Wednesday, August 6, 2014

A Mom's 'Back-To-School' Depression

I can't believe that in two days, summer break is over and my son will be back to school again.  

I still remember that as a student, I always felt quite conflicted about the end of summer. Sure, I was excited about having all the brand new school supplies and I loved the smell of all the new books and notebooks that my Mom would carefully arrange in our new bags, all kept inside her closet. However, it also spelled out the end of relaxed mornings, abundant play- and tv-time.  All those good times coming to an end caused a bit of sadness, but honestly, never really enough to outweigh the excitement about what lay before teachers, friends and experiences.

Now as an adult, I know that the common sentiment among parents, especially for working mothers, is that the start of school can't come any sooner.  I've spoken with several moms and it's been consistent. With the thought of the beginning of school being just around the corner, their faces light up, almost as if they couldn't stand the delicious thought being served to them, and the sheer excitement and sigh of relief just can't be contained. 

When I see this type of reaction, I realize that there's only one acceptable scripted response from me: Smile. Agree. Nod.  Even though deep down, I'm completely feeling the opposite.

Yes, I'm a rare mutant mom.

Instead of relief, I feel trepidation at the thought of summer break ending.

Instead of excitement, I feel sadness and sentimentality.

Unapologetically, I admit that I love having my son around.  Maybe it's easy for me to say this because he's an only child and I don't have to go through the incessant noise and fighting that goes on in most households with multiple children.  Or maybe because he's quite low-maintenance in that he's pretty self-sufficient and well-behaved for the most part.  Or maybe I'm just really extremely attached to the cuteness that I think he still has, that I want to be around it as much as I could before it all disappears!

It could be all those reasons but I'll be very honest.  I think it's mostly because I'm a control freak.  With him around at the house (mostly), his environment and exposure are more or less controlled.  Let's face it.  Schools are giant Petri dishes filled with just about anything that can make one sick. And for every illness my son goes through, a little bit of my sanity goes down the drain.  It's exhausting!  And at least the summer break gives my paranoia some needed break as well.

Now, I'm not about to home school my son.  I don't think I'm quite prepared for that kind of responsibility.  And besides, when I jokingly broached the idea with him, he gave me a line courtesy of what he picked up from watching 'Rise of the Planet of the Apes'.  With an undeniably adamant tone, and while clasping both my shoulders tight, as if to make sure he's leaving no room for misinterpretation, he said, "Mama...I need to be with my kind."

What else can a parent possibly say to that?...(Except maybe, "Alright, be with your kind. But remember to always wash your hands and don't let anyone sneeze at you!")

So in my resignation to the coming end of summer break, and the inevitable act of further loosening my grip on the reins that bind my son to me, I'm confronted by the obvious realization that time flies by so fast....too fast, in fact.

I had grand plans before summer break started.  And with its end just a few steps away, I'm forced to admit just how much of a slacker I'd been.  Where did the time go?  What have I been doing?  Who have I become?

I was supposed to work on three scrapbooks.  One of those will document my son's first year of life.  Did I mention that he's now seven?

The other one will contain highlights from our 'recent' trip to Disney World. That was in 2012.

And then the third was supposed to contain selected school work that I deemed worth preserving from the past school year. Well, at the rate I'm going, and with the new school year almost here, I think those projects and mementos will all just get thrown into some store-bought, pre-decorated box. Don't judge! 

In my mind, I also had fantasies of going out on lunch dates with my son and enjoy interesting conversations with him.  In real life, it was either too hot and we both got too lazy to go out, or he told me he'd rather play Minecraft and have some chicken nuggets and apple sauce.

I've always been a planner and an organized person.  But my summer break with my son doesn't seem to be a testament to that identity claim.  

But maybe I'm a better Mom for ditching all my plans and fantasies.  Maybe, just maybe, summer is really for spontaneous fun, chillaxing, and the mundane activities that seem to always highlight simple joys.  

The truth is, I enjoyed the few trips we had to the supermarket.  He was always patient and I loved getting him surprise treats.

I loved that every time we went to the local library, I got to see the eagerness in his eyes as he selected books to take home.

I loved the conversations we had in the car whenever we drove together because they always gave me insights into how he thinks, what he worries about, what he remembers with joy and looks forward to.

I loved the countless times he just suddenly approached me to sit on my lap and hug, simply because he either felt tired, needed to relax, or just because.

These sweet, simple things are what I'll miss most with the end of summer break. More than ever, I'm realizing that my 'back-to-school' blues stem from the thought that another summer ended also translates to another step towards a greater sense of independence for my son; my 'baby' needing me less, wanting my hugs and kisses less.  

Every new school year may bring excitement to him, (and even to my rational side!).  But what he doesn't really see is that it crushes a little bit of Mommy as she does her best to slowly...Let.  Go.


  1. Your are not rare! You are a good mom. I think it's quite abnormal for people to say I can 't wait for the kids to go back to school. I can not wait for the last one to leave home. We must cherish each and every moment we have with them. There will only be 18 summers, 18 birthdays, 18 Christmas' before they leave for college. Enjoy each and every moment you can and you will build a relationship that will keep them coming back home with their wife and then their children because they will always remember the wonderful feelings they felt at the home you made for him. Blogger

    1. Thanks for your supportive words, Jill! I'm glad to know many other moms feel the same way. And you're right. These are the important foundation years where I can build a stronger relationship with my 'baby' so that he knows our home/ our family is one he can always go back to for love. Thanks again! :-)

  2. I dislike this time of year for many reasons - but mostly because everyone is talking about the end of the summer and it's still August! I can't stand when the kids go back, and even though my son is 21, I still remember that feeling all too well.

  3. I could totally relate to this because my mom is the same too. I was at home since the last three months for my summer break and next week, I'm leaving for the sophomore year of my college. My mom feels the same way even though I'm 19 now. Where did the time go?

  4. It is a hard one, right? After spending so much time together, we have to go back to the old routine. It just never stops.


Let me know your thoughts!