For me, for many of us I guess, this the time of the year when everything feels like it’s coming to an end. The academic year can seem like a conveyor belt, carrying us along in the relentless cycle of terms and tests and end of year levels and key stages and shoving us, and our children, a little dazed and dizzy, to the next moving belt.
For our children, there can be a sense that they WANT to move on; the excitement of the new classroom, new teacher, feeling just a little more grown up.
I guess that mostly parents are a little more ambivalent about it. The passage of time is easy to miss when we are caught up in everyday life; the sight of your babies in school uniform, in a prom dress, in a graduation gown, is a shocking wake up call that the years have somehow slipped by in what can seem like a bit of a blur.
It’s a constant of life that time moves faster as we get older. You are just finishing off the last remnants of Easter eggs when you look up and you’re suddenly, unexpectedly, standing in the foothills of Christmas AGAIN. Summer comes and goes in a haze of dripping umbrellas and damp barbecues and before you know it, you’re sweatily hacking away at pumpkins.
And the six week summer holidays for example. When you were a kid they seemed endless – stretching out with the promise of endless golden-hued days punctuated only with visits from the ice cream van and the occasional wildly vicious water fight and some fairly concerted rolling down hills.
But as a parent, the summer holidays seem – well pretty flipping endless too, actually, punctuated by trying to ignore the incessant chimes of the ice cream van and trying to hide the Jammie Dodgers so that they don’t all disappear within half an hour of the Big Shop.
The summer holidays can seem particularly torturously lengthy for the working parent, a mish mash of fragile, patchwork arrangements held together with good will and some pretty frayed string.
But right now, at the end of the summer term, it feels like a time of change; a time to say goodbye to old routines and old groups and old friends. It is a constant of our lives that everything changes, and yet as human beings, adults and children, it’s a constant too that we struggle with it.
Perhaps that’s because when things stay the same, we can feel secure. We know who we are, if the landscape doesn’t alter. We are this person, in this group. When things shift, we find ourselves shifting too. When things shift, we can feel a little shifty, a touch drifty. We don’t know who we are, for a while. Things become unpredictable and in an unpredictable world, that makes us uncomfortable. We have to make our new place in this new landscape.
And we particularly don’t like to say goodbye. It makes us sad to know that we won’t see people that we care about every day, like we used to. We can feel lost and emotional about it. Strangely, this applies even when we don’t much like the people we are saying goodbye to – but if we love them, it can break our hearts.
There is a sense of an ending about this time of year, but it can be an illusion. The people, the settings, all the things we say goodbye to, they don’t disappear. Love and friendship and memories remain. Even if we don’t see those people again, they stay in our hearts, and our heads.
So goodbye to the old school year. And hello to the new – but not quite yet. First we have the summer, or what passes for it in England, and all the many ways we can think to have fun in the pouring rain. That should take our minds off those gloomy goodbyes.
Take the summer to rest, to think, to read, to play. To reboot, refresh.
Good luck with the summer holidays, with finding a new hiding place for those Penguin bars and if it doesn’t stop raining soon, may God have mercy on us all.