Congratulations, Parents: Winter Break Is Over

Photo: Mike Kemp/Getty Images/Tetra images RF

You did it! We did it. Together with the passing of time we have achieved what at certain moments felt impossible: We have survived winter break.

Today, if not already, our children will return to school, day care, or their usual weekday routine. Those of us lucky enough to work outside the home will go eight, nine, maybe even ten hours without trying to come up with activities for them to do. The tacitly agreed-upon (if not acknowledged) spousal game of “who gets to hide right now” is finally over. We will be back in the regular shuffle, packing school lunches, calling out, “Are you dressed?” in regular intervals with cold cuts dangling between our fingertips.

Honestly, after 14 days of sitting on the couch in the still-dark winter morning, running through the mental rolodex of indoor play spaces, touching ham before 8 a.m. doesn’t sound so bad. I cannot wait to march into my kid’s room, clock-ticking, to find him still in his PJs playing with Legos. I can’t wait to battle over his winter coat, and I can’t wait to tie his shoes for him while saying out loud to the room that we need to teach him to tie his shoes. I cannot wait to wave good-bye as he bounces down the street with his too-large backpack and know he will spend the next six hours out of my view, living a life that is largely a mystery to me, as my working life is to him.

To all the child-care workers and all the teachers out there: Thank you.

The holiday days themselves had their own kind of hectic momentum. Maybe you hosted family members or guests, maybe you traveled to see family. There’s end-of-year celebrations crammed next to end-of-year work, plus the need to shop and clean and foolishly turn baking into a kid activity. But the holidays also have some grace to them, or at least some sentimentality. It’s the surrounding child-care-less days — that gulf before the New Year, empty and inclement and dark at 4 p.m., our space feeling smaller and smaller as the children and their needs seem to grow bigger and bigger — that I experience as a mental-health challenge. A quick peek at social media and my texting history suggests that I am not alone in this.

We made it, though. It’s a new year, in which our children will get older and further away from us. I’d like to think that all the forced time together made us all a little more tight-knit. The toddler is back in day care today, and I can admit the house feels a little empty without him. However, I did get to look at my phone without either hiding in the bathroom or listening to him wail because he desperately wants to FaceTime people at random from my contacts list.

A few days ago a friend sent me a text. “Summer is ELEVEN WEEKS LONG,” she wrote, on, not coincidentally, day nine of winter break. “How,” I wrote back, thinking, It is time to make a plan, and, Once both kids are back in school I’ll finally have some time — to research summer camps. Maybe we’ll go on a family vacation? But God help me, it will not be for two weeks in a row.

Congratulations, Parents: Winter Break Is Over