Words I never thought I’d say: I miss school nights.
Every night for the past several years, I have been grateful that it’s just me and the mister. We cook, we talk, we eat, we watch TV, we relax. We don’t do homework, wonder if we’ve got the right stuff for lunches tomorrow, or have to explain the mysteries of long and short vowels. We just act like adults. It’s precious and delicious, especially for someone who had her first baby at 24 and her last addition to the family at 46.
I’ve never mourned the empty nest. Enough was enough. When the last kid left seven years ago, I wasn’t crushed. I’d done my job and I was ready for whatever was next. I didn’t rush to change the locks on the doors but would have had I seen any of them coming down the street with their suitcases.
So tonight when I came home from a meeting to find my husband and our granddaughter, here on a rare mid-week visit, it threw me back to the days of endless school nights. The backpack full of homework, the child full of chatter, the requirements for tomorrow, the need to watch the clock so reading and homework and making cookies and having dinner and taking a shower and getting pajamas on all happened in time for her to go to bed early enough to get up early and eat the promised oatmeal. The wanting to make home a place everyone wanted to come back to at the end of the day.
At one time, I did this for three kids at once. It stupefies.
After years off-duty, I wanted the night to ring true. I wanted the house to smell like food cooking. I wanted to hear every detail of this week in 2nd grade, drink a glass of wine while she curled over her homework, sit together in the glow of the hanging light over our kitchen table. Be the June Cleaver I never was. It was only one night after all. Couldn’t I pull it off?
When my kids were little, school nights were sublime but rough. We had homey dinners at the kitchen table, but my younger three kids had learning disabilities. Nights at the homework table were often long and frustrating. Homework was maddening. Even with IEP’s and accommodations, the homework expectations seemed extreme. Many times, my frustrated kids would put their heads on their books and fall asleep; some nights I sympathized, others I exhorted them to wake up, get their work done, be mindful of their future, you get the idea.
Frustration and fatigue take the glow out of school nights, replace refuge with struggle.
It took a lot out of me those endless school nights. I can only imagine what it took out of my kids. It is rough stuff having everything you’re expected to learn be so difficult.
But tonight, it was the glow of the kitchen table and homemade mac and cheese. Everything on schedule. No stress. Sublime.
Like it ought to be, the beautiful school night.