It was a back-to-school picnic and I was sharing a Tartan blanket with another mum. As we munched on the carrot sticks and houmous someone commented, “It’s almost like a New Year”. She was referring to the summer holidays drawing to a close and I could see what she meant; with the school holidays over and students preparing to journey back to their universities, this time of year heralds a significant change for some of us. For me, it is an unmarked ending, a full stop or at the very least; a punctuation mark in the year. However, unlike New Year there is no media fan-fare to acknowledge the shift, it just happens and the parents and children push on and hopefully adjust to the new schedule without further ado.
Sometimes, if one of our children is going to college or leaving home, it can be a more far reaching change with the loss of their daily presence in our lives. This time last year I found myself writing about the phenomena of the ‘Empty Nest’, it proved a popular subject.
For the school children, the new school year involves transitioning back into their role as pupil, reintegrating into friendship groups and getting down to some work (we hope). For me, I notice the house is quiet, devoid of laughter and squabbles and the distant chatter over social media. It’s a relief, juxtaposed with a little sadness, does that make sense? I’ve enjoyed not having to rush every morning, the general slowing of pace and the joy of having a family holiday together. I won’t however miss imponderables such as:
How much Nutella is okay for one teenager? Should I be more curious about the nutritious content of the consumables stashed under my eldest’s bed?
Can I get away with yet another twist on an old pasta dish without incurring a chorus of eyes rolled heavenwards?
Is it worth a confrontation to get each child to take their turn at loading and unloading the dishwasher or doing a little ironing? Sometimes they just do it, I could wait and see if it happens …
Do other parents punctuate their day taxi-ing teenagers around to limitless destinations for no particular reason other than to hang out with their mates? How much walking to the station or the town is too much walking?
Why is it that on the days I’m not working I don’t sleep in – something I’ve fantasized about before the holiday.
All these small dilemmas can now be put to one side and be replaced by something we all recognise (and let’s be honest most of us really like) our routine!
Responding to Change
We don’t have any choice about change, it’s a certainty of life and we’d be bored if nothing ever happened to stimulate us. However, many of us naturally favour a routine which allows us to feel secure and navigate life more easily – hence my relief at returning to it. What I notice, which is really positive, is the shaking down effect that the transition brings. It is subtle, but in stepping out of the routine for a while I seem able to tune-in to some changes I could make as I transition back into it? I’m taking a fresh view of my week and what I do, even though I didn’t stop working in the holidays, I can see that too with a fresh eye.
I have a little more time now, as my youngest is joining her siblings at senior school I won’t need to arrive at the gates at 3:30 pm every day. For thirteen years, whatever the weather, whichever continent we were living on and whatever else is happening, I’ve battled to find a parking space (in recent years one where I won’t risk a parking ticket) and the change hasn’t quite sunk in yet. Wow! Writing it down has helped and I feel a real opportunity opening up in my weekday routine. Flexibility, hmm, I love that word.
I’m not quite sure what I’ll do yet, but its good to just let the change settle over me. I’m also aware that I’m still acknowledging my children are growing up and they won’t need me so much. I notice I’m not required to get out of the car at the morning drop off, “Don’t do it Mum, its social suicide”. No more goodbye kisses for me then …
Change vs. routine, part of the ebb and flow of life that keeps us energised and encourages us to grow and change as individuals, as a nation even … Here in the UK we have been undergoing a process of referendum to allow people living in Scotland to decide if they still want to be part of the UK. It has imposed an opportunity for all of us in the UK to think about what devolution might mean for us individually and collectively; the impact on our culture and identity, not to mention the financial implications, many of which are uncertain.
Whether it is a matter of State or personal impact, what feels important, is to face your feelings and find the positives in any change. Ultimately to find our own place of acceptance is to navigate our way through.