Back to September

Driving home after dropping my son at school last week, I stopped to let five girls on rollerblades cross the street.  With bike helmets and new backpacks, they joined other kids and parents making their way on foot, bike or stroller towards the elementary school near our house.  A mom with a yellow Lab jogged behind the pink and purple phalanx of girls, keeping an eye on their wobbly but excited progress.Even though our kids are past elementary age, I still love the first days of school in our neighborhood, when parents and kids stream towards their classrooms, clog the streets with parked cars, and make “happy noises” I can hear far down the street.

The elementary school students may be the ones who come to mind first when we think of “back to school,” but transitions are happening at every age.  Friends were telling me about their son’s first week at middle school, and how he had been both happy and a little nervous to move from class to class instead of staying in the same room all day long.  And, to their surprise, how all of a sudden he was coming home talking about girls . . . .  Where had their little boy gone?

It’s a question we parents keep asking ourselves, especially once our children grow up and move towards adulthood.  I mean, my oldest is a junior in college.  He’s an RA, counseling freshmen on how to adjust to life in the dorms, providing a mature influence and disciplinary oversight.  But in my mind, I still see him on his green bicycle, proud to ride off to sixth grade by himself.  My daughter, a college sophomore, tells me she’s going to try a different class because a professor may be knowledgeable but isn’t engaging.  But I still recall how petrified she was to find out she was assigned to the strictest (and most challenging) teacher for the third grade at her school.  Her initial fear subsided into anticipation, as she made a bead bracelet that spelled out the teacher’s name.  Go figure.

My youngest still lives at home but is about to get his driver’s license.  I should be happy to be “free” of shuttling kids around after so many years, but I wonder if I’ll ever again have chances to converse with my children the way I’ve had when they were required to be in the car with me.

The thing is, all our kids all doing exactly what they’re supposed to do – grow up and separate from us.  And even those of us who aren’t parents, or whose kids are “all grown up,” remember what this time of year was like for ourselves: the anticipation of something new, hope for something good, fear of the unknown.

So even if our lives are not governed by the academic calendar, post Labor Day is a great time to start fresh.  The days are getting shorter, but there is still the promise of an Indian summer ahead.  Now that kids are settled into school, some adults  take advantage of cheaper and less crowded vacation destinations.  Others feel we can finally get organized after traveling or feeling scattered during the summer months.  For some, like Rita Konig of the WSJ, it may mean sprucing up our desks.  For me, it’s meant getting back to my workout routine, something that’s proving torturous but necessary.  I’m also signing up for some classes, not a full load, but a couple of things to do for myself, to put my brain into gear.

So whether you have kids or not, find something to do that rejuvenates yourself this month, gives you a new routine or a new way of looking at your old routine.  It may be a vacation without the summer hordes, or a new set of pens for your desk.  Whatever you choose, though, be on the lookout for pink and purple rollerbladers – you might even want to join them!



  1. I feel a tiny bit of back to school funk…like I need my own purple roller blades or something new. Your column got me thinking about spending time on my own “back to fall”. LOVED the family pictures. That green bike is something.

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