I wish I could look on back to school with some excitement. I certainly remember as a child feeling nervous but psyched to go back and see friends, even meet my new teachers. (Yes, a bit of a nerd. I know). But I can't even find a remnant of that feeling. In reality, I should be thrilled to be getting "my office" back. After all, summer can be tricky for me -- I write and report from home as a freelancer and having The Kid around asking questions, wanting me to listen to something she's just read, or help her with a project can fracture my time in a truly overwhelming way.
And the truth is when she leaves for school Thursday morning I will thrill in the quiet. For about 8 minutes. Because actually -- besides missing her tremendously -- I know what will be coming by the end of the day: fighting over homework, opening a lunch box that's still full of uneaten smashed food, and knowing that just as I want to really stretch my hands over the keyboard to let the writing flow go, I'll need to race out to get her. And while my work day won't end when she gets home, those afternoon hours as I conduct interviews, and sketch out stories and pitches will be a wrestling match with her need for attention.
I know I'm hardly alone with millions of working moms out there. And that helps give me the stamina to keep at it. I love freelancing. I love the diversity of my work. And I truly love the editors I have now worked with over the years. And I am quite skilled at settling back down to finish a draft or edit in the evening when the apartment is quiet, and the dark hush of the city lulls me back to the keyboard. (I actually love writing at night.) But the afternoons? Tricky. And as she gets older? Even trickier. She may be able to do more now. But someone she seems to want me more. And of course, not want me more. (Yes, pre-teens start early.)
So forgive me as I don't cheer over the new lunch bags, and new school shoes and fresh new notepads and sharpened pencils. Forgive me as I brace myself for the year ahead. Somehow though I know it will get easier -- about the time she sends her first child off to school and I smile thinking, 'Better you than me, Kid. Better you than me.'