I'm sure when Shakespeare penned the above phrase, he wasn't even dreaming of homeschooling mamas, and that dreadful time we call the third-quarter blues. But it's a suitable one, just the same.
There's nothing quite like staring out a window at a gray and lifeless landscape that's cold enough to be miserable, but warm enough to carry in its occasional drafts a cruel promise of a spring that's just far enough away to be hauntingly unreal. There's nothing like pulling your vision back inside to see that the color in the room comes from the mounds of unwashed laundry you've just pulled out of the basket and separated in the hopes of getting them washed and perhaps--o, bright possibility!--even folded before the end of the day. There's nothing quite like suspecting that hidden beneath the math workbooks and grammar texts on your children's desks there just must be a manual: How To Shred Your Sisters With Incessant Bickering--And Drive Mom Crazy! (Or at least, a title along the lines of Griping for Dummies.) There's nothing quite like winter colds and winter flus and other assorted winter bugs adding to the general grump and moody distraction of the days.
I have to admit--I'm not having such a bad third quarter this year, myself. Much of the above description comes either from my experiences of years past, or from my visits to the blogs of a few other homeschooling mamas, who are battling everything from below-freezing temperatures and once-picturesque snow that has turned into lumps of icy gray slush to the sorts of family illnesses that start with the baby, move through everybody else, and then go back to the baby again just to add insult to injury. Our weather here has been more capricious than treacherous, and so far--God willing!--we've been spared more than mild colds and unfortunate allergy problems, the direct result of the weather's rather playful approach to temperatures, which keeps tricking everything, including our seasonal allergies, into thinking that spring has come.
But compared to my more northerly homeschooling mom friends and family, I have nothing to complain about. Even my usual state of chaotic confusion that usually sets in at about this time has held off so far. Compared to last year, things seem pretty good this winter. So what has changed?
The only thing I can think of is that I have.
I'm a little better about staying on top of things like weekly schedules and grading. I've started incorporating lists into my household tasks again, so that instead of sneaking off during the school day to fold a load of laundry I simply write down that it needs to be done; and then if a lull of workbooks or reading time occurs I have a good way to occupy my time and the satisfaction of getting to cross a chore off of the list. I'm making plans for some spring clean outs, but am not trying, unrealistically, to squeeze these things in sometime between the end of the school day and the beginning of dinner preparation. I'm making an effort to be more relaxed, and to let winter be winter.
Now, I didn't write the above to brag--far from it! But this is so unlike my usual way of dealing with this time of year that I can't help but feel God's grace working here, letting me focus on what needs to be accomplished each day without letting me get mired in that discontent that so often accompanies my winters. It seems like I've finally realized the cause: I was discontented simply because it was winter, and specifically because it was winter after Christmas during Lent during the third quarter and life all at once got to seem frustrating and overwhelming and dull, all at the same time.
It's easy to like the first fall of snow (even back in the day when I lived somewhere where that actually happened). It's easy to enjoy the first chilly days, to pull out warm sweaters in glowing colors, to make hot chocolate and build fires in the fireplace, to decorate the house with red and green, or silver and gold, to await the celebration of the birth of Christ, to find winter joys and revel in winter cheer.
It's hard to like the tail end of winter, when spring is coming closer and closer, when all that was beautiful and mysterious and enjoyable has faded, when the liturgical purple replaces the brighter colors of celebration, when the little acts of sacrifice seem to add an additional layer of penance to that already inflicted by the weather and its tendencies to bring illness and lethargy in its wake.
But spring is coming. Easter is only thirty-three days away, one day for each year of our Lord's life. Warmer weather will be here soon (especially for us Texas residents). If you are caught in a time of illness or frustration or burnout or grumpiness, remember that it will pass, and pass quickly; before you know it, the three glorious months of summer will be stretching out with all their brightness and all their potential. The discontent that so often accompanies winter will melt away like that slushy gray snow; the warm spring sun will erase the tiredness and restore our health and energy.
If you're feeling those third quarter blues, know that they will be over soon; and know that you're not alone. Particularly since I'm having a reasonably good third quarter this year, I'm thinking of you, and keeping you in my prayers. We homeschooling moms can do no less for each other!