needs a nap and cries in the car.
Sometimes the backyard has to be good enough not just for you my children, but for me as well.
I also need to remind myself that there will always be docks waiting and that I have a lifetime of lakeside coffees with my husband to look forward to. Instead of sitting here lamenting the fact that we didn’t get time off together this summer as a family, I need to remind myself that watching the baseball game with a cold beer in my hand, sitting on our couch with the windows open is as good as it gets right now — and let’s be honest, that sounds quite enjoyable doesn’t it?!
Come to think of it, it was a summer that I will look back on tenderly as our kids grow older and life becomes busier.
Come to think of it, God knows exactly what we need even when we long for something else.
Come to think of it, before we start again, I need to take a minute and be thankful for the backyard full of laughter and the days that we will never live again because just like summer, the days that seemed so long at first pass by quicker than we anticipated.
All we are left with are memories and it isn’t our job to “make them” for our children. It is our job to live alongside our children and the truth is that memories make themselves, perfectly formed in August’s waning light.
Lindsay Murray is a homeschooling mother of four. She is a revert to the Catholic Church who can never seem to get enough candles, chant and incense. She can often be often found reading, laughing loudly and being used as a human jungle gym. One day she will be sitting at the end of a dock, on a secluded lake, drinking coffee with the guy that still gives her butterflies even after all these years.