Saturday, September 1, 2007

The Next

Today is the last day of summer vacation. It is a day of endings, but it is also a tomorrow full of new beginnings.

I love the hot, sunny, carefree days of summer, where your biggest decision is whether to go to the beach or the pool, or what friends to invite over for an impromptu barbecue. I love the extra time with the children, reconnecting, enjoying each other, watching them grow and change with each new experience - day camp, swimming lessons, the first-time in a wedding, blowing bubbles underwater, learning to play baseball... Summer to me is a magical time full of sunshine and smiles and promise. I love that feeling of having months of beautiful weather ahead of me, just waiting to be enjoyed. If anything, we're even busier in the summer than we are in the winter, but it's a good busy, full of things we've chosen, not full of obligations and rules.

As the days and weeks pass all too quickly, July turns into August, and then August draws to a close, and with it those same carefree days. It's time to return to the faster-paced, more hectic rhythms of fall and winter. Each year I find this mental shift difficult, I feel myself wanting to cling to those last remnants of summer.

This year though will be different. There are big changes underway around the island. Tomorrow morning my son will set off, backpack in hand (or rather "on wheels"), school shirt on, for the first day of first grade. The first time he will leave the warm shelter of his small free-standing kindergarten for the hustle and bustle of elementary school, with its hallways and big kids and recess and dress code. With its notebooks and workbooks and bookbags. With the lunch he now has to take for the first time (breakfast actually, they eat at 10). A true new beginning.

My younger child, my daughter, will be beginning her final year of preschool. Her last year before being thrown into the chaos of the public school system. (The last time we will get a letter a mere 3 days before the start of the term mentioning that "by the way", the rates have been increased, please make your checks out accordingly.) Social interaction does not come easily to Maya right now, and we are counting on this last year of cocooning to help build her confidence and give her the tools she will need to function and thrive in a kindergarten class of 36 children.

So many changes underway. So many reasons to want to slow down time, to stop and reflect, to stop and rewind. And at the same time so many new opportunities, new chances to grow and learn. New skills, new friends, a roller-hockey team to join, gymnastics to try...

It would be very easy to focus on "the end" today, but I am not going to (at least not much, I do still need to cry the requisite tears at school tomorrow morning after all). Instead I am going to focus on enjoying my memories of this special time while at the same time looking firmly forward to "the next" and welcoming it in.


More endings can be found here.

22 comments:

Rachel said...

I am suffering the same summer melancholy. Thea starts on the 5th. The leaves are beginning to burst with color here in New England. It's all gone by too fast. Yesterday we went to the school to see the posted class lists. We found out who her teacher is and which friends are in her class. She seems ready to tackle first grade....a bit nervous, but ready.

I hope the kids love their teachers, their learning and have a wonderful school year!

Pieces of Me said...

Best of luck to you!

Susan Helene Gottfried said...

Robin, this is some of your finest writing.

As someone who's always looking forward, what you had to say and the way you said it struck a chord. No wonder I like you so much.

gautami said...

I like "good busy".

The next is a change not an end.

I like your post.

Melissa Garrett said...

School for us starts on the 5th, and I can barely believe it's almost here. I can't believe I have one in 3rd grade, much less another in Kindergarten. OY!

I hope they enjoy their school year :-)

PS - is that an eel in the picture?

Robin said...

It is in fact an eel, from the aquarium/marine park in Eilat. What's more, it spits! There is a grouping of 4 or 5 marine sculptures that spit little sprays of water across at each other. That's why the kids are laughing so hard and Itai is covering his face - he'd just been spit on LOL.

Jo said...

Wonderfully put and very moving. I will be putting your shoes on on Thursday.

Bob said...

Good luck to you and your clan as you start a new school year!

Saoirse Redgrave said...

Good luck with the new school year-- What a tough time to readjust to! No matter how often you do it, it still feels like a surprise, I think...

Take care!
~Saoirse

Rena said...

Lovely post. It's so sad when summer ends. Hope your children have a good year.

Patois said...

My kids have been back to school since August 23, and I felt many of your same feelings. I am sorry to see summer and the easy living tossed to the side. Good luck to you and yours!

Scribbit said...

This is going to sound odd but that sculpture is truly horrifying. ACH! I have this thing about eels. Not snakes, not fish, just eels--and stingrays, those are exceedingly creepy too. And dragonflies. Those are evil incarnate.

Scribbit said...

But besides the eel problem, I meant to say, well done. I love this post--I hope your summer has been as good as ours.

Gill said...

I enjoyed your post. We are just starting Spring, so still have Summer to look forward to - hope it is as good as yours obviously was.

Kris said...

Sweet post and a nice description that I can relate to. Except summer never really came in Norway this year. I still know what you mean, and you put it beautifully.

Hehe, I don't like eels either. Scribbit's comments made me laugh out loud to myself.

Jen said...

THIRTY-SIX KIDS IN A KINDERGARTEN CLASSROOM????? Holy sweet...are you kidding me? (I'm hyperventilating here...) Ok, your teachers are absolute saints. Please, give them food, give them drink (lots of drink, I suspect they need it)...I can't believe that many kids...agh...

tumblewords said...

I'm an empty-nester but summer's end always brings melancholy with the shorter days, the darker nights. I really enjoy your style of writing.

Robin said...

Thank you for your kind words everyone.

Yes, there are often 36 kids in a kg class, with one teacher and one aide. Itai got lucky last year. The building that houses his kg (they're usually freestanding here) is a bit on the small side, so they *only* had 27!

The numbers get even worse as they grow, school classes can have up to 40 (!!) before they are required to bring in another teacher. Itai's school is a smaller one though, and both of its 1st grade classes have just 25 (one teacher, no aide), which is fantastic for Israel.

Hope said...

There would be parents on the steps of the administration building (with me in the lead) if we had a kinder class over 20 and I think 15 is a better number for that age. How can a teacher be expected to teach and interact with that many kids!!! And 40 for older kids!! I attended college classes with less people. I'll go back to my blog and rant now. Thanks for the inspire.

Robin said...

You need to understand Hope that while these numbers are certainly far from ideal, nearly all of these children have been in full-time preschool for several years already, with classes that would certainly be considered too large by American standards, by the time they hit kindergarten. They're already very used to being in school, in large groups, and are used to the classroom setting and its expectations. While yes, I would dearly love to see smaller class sizes, particularly for the youngest children, it is manageable at these levels since the children know very well what is expected of them.

edj said...

Great post.
I'm curious to know the school schedule in Israel. You mentioned lunch at 10, but also called it breakfast? When's lunch? Dinner? Tell us more! (Or, if you already have and I missed it, direct me to the other post, please)

Robin said...

It's basically breakfast, they eat sandwiches and as someone who grew up in the US I can't seem to manage to call a meal of sandwiches eaten at school breakfast LOL.

Basically, we give Itai something small before school (banana, yogurt drink, stuff like that). He begins school at 8:00. At 10:00 they eat "breakfast" then have the first of two recesses. Sun-Thurs (our standard work week) they're out of school at 12:45. On Fridays they have a shorter day, finishing at 11:45. Yes, it's a six day week (which personally I really dislike but since most parents are off work Fridays they like the chance to get errands done without kids in tow), but the individual days are fairly short.

They eat lunch after school. Because school finishes so early, most kids too young to be on their own (whose parents both work) go to an afternoon program of some sort to eat lunch, do their homework, play, etc.