Can High Holy Days bring go-with-the-flow summer mom back?

I love summer. I’m a go-with-the-flow mom during the summer.

When the last day of school ends in June, I think I’m more relieved than my kids that the school year is over. Summer mom gets to take over for three long months. Yippee!

I love being summer mom. I’m much more fun and carefree in the summer. I nag less. Beds stay unmade, clothes piled on the kids’ bedroom floor. I shrug it off. The kids make their own breakfast, often fend for themselves for lunch and sometimes they scour the pantry and eat whatever they want for dinner. I don’t get all worked up about them not eating protein like I would during the school year. I’m convinced I have fewer wrinkles during the months of June, July and August.

Rules fly out the window. You want to go to bed late? No problem. Eat ice cream twice a day? Sure. Why not? (There’s a fair amount of calcium in ice cream, right?) More candy? I want some too! Hours upon hours of TV watching? No problem. I just might forgo my own work, snuggle up with you on the couch and watch too.

When September rolls around it’s a buzzkill. I’m back to being a CEO/planner/scheduler/mom. Transitioning from summer mom to school year mom is not easy for me.

Reality starts to set in a few weeks before school starts. I nag. I worry. I fret. Did you finish your summer homework? Fill out the school forms that were due mid-July? Talk to your tennis coach about the two days you’ll need to miss practice? Clean out your backpacks so they’re all ready for the first day? Organize your school supplies?

We’ve been cleaning out closets and cleaning up rooms. We finally packed up Samuel’s Legos — it’s been years since he played with them. Sophie’s had dress-up clothes in her room long past the time she dressed up. We put them in a big garbage bag along with all the other bags filled with the kids’ clothes that don’t fit anymore.

Suddenly my September and October calendar is full. The carefree spontaneous plans I made during the summer have been replaced by “let’s see if we can find time in November.” We’ve got two back-to-school nights, something called “transitional grade night,” parent potlucks, health night, Parents Association night. There are dentist and orthodontist appointments that still need to be scheduled, and I have to get on the DMV site to figure out how to get Sophie’s driving permit.

Then there are the kids’ schedules that I still need to map out so I can make sure I don’t need to be in two places at once. We’ve got one kid entering high school next year, so there are school visits to schedule, plus the pressure that goes along with that. I just remembered I haven’t bought kale in a while. The kids are still using that soap the FDA just banned. Ugh.

And now I’m back to hearing all the chatter around the number of AP classes so-and-so’s kid is taking, the supposedly “best” high schools and the importance of an “Ivy” college. Should we have homeschooled our kids? Raised them on a farm? I just want to raise kids who will work hard and be nice people. I miss the summer!

Thankfully, the High Holy Days are perfectly timed with the start of the school year; right about the time I’m feeling stretched in so many different directions and weighed down by so many expectations, I get to take a breather. I remember to slow down. I vow to worry less. I remember being a good enough parent is good enough. I remember that raising a mensch is more important than making varsity or being class president or where you go to college.

I’m grateful for my beautiful family and my community that surrounds and supports me through the messiness of my life. I am grateful for being busy, and grateful I get to schlep my kids around. When I sit in synagogue this time of year, I resolve to bring some of summer mom into my life during the school year. And I promise myself to let this feeling stay with me further and longer than it did last year.

Julie Levine

Julie Levine is a writer who lives in San Francisco.