Monday, May 27, 2024

Back-to-School Truths

Love it or loathe it, September is here and school is in session. Some parents sing the blues; some feel unyielding joy. Some delight at the sight of school paraphernalia in shops in July that signals light at the end of an exhausting tunnel. Others curse the retailers for stealing summer and feel genuine heartbreak come September because they’ll miss their children terribly.

Or so I believe. I’ve not met any of the latter type but I’ve heard tell of one or two.

There are differing schools of thought – if you will – on the whole business. Like most, I fall somewhere in the middle. I feel the deluge of emotions at the start of term; worry about new teachers and class dynamics; disappointment that the summer is over and guilt that I didn’t make the most of it; pride in my offspring bounding once more towards uncharted territory, undaunted. All the usual mom feels.

It’s an emotional melting pot but, when truth be told, there are only two feelings really at playhere; two that muffle all the others; two that battle it out for the top spot on the podium of emotion: dread and relief. Every parent feels the dread in September. Every parent feels the accompanying relief. Emotions in conflict. Turmoil. Which dominates?


The School Run

I’ve alluded to the plight of the school-running parent before. One cannot underestimate the pandemonium that ensues when 400 minors need to be released at a central hub within 7.5 minutes of one another by tired, under-caffeinated parents. It’s hard to imagine the utter chaos created by countless cars, rushing parents and Irish weather until you’re in the thick of it. Nothing makes parents question their life choices more than the school run on a wet day. Add to that the fact that the journey may have to repeated up to three times on any given day – depending on preschool hours and finishing times – it makes for the ultimate parental Groundhog Day experience.

The Lunches

The word ‘lunch’ is loaded with all sorts of yummy possibilities and has altogether positive connotations in EVERY OTHER context. School lunches are the true exception. Whether you make them the night before or first thing, there’s little to contend with the soul-crushing conveyor belt of cheese slicing, fruit chopping and box packing. Plastic containers smelling of compost and sour milk arrive home daily with discarded crusts, abandoned mottled sandwich fillings and Frube remnants. Bottles leak over books and forgotten, fermenting oranges remain undiscovered. Someone else’s kid got Nutella. Drama.

The Uniforms

There’s no room for slackers in the laundry game during term time. Whether you prefer to spot clean with the edge of a dish cloth or go full on Dot Cotton midweek, there’s still the matter of making sure little ties and jumpers don’t get lost/torn/accidentally put in the bottom of the freezer. Nobody cares but you.

The Homework

It will involve coaxing and cajoling. It may involve tears and bribery. We’ve got to suck it up though; this thirteen-year battle isn’t going away anytime soon.

The Illnesses

Other people’s diseased kids will, of course, bring all kinds of nasties into school on virus-ridden hands and stationery. Worms, flu, pox, vomiting bugs… there’s always a risk. Come September we’ll arm them with multivits, send them into the germ-infested trenches and hope for the best. If home schooling is the alternative, we’ll take our chances. How bad can worms actually be, right?


And Breathe

Working parents are no longer required to compete for and juggle pricey summer camps and activities so that they can make a half-hearted appearance at work between pick ups and drop offs. People are willing to look after yours and everyone else’s kids for the majority of the day! No questions asked. Freebie childcare for the win! You can go back to doing an honest day’s work for an honest day’s pay instead of attempting to slope in and out of the office unnoticed by Brenda from HR.

Silence is Golden

Parents at home can look forward to hearing the sound of their own thoughts again in an environment that’s unpolluted by rescue pups and half-eaten rice cakes. Calm is restored. Tea is consumed at reasonable temperatures. Holly and Philip are welcomed back with the warmth and fervency of old friends at an overdue reunion.

Normal Programming Resumes

Summer looseness is a thing of the past and that disconcerting lack of structure to days and nights is no more. Rules and routines abound. Screens are limited, homework is scheduled, meal times are rigid and bedtime is non-negotiable. Alarms. Order. Regime. Harmony. Joy.

We have a winner.

How do you feel about the return to school? No one here will judge if you did this. You’re in a safe space…  

All images via

Disclosure: I love my kids and yes, I miss them. But I may have done the dance. Just a little.

Note: Does not apply to sending kids to school for the first time. That’s a whole other emotional mindfeck.

Care to share your own rollercoaster of emotion in the comments? How is this time of year for you? Are you enjoying the routine or crying lonesome into your tea lamenting the sound of your children’s laughter in the empty halls? 

This post was first published here. For more from Shinners & The Brood click on the image or recent posts below!

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