Carpe Diem

Carpe Diem

“But why do the kids have to go back to school, Aunt Jill?” asks my three year-old niece as she snuggles into my lap deeper.  “Why?”

It’s Thursday of the last week of summer school vacation. She is enjoying her first ever week of staying with her cousins and aunt and uncle–which was all her own idea.  After a full-filled day at Six Flags on Sunday, she just announced to her mother that she was “staying at Aunt Jill’s.”  

An only child, she’s reveling in the relative excitement of a three-kid household.  Friends of her cousins can’t resist her eager enthusiasm for such simple acts as collecting eggs from the chickens or petting the bunnies, and she grabs their hands and leads them outside.  She rejoices in every visitor of every age, and regales them with her stories of feeding the fish and finding the “poppers” on the plants on our walk. The thought that this fun doesn’t continue next week stops her cold.

“Why do they go to school, Aunt Jill? Why?”

I resist the urge to echo her plaintive question, and I answer her the same way I’ve been answering my kids for years.  “Because it’s time.  Because summer is coming to an end.  Because kids need to learn.  Because it’s the law.  Because it’s the way life is.”

The routines have already shifted in our house, with the lacrosse sticks not cluttering my mud room and dining room table quite as frequently as before.  A football is tossed around instead, with a soccer ball occasionally making an appearance.  The nightly “two good things of the day” from the two high schoolers invariably includes “sleeping in”.  Their lives are mainly focused on and arranged around football and soccer practices (completing their assigned household chores with as little effort and time expended as possible).

Even my own day starts a bit later now. Instead of awakening with the early pre-dawn light already well underway at 5 AM, I now awake to practice patience, throwing in another load of laundry while the sun catches up.  When at last I can go–when it’s bright enough to see the woods’ creatures I’d prefer not to meet in the dark–the dogs and I tromp through the woods.  Together, we break out of the trees and crest the hill, coming onto the hay field into the glory of the sunrise.  All is right in my world. But soon that pleasure will be gone.  The sun will dally too long, and the big yellow school bus will have to be met.  

“Aunt Jill, what are we going to do today?” she wants to know.  “It’s a pretty day, you know.” She flings her arms out, and twirls in a circle.  “It’s summer!  It’s nice out.”

I think of the six kids all still sleeping in various rooms of the house.  I remind myself of the good mom friends who have already organized their kids’ clothes, and my threat to not allow any more sleepovers until this crew did the same.  I worry about the book the fifth-grader has not yet finished and how I need to monitor that more, instead of allowing fun movie watching with her cousin last night.  I catalog the people waiting on me to complete work that needs attention, the piles on my desk.

“Aunt Jill, let’s sit outside,” she urges me, so enthralled to be spending another day with us.

I can’t resist; I smile at her, and I follow her sage advice.  “Yes,” I say.  “Let’s sit and see if the woodchuck comes by again.”  

Carpe diem, I think to myself as we rock slowly in the chair, her little voice chattering away with observations and running commentaries.  Carpe diem.

Jill Stahl Tyler is a parent to three children involved in the local schools–next week, only at the high school and elementary school levels.  She firmly believes in all education, and currently sits on the board for the Brattleboro School Endowment and the Brattleboro Town School Board. Contact her at

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