My Love-Hate Relationship With Sending My Kids Back to School

mother and son with backpack

The last school bell rings, and I exhale for the first time in 10 months. Gone are the crazy mornings of dragging kids out of bed, packing lunches they might actually eat, and battling the dreaded drop-off line where anarchy is defined. Gone are my nights of homework-checking and feeding my kids as I drive to multiple activities. Late June is freedom; schedules are tossed aside and quality, unstructured family time begins.


The first morning of summer break rivals Christmas. I wake up and peacefully contemplate what I will accomplish this summer -- our summer is a blank canvas and I am da Vinci. Nestled in my bed, I bask in the freedom as my two boys, Alex and Zach, fly into my room asking, "Mommy, what are we doing today?" I blissfully look at them and enthusiastically present multiple options.

For the next seven weeks, I happily pack the beach totes, igloo coolers, and my car. I enthusiastically take my kids and their friends wherever they want to go. The sweet sound of laughter enables me to overlook the mess that accumulates in the car and our home, as I think, I never want this time to end.

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But somewhere around mid-August, after the millionth time I ask them to pick up their toys, untangle fishing poles, and mediate ridiculous arguments, I am ready to snap. The bounce in my step has become more like an elephant stomp. Unstructured, quality family time takes its toll and I think, We’ve hit the proverbial "too much of a good thing."

My mornings -- on a slow decline over the past week -- are on par with a dental visit instead of Christmas. One day I roll out of bed praying the kids are still asleep. I attempt to sneak a peaceful cup of coffee before they bombard me with the dreaded question that now makes my skin crawl. I open the pantry and mounds of stuff fly out at me. I shove it all back in, remembering that laundry list of things I wanted to accomplish, and think, I will organize it when they go back to school.

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Alex and Zach trudge down the stairs arguing and they walk right past me. I stay silently unnoticed for about two seconds before Alex interrupts my peace: "What are we doing today?"

I fight rolling my eyes as I sip my coffee. I list a few options with zero enthusiasm. Every suggestion earns an immediate rejection. I snap and enthusiastically declare, "We are going school shopping!"

A horrified look is shared between my boys and they are unified. Later, in the "Back to School" aisle, I breathe deeply and relish the scents of a new school year. The structure I couldn't wait to leave in June is now the very thing I desire. There is a noticeable spring in my step, as I peruse the cardboard displays holding a myriad of school supplies. I call out, "Look, boys -- scented markers!"

Wearing frowns bigger than my smile, Alex and Zach chant behind me, "It's too soon to get this stuff!"

All I can think is, Finally they are agreeing on something.

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They come closer to me, in a panic, alternating their ideas: "Mom we need to go to the beach, go for that hike, and can we go to that place with the rides and mini golf?"

I put my hand up to stop the deluge but they don't relent. "PLEASE, just one LAST time!" they plead, wearing their best angelic faces.

I don't respond as I think, I won't make it through 'one last time'!

Another mom, looking eerily similar to me, saunters down our aisle, her two downtrodden girls in tow. The mom happily dictates the list of items they need for school. I feel her joy and we exchange a knowing smile as I hear her girls mutter sadly, "We don’t want school to start yet." Suddenly, like a frying pan to the face, I get it. My cherubs aren’t experiencing "too much of a good thing"; they're just sad over summer's ending.

I stop and turn to the boys. "Okay, let's do this later. What 'last' do you want to do first?”


Celeste Chin left the corporate world to raise her children and eventually pursue a career in writing. Also a substitute teacher, she lives in New Jersey with her two teenage boys. Celeste recently completed writing her first children's novel, for children 9 to 12 years old. Her favorite hobbies surround spending time with her sons, either on the golf course, skiing, hiking, or kayaking, just to name a few.

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