Every September, the same childish scene reenacts itself at my house with pathetic predictability: scalding hot tears, sobbing, pleading, category 5 temper tantrums -- and that's just MY reaction to the kids going back to school.
Sure, garden-variety back-to-school blues are very common. But if you're a mom who's actually experiencing the five stages of grief at the end of every summer like me, you may be suffering from Back-to-School Anxiety Disorder (B-SAD). For those of you who didn't take Psych 101, the five stages of grief are: denial, anger, bargaining, depression and, finally, acceptance. But apparently, overachievers like me earn extra credit by suffering from stage #6, which manifests itself as a compulsion to invent pseudo-disorders with cutesy acronyms, in a lame attempt to avoid personal accountability.
The anger, denial and bargaining stages occur simultaneously when those stupid back-to-school catalogs start arriving in July. Talk about a summer buzz kill! Outraged, I glare at the glossy photos of cherubic children frolicking in tights and corduroy blazers while it's still 100 degrees outside. "Ridiculous! Summer just started!" I rant as I anxiously mainline a box of Fudgsicles. Eventually, the hot days melt away and I can no longer kid myself that school is starting, whether I'm ready or not.
And that's when I begin the downward spiral of the depression stage. I liken it to the way 17th century scientists reacted when Galileo insisted that the earth orbited around the sun, not the other way around. As a mom, I am forced to confront that same painful realization every fall. My children's orbital trajectory moves further away from me as their universe expands. But with the return of the summer, these two heavenly little bodies circle back to me and I get to be the center of their mom-centric universe again. Someday, I will cease to be the primary sun they revolve around and I'll shrivel up and become the equivalent of Pluto. So, even though we're getting on each other's nerves, I'm not ready to release my gravitational pull just yet.
My two super-nifty and inexplicably well-adjusted little boys are very ready to make the transition to a school-centered existence these days. Eight-year-old Jonah is a perennial teacher's pet and future hall monitor-in-training. He's a cheerful, enthusiastic kid who is excited about starting third grade and chirps, "Mommy, I just love to learn!" Yes, for real, people.
My three-year-old son, Asher, will be starting preschool for the very first time -- and I put him in a summer transition program to ease the separation anxiety. But from day one, he was so eager to leave me it was an embarrassing blow to my maternal ego. While every other toddler clung desperately to their mom's knees and cried, I had trouble even getting Asher's attention to say goodbye. When I returned, he barely acknowledged me and threw a tantrum when I tried to take him home. His teacher sheepishly reported, "I'm sorry to say, he never asked for you once." The other moms murmured reassuring phrases: "So well-adjusted," and "independent" and "socially confident" while the teacher reminded me that his lack of separation anxiety actually signaled a very secure attachment, blah blah blabbety blah. But I still felt stung. My mind raced ahead to the college years when he will only call me to ask for more money. I am blessed that both my kids love school so much. I just wish they weren't so indecently thrilled to get rid of me.
The cure to most anxiety disorders is immersion therapy, and in my case that means confronting my fears. So, I've come to the acceptance stage with a simple epiphany: I am afraid of my kids growing up. Regardless of my reasons, I am convinced that the only real cure for B-SAD, albeit temporary, is Christmas vacation.
Have you got a case of Back-to-School Anxiety Disorder? Chime in below!
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