It’s that time of year again. The kids and I are sorting through their clothes and shoes to find ones that fit – I swear every child has grown a foot since March. We’re collecting school supplies and filling backpacks – this year with masks, too.
    This back-to-school season is when my love-hate relationship with school hits its peak.
    I loved school as a kid. I love that my kids love going to school. I love hearing about what they’ve learned and what they did with their friends. I love seeing them participate in all of the extra-curricular activities that go along with school.
    This fall, especially, I love that they’re actually going back to school instead of starting another season of distance learning. Monika and Daphne will go to school every day; Dan will go to school two days a week and do online learning three days a week.
    The hate part of my love-hate quandary is the darn schedule.
    Dairy farming and parenting school-age children just don’t mix. I’ve tried every chore schedule possible, but morning wake-up and evening activities/homework/supper/bedtime always overlap with morning chores and evening chores. The pull on my time – and the constant feeling that being a good mom competes with being a good farmer – is the cause of considerable unrest.
    I’ve never been a mom who enforces a strict bedtime. When the kids were babies and toddlers, there was no set bedtime. When chores were done, we went to bed. If chores took longer than usual, the kids would doze off in their strollers or on straw bales in the manger. We’d carry them to the house, change them into their pajamas, and tuck them into their beds. Those unscheduled years were wonderful and exactly opposite of the race-the-clock bedtime pressure I experience now.
    Likewise, the kids never had a set wake-up time. One of the best parts of farming was that I never had to wake kids up and get them dressed/fed/out the door before I could go to work. I absolutely loved letting them sleep until their own little internal clocks told them to wake up. I strongly believe in the importance of ample sleep, particularly for growing kids. I’m pretty sure all the growing our kids have done since March is due to actually getting enough sleep.
    Now that all the kids are in school, we [try to] stick to set sleep schedules during the school year. But, come summer, we revert back to an unscheduled life. The kids help with evening chores until evening chores are done. In the mornings, they sleep until their internal clocks roll them out of bed or I get done with morning chores and roll them out of bed, whichever comes first.
    The downside of this unscheduling is August. Every year, August feels like a war between the schedule in our own little world and the schedule followed by the rest of the world.
    This year, we’ve had not three, but five-and-a-half, months of unscheduled bliss. Which makes back-to-school and converting back to school-time wake-ups and bedtimes twice as dreadful. We’re nearly two weeks into my bedtime adjustment plan and I feel like my attempts are not moving bedtimes and wake-up times at all. I probably should have allowed for a longer adjustment period.
    The challenge would be smaller if school didn’t start so darn early. With a teenager and an almost-teenager in the house, I am acutely aware that teenagers’ biological rhythms absolutely do not align with schools’ 8 a.m. start.
    The other piece of my angst, which seems to grow with each passing August, is that back-to-school means losing our extra farm help. Dan and Monika have become considerable contributors in the daily tackling of the workload. Glen and I have been spoiled by their help.
    When school starts, I know the number of hours the kids spend in the barn will be drastically slashed. And with the sudden loss of help, it will feel like we’re scrambling for a while as we re-shuffle schedules to cover all the milkings and other chores.
    But, like we always do when faced with challenges, we’ll figure it out. Sometime in September we’ll start to feel more settled and the angst of August will sleep again until 2021.
    Sadie and her husband, Glen, milk 100 cows near Melrose, Minn. They have three children – Dan, 11, Monika, 8, and Daphne, 5. Sadie also writes a blog at www.dairygoodlife.com. She can be reached at sadiefrericks@gmail.com