Back To Life, Back To Reality

61 days of summer vacation and $200+ in school supplies later, my kids are back in school and I am back at work (read: my paid day job). In years past, I would take the first day of school off as a vacation day and send them off on the big yellow bus myself, camera and Kleenex in hand. I’d meet up with the twins at their elementary school and wait with them in the yard to introduce myself to their teachers and check out their classrooms. Then I’d go home with a coffee and hunker down with the cat for the rest of the day.
 
This year was a bit different. Ok, a LOT different. As I had done last year, I took a leave of absence from work in July and August to look after the kids when DS13 and DD weren’t going to a day camp of some sort. DS8’s assorted developmental and physical disabilities prevented him from participating in most mainstream day camps that offered a program he might have been even remotely interested in, and it would have cost me the equivalent of my hourly wage to hire a one-on-one worker for him on top of camp fees.
 
This year, however, I went back to work at the end of August, instead of waiting until the second day of school; and under the watch of my parents, the kids made their way to school yesterday without me or my camera or my fistful of Kleenex. I am still divided as to how I feel about that. It somehow feels wrong to me that I wasn’t there, that there are no pictures of the kids wearing their new outfits and backpacks, that I wasn’t there to smile and wave at the bus driver and then make my way over to the school to wait for the familiar sound of the first bell at 9:10 a.m. and help the twins hang up their coats and backpacks in the cloakroom, chat a bit with the teachers, and go on with my day.
 
This year was also a bit different because, like most families, money has become a source of worry for me and DH and I tried to keep my leave of absence as short as I could because 61 days of summer vacation means what’s left of my annual salary is spread out over the remaining 304 days of the year, an approximate difference of $8,000 before taxes. While making the arrangements with my employer this year, I felt like I had Suze Orman glaring over my shoulder, tut-tutting her mantra: “People first, then money, then things.” I couldn’t afford to do it, but I couldn’t afford not to, either. My kids enjoy(ed) having Mom home with them, getting a hot breakfast (almost) every morning, the trips to the playground, the country fairs we went to, the “last hurrah” road trip to Mont Cascades waterpark the day before I went back to work last week. I found out that I could sit through “Phineas and Ferb” and their highly improbable 104 days of vacation in re-runs, and laugh myself silly each time. Some days we were on the move so much I felt like I was channelling the evil Doofenshmirtz himself: “It’s already 4:30, I think I’m going to bed. Curse you Perry the Platypus!”
 
It won’t be much longer before the seasonal segue into fall, and fall turns into … well, never mind. I don’t know about you, but I could definitely have enjoyed an additional 43 days of summer.
 

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