The 2020 Back-to-school Mom

This is an unusual back-to-school season.

With the ever-present disquieting threat of COVID-19, 2020 parents must choose to home-school, settle for the online classroom (also requiring supervision), pay for private school, or hire private tutors to educate their children. And then they must actually get their own work done between 8 and 4.

Let’s just assume everyone is a bit overwhelmed right now. Given my decision to home-school our boys during their middle school years, I never had everyone home at the same time, but I always had somebody home. So I sort-of get it. But not really. I hope you learn to love colored pencils, Google Classroom, virtual meetings, and downloadable worksheets. I mean it. I wish you well.

For those of us without school children, we are just detaching in the usual way from our higher-education learners and our kids who move away from us. We are looking at you lovely, overwhelmed multi-tasking mothers and we’re thinking we’d like to have those school days back again. Maybe for a day or two. Definitely not the whole year.

I paid my dues for a couple decades. I did PTA, room mothering, homework wars, science fairs, spelling bees, productions, practices, games, concerts, fieldtrip permissions, concussion forms, health waivers, conferences, pick-up lines, packed lunches, bus stops, teacher gifts, fees out the wazoo. Done. Done. Done.

Yet something about the start of the school year makes me yearn.

I feel all sentimental inside. I avoid those “first day of _____” pictures on Facebook because they make my throat constrict.

In celebration of your school challenges and my graduation from them, I raise my tea cup to all our new beginnings. To the end of an era and the start of another. Because I’m a teacher, my mental calendar year runs September through May. I stand in solidarity with all mothers for the next few weeks as we look forward to something new, even if it’s scary. We think of life one semester at a time. Or if necessary, one class at a time.

Now I’m on to other eras (that also make my throat constrict).

This summer, we had a wedding, which was new, exciting, and complicated, given COVID-19 regulations and fears. Then my middle son returned to physical therapy school. Then we moved my college son into a house with a bunch of other adorable “how-can-they-be-old-enough-to-live-on-their-own?” boys.

I’ve had multiple calls already because it’s still the first week that he’s gone. He’s settling in, and he’s forgotten some things at home.

Which makes me feel very valuable, although not particularly admired, since I told him to take all those things in the first place, and he said he didn’t need them.

(I may have pointed that out to him in one of our texts.)

I don’t know if that makes you feel better about virtual classes, but I’m trying.

So if you’re sentimental about the good old days when your kids were little—or if you’re just sentimental about the good old days when somebody else had to worry about which math assignment to do on which day and heaven-help-us, how to teach it!—you’re not alone.

You belong to the big, wide world of mothers who never grow out of mothering, no matter how much mothering changes each year. You worry about what adult children are making for dinner. You worry about them getting into car accidents. You worry about them being a patient spouse. You worry about them making the right friends and being the right kind of person.

It’s not because you don’t trust them or they don’t know how to do these things. It’s just because you never stop being a mom.

Maybe that’s why they always come back for a hug and a home-cooked meal.

They don’t want us to stop mothering. (They just want us to stop being obvious about it.)

Here are some related blogs, in case you need another one:

4 Values Moms need this school year

How everyone can benefit from back-to-school

6 Things I love about school starting

12 Things I didn’t realize about motherhood

Top 20 conversations with middle school boys

Considering home schooling