Every year, as the summer starts to wind down, it happens like clockwork: The back-to-school ads start to work themselves into every commercial break; the get-me-my-pumpkin-spice-latte memes begin to roll in; and the viral photos of parents giddily shipping their kids off to school with the wild excitement of someone who’s just won the lottery start to pop up in newsfeeds everywhere.
Kids are (understandably) bummed that their lazy summer days of running around shoeless in the backyard and waking up whenever they please are drawing to an end. And parents are (understandably) elated that they’ll finally get a break from all the daily chaos that ensues when you’re wrangling kids 24/7 for months at a time.
But not every parent is always jumping for joy as September inches closer. Because while yes, back to school often means a return to your normal routine and a silent house for hours at a time during the day, it also means other things. It means a whole new grade, and sometimes a whole new school. It means a whole new set of classroom rules and challenges — for you and your kid. (HELLO, 50 lbs. of homework.) And more often than not, it can mean another reminder that your baby is growing up pretty darn fast.
Writer and Babble contributor Mia Carella knows this feeling all too well. It’s one that rises up within her every September, as summer comes to a close. Carella recently wrote about it in a candid post on her Facebook page last week that’s resonating with parents everywhere.
“They said it would get easier,” her post begins. “They said last year would be the hardest, being the first time and all. They said this year would be better; that I’d be happy to see her go back to school after a long summer.”
Her answer to that? A big fat nope.
“I don’t know why I am having such a hard time with this,” Carella continues, explaining that her little girl isn’t the least bit nervous or apprehensive about heading back to school. Instead, she’s excited to see her friends and teachers after the long summer break, and to enter the school year another year older. But to her mom, “it feels just as raw and real as the first time I had to let go and send my daughter off on that yellow school bus out into the world.”
“Kindergarten. First grade. Sixth grade. College. I can’t see when this will get easier for me,” Carella continues. “Letting our hearts — our whole worlds — walk out into the world alone without us is never easy.”
Part of what makes back to school a little more emotional for Carella is that her 6-year-old daughter Evalyn has special needs, including speech and language delays, as well as medical issues. Carella tells Babble that it’s added another layer of worry to her usual back-to-school dread, and that she’s learning to come to terms with the fact that she can’t control everything in Evalyn’s world anymore.
“I think the feeling I describe is universal and many parents of all kids feel this way,” Carella shares. “I think for special needs parents it is magnified because we have additional challenges to face. I want all parents to know that — special needs or not — their feelings are valid and normal.”
Still, she’s well aware that the growing up part is a huge part of what this parenting gig is all about.
“Watching our kids grow up is hard, but also what we work for as parents,” Carella tells Babble. “Everything we do is to prepare them to grow and become their own person. I think a lot of it is just finding the balance between protecting them and ‘letting them go.’ It is hard, but so necessary.”
The key to getting through it? It’s trust, Carella ultimately explains in her post.
“We have to trust that the world will treat them as we would,” she writes. “Trust that they will have everything they need. Trust that we can loosen our white-knuckled grip that we think is holding everything together, and let them go. Let them grow. But, it is hard — one of the hardest things I’ve ever done.”
“To all the moms and dads having trouble letting go this year, you are not alone. So, so not alone. Hugs in solidarity, my friends. So many hugs.”