September rituals

When Peanut was born, I vowed to create rituals to mark the passage of the seasons. Hanging peanut butter pine cones for the critters on Winter Solstice. Springtime Egg Hunt on birthdays (because egg hunts only once a year is some bullshit). Heavy drinking and sobbing the penultimate day of school. Stuff like that.

I’m not on top of my game yet, but I’ve been consistently playing around with traditions for summer, winter, spring, and birthdays. I’ve been thinking this week about our Fall events and noticed we need something for September. Peanut, the eldest just started school last year, so I’m new to the signpost of how a new class and teacher colors the rest of the year.

I think we’re going to send letters (actual paper with actual stamps…ask your parents, they’ll know) for the boys as school starts.

When Spouse and I married, we kept the lovely notebook in which our vows were handwritten. We take it out each anniversary and write each other a letter to be read the following year. [Well, we did, anyway. We haven’t since Peanut turned Two several years ago. That’s another problem for another day. See also in the forgotten category: personal grooming, libido, sanity, and ability to think at advanced level. We’ll start writing notes to each other again when the kids are in college, right?]

But I thought that starting a journal of letters we write the boys should be family-heirloom-caliber important. So for birthday, first day of school, and last day of school, we’re going to write a letter to each boy and mail it. We’ll keep a scan of each as a .pdf and make them a book of the images for when they go to college. Or the Peace Corps. Or prison. (Laugh all you want, but if you prepare for everything, steady stress comes from the daily nonsense yet the catastrophic stuff seems manageable. Example? College funds easily transition as use for bail.)

Peanut starts first-grade this week. I’m nervous for him…will The World adore him or abuse and misunderstand him…but not as terrified as I was last year. He can now read a bit, but I’m not expecting him to read these letters from me and Spouse. I’m just hoping to add gravity to the year—to create milestones that don’t exist anymore in our electrically homogenized year. If I can’t get them to bed at 4pm in the winter like agrifamilies did in the 1800s, at least I can write a missive that makes them feel guilty for not appreciating me, right?

Butter starts day care next week. Three times a week for a few hours each morning. I’m devastated. And desperate to blink again. And wrecked. And clawing toward the air. And heartbroken. When words fail me, I steal: “It will work out.” “How will it?” “I don’t know. It’s a mystery.” He’s perfect in every way and will do fine. I’m abhorrently flawed and will not. But that is the way of the world, no?

What do you do for the first day of school (or the transition from Summer to Fall if you homeschool)? If you don’t have children, does your year stretch from New Year’s Day to the next New Year’s Day without markers or do you do repeat something special each year to note the passage of time? Which of your rituals may I steal and fold into our family calendar?

31 thoughts on “September rituals

  1. As a homeschooler, I find that fall catches me off-guard. Because we learn year-round, so one day shouldn’t look much different than the others (tea, naked streaking toddler, park, sometimes all at once). But fall is different. Every activity seems to begin in the fall. It’s always a struggle to figure out how to sign up for things without losing that empty space that makes summer so freeing.
    So I look at activities, and think, “that will be cool!” and my kids say “I want this lesson!” and after a few days, I start feeling anxious.
    But it will all work out. Mysteriously. And the kids will be all right.

    • they will definitely be alright. the benefit to me of homeschooling is that you follow their interests and you all do together what compells each person, and sometimes there’s an expert who can do better for them in a more exciting ways or more ideal venue that benefits everyone. right?

  2. Ages ago, Real Simple had a beautiful article about a father’s letters to his daughter–he wrote them every year on her birthday and gave them to her when she was 21 or something like that. It was so lovely–I kept the article for years. I have always wanted to do that for Little Supervisor and Scooter, but being abhorrently flawed myself, it remains on my “to do” list along with putting my wedding photos in an album (we’ve only been married 12 years), exercising regularly, and eating less chocolate.

    • I keep incredible ideas like that from magazines, too. And every 7-8 years when I realize it’s time to dump the taxes I throw out every dang thing I haven’t used. Including the exercise articles.
      But I’ve never had to ditch the chocolate. It just doesn’t last that long.

  3. I try to be from the school of “if you can’t say anything nice, keep your gob shut”, and frankly, I’m afraid of what I would write to my kids. And how they would interpret it to feed their neuroses whenever they receive the letters. Like me writing “this summer you read dozens of books”, and her translating that to, “Mom remembers that I had no friends that summer”, when really I just meant she was enjoying stockpiling stories in her head. Only, of course, what I feel like writing to my girls, when I get a chance to sit down, alone, is all frustration and bitten-back sarcasm. So no such ritual here – too fraught!
    We just had the Trying on the Shoes ritual… they are all worn out and too small :(

    • Trying hard not to laugh, because writing a really caustic and snarky letter is so tempting. Of course, I’ll print out the blog and they’ll have all that snide nonsense to keep their therapist in swimming pool style.
      Trying on shoes ritual is awesome. I buy shoes in advance, when they’re on sale, and store them in the closet. So we have that ritual every quarter or so.
      It’s exciting. And they don’t get to pick anything out at the store, which give me both power and savings. ;-)

  4. We do something big, HUGE the weekend before school starts. We go to my in-laws cabin in northern Michigan where boys can be boys. We have lunch at our favorite restaurant that includes ice cream for free (how could it not be our favorite?!?!). We go to Lake Michigan – we have our favorite beaches and the boys get to pick where we go and what we do. It’s our last summer hurrah. We eat s’mores. We climb trees, we run and jump and scream. It’s a free for all. And then we go back to the rules and regs of daily life at work and school. But we do it with a smile :)

  5. I have engraved silver boxes for each kid with their names “Letter’s from Mom”. Zachary’s (baby # one) holds about 20 letters. Isabelle’s (baby # 2) holds 3. Neither box has been cracked open in over a year. Beautiful thought. They are displayed nicely in their rooms and make me look like Mother of the Year when guest tour the house and happen to ask what they are. I have decided that my guilt meter is too high at the moment to add this one to the long list. I instead feel that this blog (or maybe just some selections) nicely bound will be a beautiful addition to these boxes.

    As for holidays, I am so drowning in the crazy “two under three” quick sand at the moment that special days happen upon me before I see them coming. Each year I berate myself for forgetting gifts and making rituals stressful instead of sacred and I vow to do better the following year. And maybe I will….when you and spouse start writing those letters again.

      • They are rather large and high on shelves, but, not the point of this reply. My sheer ridiculousness is making me clarify that i meant “my blog” would go in their boxes. Not “this” one” That would be just a bit odd, don’t you think? although your posts are lovely and i’m sure my children would adore you should they have the pleasure of meeting you.

  6. I laughed at your “Shakespeare in Love” quote. I can’t tell you how many times I say that in my head per day. It’s my go-to phrase.

    I feel like a loser because I don’t really have any cool rituals quite yet. We mainly run around, chickens sans heads, and try to make do. But I really like the idea of writing letters to the kids. Maybe I’ll start that up.

    I also really LOVE Brotherly Love’s suggestion about doing something huge before school starts. Eldest’s school starts the day after Labor Day. (Will it get here already?? I have been in school since the 20th!) Maybe this weekend we can do something amazing! Anyway – good luck!

    • Hey, Fie! Long time no banter!
      The chickens sans heads sounds familiar. I realized tonight there were two topics my son showed interest in last year that I never followed up on.
      In the meantime…
      totally not fair that your Univ and kids’ schools are on different schedules. Sucks, in fact.

    • Thanks, Stacie. I’m sure you’re right. We found out last night that Peanut gets a great teacher and two good friends in his class. And Butter saw his teacher around town and was flirty. So things should be wonderful. (fingers crossed)

  7. I do have rituals but nothing worth documenting for future generations. Back-to-school shopping, always a new pair of shoes is my hallmark for kicking off the school year. It’s silly but my boys always love getting their new pair of shoes. I also relish in the earlier bedtime I start imposing as it leads up to the first day.

    • Three cheers for early bedtimes!

      We do shoes all year so it doesn’t seem a back-to-school thing, but something new is always fun…I’m so mean they both have last year’s backpacks and last year’s lunchbags and this summer’s shoes. Maybe ice cream after the first day will make up for it…

  8. we do birthday letters but i think i’ve told you that already. i just wrote the may birthday letter last week…but dammit, i did it. i keep a spiral notebook where i try to write down cool stuff they say, but sometimes by the time i get to the notebook i forget the way they said it and it’s gone forever. i can’t buy new shoes before school, or clothes, too many new things at once freak out the boy so we get new shoes first week in august. he’s not a big kid and the pair we got last august fit till this pair, and clothes fit him for years, so i just supplement when they start to get small. last year was K and i knew enough by then to know not to get new stuff and have big life transition all at once. hopefully going to full day first grade won’t kill us all, we’ll see if we’re homeschoolers by october. good luck with your new beginnings and finding new rituals, it’s totally awesome that you have the energy for that, i feel like feeding them everyday is a ritual i should get big gold stars for!

    • LOL. Feeding them every day is totally a ritual you should be rewarded for.

      We have some of the same “not all new at once” stuff here. New teacher is enough for a week-long agitation phase, so new shoes can wait. Until they don’t fit, I guess.

  9. Oh, I DO make a big BIG deal out of the first day of school. I DO.

    Thank you for asking.

    While they sleep, I tape crepe paper streamers to their doors, hung vertically, so when they open their doors first thing in the morning, that’s what they see.

    NEXT, I crepe paper the downstairs and have a party tablecloth on the table. I have strawberry pancakes and whipped cream. I have a back to school present wrapped on each plate (something small) and a HUGE (if you say “yuge” I might hate you) poster board in each one’s name that says “Happy First Day of XX Grade, Your Name Here.”

    And then we take pictures outside holding the signs up, I drive them to school and pick them up after school where we go where they choose for an early dinner.

    Then, at home, I have strawberry shortcake.

    It’s Laugh clown laugh, laughter through tears; that is the impetus to all this.

    They never know just how my heart is breaking, and they never notice my lower lip trembling as I wave good bye.

    • Oh, you darling sweet thing.
      LOVE it.
      Would never say yuge. I believe firmly in Hs. Very firmly.
      We do the early dinner of their choice thing, but I’m totally down for decorations.
      Yay for celebrating so they don’t notice our terror, sadness, excitement.

  10. In addition to a very secular Christmas during which Santa would bring presents for us kids, my mom would make sure that St. Nicholas stopped by our house on St. Nicholas Day. So every morning on December 6, my sister and I would wake up to gift bags left for us. Since St. Nicholas Day is celebrated elsewhere in the world, it wasn’t completely bizarre, but since it’s not ingrained in American culture, there weren’t constant reminders of it to warn us, and my sister and I were always pleasantly surprised. So maybe finding a tradition/holiday/practice from a different region/culture/religion might be fun (and even educational)?

    • I love that, Matt! That’s part of why we do solstice and Persian New Year…lower execpectations, surprise, broad world view. I guess we should do May Day and juneteenth and some February thigh that’s not a horrid hallmark heteronormative vomit of pink. Will ponder. Thanks for the idea.

      • My mom loved to do stuff like that, but it doesn’t have to involve gifts and decorations. For February, paying attention to Groundhog’s Day can be fun for kids. And President’s Day grew out of the fact that both Washington and Lincoln had birthdays in that month. I remember once my mother made a cherry pie for Washington’s birthday, and on Lincoln’s birthday she gave us kids Tootsie Rolls to use as Lincoln Logs. Nothing elaborate, but still fun and potentially educational.

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