Back Story: 12 Months of Celebration

Photo credit: www.sd43.bc.ca

Photo credit: http://www.sd43.bc.ca

This year I wanted to spread out entertainment and good times all year instead of having “good months” and “bad months.” In particular, I was accustomed to holing up from January to March, and going all-out in September and October.

This is a stormy Saturday morning – we are getting the tail end of tropical storm Andrea. Rom is buzzing with happiness over last night’s release of MTG Modern Masters, he fixed a collapsed bookshelf – how could that happen 🙂 – and he’s researching vintage guitars. I’ve been searching the web for songs and videos by my favourite new bands, Kate Boy and Chvrches. But I am in an introspective mood and wanted to share some thoughts about a major life change: empty nest time!

Needless to say, raising a child consumes all of your time, and there is no such thing as spare time until your child is old enough to get around independently at about age 14 – maybe older if you don’t have bus service. As a single parent who worked full time and spent many years thousands of miles from any relatives, I rarely got a break. I have two things to say about that – first of all, there is usually a primary caretaker or household manager in every family, regardless of whether you are a single parent or part of a couple or extended family. Second, after working long hours, the last thing I wanted was a break from my kid. We had little enough time together. Mow my lawn – sure!  Offer babysitting? No thanks.

Typical classroom scene (NC, USA). Photo credit: securedgenetworks.com

Children who attend daycare and public schools are highly scheduled little creatures. They go through life with a “cohort” of young folks the same age. They are constantly compared to every other kid in their group or class. They themselves always notice differences between what their families do and have, and what other families do and have. With luck and some training, this can produce kids who are compassionate about others.

I spent many years as a student and then as a children’s librarian, so my year has always been the School Year, which runs here from about September 3 to June 28. For me, the day after Labour Day has always been New Year’s Day, setting off with sharpened pencils and a new lunch bag! Having a child reinforced that to the nth degree. Even baby/tot programs run on a school-year schedule.

Long before September 3, I would have to be sure my child was registered properly at school, for after-school care, and the Fall slate of activities. I would be reserving a daycare spot in June and paying for music and swimming lessons in August. There would also be shopping for school supplies and new sizes of clothes and shoes.

These are all the annual things I had to be mindful of as a parent that I don’t do now:

September

  • First Day of School
  • Curriculum Night (visit school to find out what child will be covering in each subject area this year)
  • Terry Fox Run (most Canadian school kids do a walk or run to raise money for cancer research)

October

  • Hallowe’en and trick-or -treating cannot be underestimated as the focal event of the Fall, with a month of decision-making and preparation for the costume. Also a big class party.

November

  • First parent-teacher interviews
  • Remembrance Day, solemnly observed at the school and community level (often ignored by adults but never kids as a result of the schools’ efforts)

December

  • Report cards
  • School concerts
  • Music recitals
  • Daycare and school Christmas parties
  • Winter term break (10 school days off)
  • Register for January to March activities
Crowns with 100 Things (CA, USA). Photo credit: articles.dailypilot.com

Crowns with 100 Things (CA, USA). Photo credit: articles.dailypilot.com

January

  • Snow!
  • Praying for Snow Days
  • Skating (Rom would say ice skating, but in Canada that is redundant)
  • Going to hockey games
  • Family Literacy Day January 27, a celebration of reading
  • For younger students, a big celebration for the 100th Day of School, a day for fun math activities
  • High school exams and standardized provincial exams

February

  • Valentines Day, a big deal at daycare and school, with class parties and handwritten cards for everyone
  • African Heritage Month, educational and cultural activities
  • Maybe a school Winter Carnival

March

  • March Break (5 school days off)
  • Birthday of Dr. Seuss, March 2 (Read Across America Day)
  • Pi Day (3/14) when smart math teachers celebrate numbers
  • Math Olympics
  • St. Patrick’s Day

April

  • Report cards
  • Parent-teacher interviews
  • 4-day Easter weekend
  • Kiwanis Music Festival (music recitals/competitions)

May

  • Grow seeds in cups 🙂
  • Mothers Day
  • Register for summer camps
Exams (QC, CAN) Photo credit: westislandgazette.com

Exams (QC, CAN)
Photo credit: westislandgazette.com

June

  • School trips
  • Field Day
  • High school exams
  • Last day of school / Grading celebration and gift at home
  • Register for library Summer Reading Program
  • The dreaded Fathers Day which 1/3 to 1/2 of kids can’t celebrate

July and August

  • Day camps
  • Overnight camps
  • Family reunions

Those are the highlights of the school year schedule. Of course, there are all kinds of irregular events:

  • Art shows
  • Talent nights
  • Book fairs
  • School dances
  • Fundraising (oh, how many things we had to sell!)
  • Test days, to go up a level in swimming, skating, etc.
  • Teacher Professional Development days (5/year)

And then:

  • Homework
  • Library trips
  • Buying supplies for projects
  • Clothes/shoes shopping
  • Children’s birthday parties and shopping for presents

As you can see, there was a consistently high level of busy-ness, but also things to look forward to – there was something to celebrate almost every month. I truly appreciate all the work that teachers and childcare staff put into making happy months and years for all the kids in their care. They brightened our world immeasurably. And no, I didn’t complain when they took their PD Days!

Sad Mom Photo credit: foreclosureindustrynews.com (LOL!)

Sad Mom
Photo credit: foreclosureindustrynews.com (LOL!)

Then, ker-pow, your child (or your youngest child) finishes school, leaves home, and all of that ends abruptly and completely, forever!

Your brave child will be fine! Photo of Derrick Martin (http://tinyurl.com/3m9b7eq)

Your brave child will be fine!
Photo of Derrick Martin (http://tinyurl.com/3m9b7eq)

The consolation, of course, is that you rejoice for your child who is building their own life now. But it is time to restructure yours.

Now you can see why I run my monthly post, 12 Months of Celebration.

18 comments

  1. Jan

    I don’t know if anything can prepare an involved parent for the empty nest.
    I always said that part of me always wanted to keep my children in a bubble, safe from harm and the pain of society’s ways. And the other, larger, more responsible part was so glad that I didn’t have to – that they didn’t need to lead protected lives. But I still ache with missing them – and rejoice at any time I get to spend with them as adults in their own right.

  2. Fiona

    I love the monthly celebration posts; they are so full of positive energy and it seems even more so knowing the background. It must be so very bittersweet to get time “back”: the busy-ness of children gone but also time available to pursue adult interests more fully again.

    I think I’ll be bereft once we have an empty nest. Hopefully I will follow in your footsteps and fill the breach positively with books, music, travel and other interests!

    • Thanks – sometimes I feel I should be trying to change the world, do more volunteering etc, but I remind myself I am in a public service job and there is always retirement in another 15 years, LOL!

  3. It’s a great way to ‘look forward’ to something every month. When you write it all out like that, it is amazing that teachers make such a great, busy time for kids, I just didn’t realise (that being said, Val Day and some of the others don’t really make an impresssion here, at least not when I was in school!)

    • Just curious, are Hallowe’en and trick-or-treating big in Australia? I hear they’re growing in the UK!

      • Fiona

        No, not really, Dar! It happens but maybe only one street here or there will get in on the fun. Lots of kids get dressed up and roam the streets but we knocked on about 10 doors for every 1 that answered last Halloween!

      • That would be difficult! In the old days, tricks would be played on people who didn’t answer their doors – either eggs would be thrown at the house, or their shrubs would be wrapped in toilet paper!

      • Fiona

        Aha! We had teenagers throwing eggs in our area last year…I thought they were just misbehaving. Maybe they were just more aware of Halloween traditions than we were (or maybe not!!)

      • Ah, no but… I grew up knowing it existed, and some years trying it on my neighbours (we were in a dead end street). That being said, every year there’s more plastic merchandise. And if I’m honest, every year I, as an adult, want to throw a Halloween party! (Last year I was sadly in Europe at the time!)

      • Teen and adult Halloween parties (and pub crawls) are really big here!

  4. It was shocking to me when my boys started school how busy we would be. There seemed to be so little time for family togetherness around the school schedule. When we decided to home school it gave me back that time with them and freed our schedule immensely. I had an adjustment period before having the empty nest. The eldest left to join the army leaving a 15 year old home. A year later he started working, the met his future wife do he was out often. When he moved out on his own the month he turned 18 I was okay with it, plus we had been absent from those schedules for nearly 10 years by now the transition wasn’t difficult.

  5. todadwithlove

    Hey, this has made me miss my mum. Just thinking about the sheer sacrifice that parents make. I’m going to call her now. 🙂 Great post!

  6. todadwithlove

    That’s all the more reason why they are so remarkable. 🙂

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