“This is depressing,” my husband muttered the other day, referring to the pile of new school supplies on the counter. “It feels like summer just started.”
That’s how it goes with all good things though — they whiz by — and summer vacation is no different. Left in its dust cloud of memories — lake sunrise mornings, dock fishing afternoons and spontaneous decisions to start a movie near midnight — we’re grasping the tail end of summer as it packs up and drives away with a “Wait, did that just happen?”
I’ve always been a bit of a dramatic mourner when great times are over, since the days when my mom would find me curled up in bed crying after the last of the Christmas decorations were put away. But the older I get, the more I realize that the end of one thing is the beginning of another. Every season holds opportunities for good — and turning the page to a new chapter holds reflection for the last one as well as inspiration and excitement for what is to come. Folding up road trip memories and extended pajama days means making room for fun science projects, rearranging your living room, a new workout routine or a kick-start to that project you’ve been dreaming about. Mix two parts gratitude with one part Create Your Next Adventure, and there you have it — the cure for End-of-Summer Blues.
As you get ready to send the kids back to school, here’s some inspiration for ways to happily embrace the next chapter.
Get a Game Plan
Have an idea for what your new routine will look like before running into the school year all willy-nilly. Don’t go overboard with new job charts and meal plans and promises to yourself to freeze meals and make homemade afterschool snacks because you’ll burn yourself out a week later. But popping some dates in your calendar, reacquainting the kids with early wake-ups and making a Costco run for lunch items and dinner ingredients to help you coast into the first few weeks can empower you for the new school year.
Create Inspiring Spaces
Sometimes all it takes is cleaning my desk, wiping off my computer screen and adding a vase with a few fresh flowers to get me excited about tackling a new writing project and wanting to work. The same can be true for the school year. Clean a place where backpacks will go after school, put a corkboard up in your laundry room for school notes and calendars, and create a pretty homework nook where your kids will feel inspired to work.
Finish a Project
When we returned home after a 2-week road trip this summer, I knew I was ready to finish painting our bedroom (I got distracted after one wall). We had visited several friends’ homes while we were gone and saw some beautiful interior spaces — and I was excited to take some of that inspiration home to complete what I know will be an easy, cheery upgrade. With the kids back to school, pick a doable task to tackle that brings some good satisfaction to your life.
Sign up for a Class
There’s nothing like the smell of freshly sharpened pencils or the sight of new backpacks that will fire up your thirst to learn something new. While you’re signing up your daughter for another season of ballet, how about checking out the adult ballet schedule for yourself? Look into local adult ed classes for photography or painting classes, try Soul Cycle or Zumba. Find a poetry group or writing club. Be brave! Never stop learning. And if you’re nervous to start something new, tell your kids! They’ll think it’s cool that their mom has feelings just like theirs, and you’ll teach them something by getting past your insecurities to your new adventure.
Morning Run, Night Walk
Got a little lazy over the summer? You’re not alone. Before you commit to running every day or working out every night when the kids head back to school, pace yourself. Create a doable exercise plan, ask a friend to join you (great for accountability) and make it fun. Maybe you run three mornings a week or take night walks with a neighbor on weekends after the kids are asleep. Those endorphins will help pull you right out of summer into the possibilities that the rest of the year holds.
Print Your Summer Photos
Just because summer’s over doesn’t mean you have to completely say goodbye to your memories. Did you capture photos of that night camping in the woods? Your kids’ cannonballs off the dock into the lake? That neighborhood pool party? Print the photos so you can relive the fun. Create a summer photo book online, let your kids tape them into scrapbooks and write their own captions or simply print a set of 4×6’s, tie a ribbon around them and leave them out on the coffee table — a present to yourself whenever you need to sit back with a cup of tea and remember how fun it is to carry a family through summer.
Start an After School Tradition
Keep it simple. Maybe it’s Monopoly Mondays or Park Tuesdays or Breakfast-for-Dinner Thursdays. A simple tradition for one weekday after school will help fire up the entire family for new fun.
Create a New Playlist
Nothing gets me inspired and excited for new ideas and adventures than a good song. Take some time to discover some new songs (ask your music friends for new tunes) and create a Back-to-School Playlist for yourself (your kids might want their own). Use it in the morning while everyone’s getting ready, in the car during the new drop-off routines or in the kitchen at night while everyone’s settling in.
Find Two New Recipes
Spice up the ol’ kitchen love life with some new positions — ‘er, recipes, I mean. Check out a cookbook from the library, mine through Pinterest or ask your mom or friends for one of their family favorites. Having something new to try might inspire some excitement to get the family around the table and approach the new season. Try adding a box of table topics or fun conversation-starting questions at dinner to help everyone communicate and enjoy each other’s company.
Donate a Bag of Clothes: There’s never a bad time to pare down and weed out unneeded things in your home, but Back to School is an especially good time to clean up your kids’ closets and dressers (and your own!) to make getting ready in the morning easier.
Just Be: I love getting excited about the next big thing and rounding up the troops to create new adventures, but I also know that it’s important to just be still sometimes. “Go, go, go!” is a great motivator, but “Shhhh. Be still” is a great tool for gratitude. Yes, we’re facing this year with new ideas and a nice bit of gusto. That gusto will indeed be cushioned by quiet and contentment for this moment, too. Take time through all of these new routines to take care of yourself. Read and rest and make a list of things for which you’re thankful — a great summer, good health, the opportunities your kids have to a good education, a roof over your head, teachers, buses to school, jobs and the incredible adventure we share of raising our families through every season. And make room for failures. Tardy to school on the second day? That’s quite alright. At least you made it there!
More from Kelle Hampton