Let me tell you a little secret about me.

I was a History and Religious Studies double major in college. (That’s not the secret part.) Both majors required hefty, hefty reading loads and lots and lots of writing.

At the start of the new college semester, when I would get the syllabus for each course, I would portion out my reading and mark it in my calendar. It would read like:

Monday – p.1-25 in Marx, 1-16 in Rousseau, and 1-33 in Wollstonecraft.

(An aside. My husband has a degree in Industrial Engineering. When we first married and we were combining our book collections, I owned maybe three copies of Karl Marx. He owned exactly zero. Never read him. It was then that I realized by liberal arts education and his engineering training intersected very little.)

So anyway, that’s not unusual, right? It just meant I was a planner?

Here’s the secret: I always (always!) planned my schedule so that I would finish the books and papers early.

The books were always done at least two weeks in advance and I normally turned in my papers a full week in advance.

You’re thinking at this point that there’s nothing wrong with that, right? That it just made me an efficient, organized student?


It kind of makes me a mess.

Yes, I always got my work done. But, sometimes, I was so far ahead in a book that I forgot the material we needed to discuss in class on a particular day. After all, I was three chapters ahead.

I knew “finishing early” was something of a double-edged sword, but I couldn’t make myself not do it. What if something comes up and I can’t get the work done?  Or, more to the point, you can’t do anything fun until your work is complete.

My personality is such that if I have a task looming over me, I just cannot relax and enjoy myself. Granted, I’m hugely more self-aware than I was in college and, to a great extent, this impulse doesn’t interfere with my life too much.photo

(Okay, I’ll admit that when I had my first child, the sheer magnitude of not being able to turn in my “parenting” assignment early caused a few postpartum tears. The discipline of breastfeeding a child every two hours or so largely trained that out of me.)

Plus, not being in school means no syllabi to fret over.

But – and this week has really brought this to the fore – back-to-school is fraught with anxiety-provokers for me.

I read over Ws homework plans for the year last night, and felt that same old fretfulness creep in. Why? It’s his homework. (And, no, I am not a parent who does a child’s homework for him. So it’s not that.) I was presented with the soccer practice schedule and collapsed in a puddle on the floor. I’ve got meetings and obligations galore, as I’m sure all the parents with school-aged kids do in August and September, and I am on edge.

So here’s my statement of truth:

When presented with a looming large or lengthy task, I SHUT DOWN.

Blessedly, I am married to a man who actually gets calmer and more collected the larger the challenge. He keeps my keel even.

And, knowing this about myself helps me relate to my middle child who, upon being asked to clean a large mess, becomes totally and utterly unhinged. She, like me, gets overwhelmed by the bigness of it all.

I truly believe that self-awareness is more than half the battle.

But seriously, if you run into me in the next few weeks and I seem a little “not me?” I promise, come October, I will be a much nicer friend and companion.

That is, until I have to start planning for the holidays.

* * * * * * *

What stresses you out about back-to-school?

2 Responses to “Back-to-School Breakdowns”

  1. on 26 Aug 2014 at 11:23 amShirley Powell

    I have always liked you, but had no idea we were the same person! This is exactly like me and how I react to these things. I find it all so overwhelming but have learned to take it day by day and it all comes together. Will is very like David and thank God we have them in our lives to help keep it all calm and stable. I hate to say this, but it gets SO much worse as they get older. I can hyperventilate even thinking about juggling school, baseball, lacrosse, swimming, piano, tennis, etc. But it all works. Today’s Tuesday so I focus on today. I’ll tackle tomorrow, tomorrow. If you ever need some coping tips, let me know … I feel your pain …

  2. on 26 Aug 2014 at 12:17 pmCarl Peterson


    I start a new gig on September 1st, Parish Administrator at All Saints Epsicopal Church in Lovealnd. I am taking this on after being “interim” for the last 6 months. I think I got the job by being the most familiar with the job (interim for six months will do that) and knowing the people. So, I am doing something that is fun, my “reitrement” was in name only, as I was doing some consulting grant wrting, but now my task is to stay on task with my new position. I have tride google calendar, I bought two planners, and still am trying to figure out the best plan of attack. Your comments have starting me to thinking, and will have to firgure something out. Right now thought, I am in Amherst, MA, supporting (i.e. staying out of the way and doing things as she wants) my daughter Julie as she starts her Masters at UMASS, Amherst in Publlic History. Dianne will joing us for the weekend, and so far so good. This area is beautiful as who kknew Amherst, had a Traer Joe’s and a Whole Foods. Love reading you updates as it helps me to get grouded(I almost said stay-but I am always in a flux as to “grounding”). Thanks again for what you do.

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