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Why the end of school makes me hopeful

Posted by Dr. Claire McCarthy  June 13, 2013 08:03 AM

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Officially, the year draws to a close in December. That’s when we are supposed to reflect on events and lessons learned, and make our resolutions for the coming year. But for me the year feels like it ends now, as the school year ends—and begins again in September, with the start of the new school year. 

It’s September when things change, when you move out of summer clothes and into new routines, new classrooms, new teachers, new activities. It makes sense that I’d mark the year this way as a parent, but even before I was a parent the year seemed to bend in September as the seasons changed and we left the slower pace of summer. In my head the helix of years angles up in the fall. 

I’ve been thinking about this a lot as my children finish up their school years, as Michaela and Zack move closer to college graduation, as Elsa finishes her sophomore year in high school, as Natasha finishes sixth grade and Liam finishes first. I’ve been thinking about how different it all seemed in September. 

In September, Michaela was headed to Paris and Zack to Beijing for the semester. Elsa was starting a school year she was very worried about. Natasha was starting middle school—and Liam was out of kindergarten and starting real school. We were all nervous. The year seemed to yawn out overwhelmingly in front of us; that it was actually a finite period of time was hard to believe. 

And yet here we are, in June. The expeditions abroad, both successful, seem a long time ago—and pale in comparison to planning for life after graduation. Elsa made it through the stressful year with courage and perseverance. Middle school is old hat for Tash, academically and socially. A stronger glasses prescription later Liam is finally comfortable with reading and writing, and we figured out a homework routine that worked. 

See, that’s the thing: time passes, situations evolve, we find our way through. Even the most daunting obstacles get tackled, somehow, simply because they have to be. Things don’t necessarily work out perfectly, but they work out; along with the possibility of failure, there is always the possibility of success—and unexpected good luck.

Now, over the summer, we rest—well, around summer jobs and activities, we rest. We dust ourselves off.  We reflect on events and lessons learned. We make our plans for next September, our resolutions to do things differently and better.

As we finish up each year, it does feel possible to do things differently and better. There is something about the passage of a school year that feels like a real accomplishment, one that makes the next challenge seem more manageable. The time period feels manageable, too: after a while, it begins to feel like you can try anything, or endure anything, for a school year. Before you know it, it will be June again, time for a rest—and another new chance.

That’s why, every June, in the midst of exhaustedly counting down the days until vacation with the kids, I feel happy and hopeful. We made it through. We learned stuff. We are wiser. We have some new muscles—and new perspectives. Although we didn’t love every moment, we definitely had some adventures—and had fun.

And as we round the bend of summer, we know that anything, really, is possible.

(Here's Liam, my almost second-grader)

Thumbnail image for liam june 12-2.jpg

This blog is not written or edited by or the Boston Globe.
The author is solely responsible for the content.

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About MD Mama

Claire McCarthy, M.D., is a pediatrician and Medical Communications Editor at Boston Children's Hospital . An assistant professor of pediatrics at Harvard Medical School and a senior editor for Harvard More »

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